As the second-most popular sport worldwide, trailing only soccer, basketball is a prime target for bettors and bookmakers alike. And while the NCAA college basketball tournament brings in action from recreational players, serious sports bettors stay attuned to the NBA from the preseason through the playoffs.
With superstar players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant anchoring “super-teams” – the L.A. Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, respectively) – the NBA serves up world-class athletic achievements on a nightly basis. Bettors have 1,230 regular season games, plus 15 series in the postseason, to size up, so check out the five tips below to take your NBA betting to the next level.
1 – Take Advantage of Home Court Advantage
Within the realm of real money sports betting, the importance of home venue advantage has historically been paramount in football.
That makes sense too, what with quarterbacks on the road team tasked with communicating complex play calls to their offensive teammates, all while surrounded by 70,000 screaming fans.
Baseball bettors also prioritize home field advantage thanks to MLB’s quirky allowance for different dimensions and surfaces from stadium to stadium.
In the NBA, however, home court advantage is one of the most reliable factors separating winners from losers on the scoreboard. According to an ESPN Stats study conducted in 2015, home teams in the NBA boasted an average winning percentage of 61.2 percent dating back to the 1975 regular season data.
Forty years’ worth of data is quite sufficient to label this inordinately high win rate to be a reliable trend.
Additionally, ESPN Stats found that home teams enjoy an average of +3.5 points per 100 possessions over their away opponents.
Sure enough, during the 2020-21 regular season, only 11 teams failed to post a home record under the .500 mark.
Obviously, sportsbooks account for discrepancies like this in one of two crucial ways. First, point spreads are formulated to level out the proverbial playing field and put both teams on equal footing from the start. Second, moneyline odds can be heavily tilted against the home team, forcing bettors to choose between wagering larger amounts or accepting smaller payouts.
With that said, savvy NBA bettors have long recognized the inherent value of betting home team moneylines. Even when you’re saddled with poor odds like (-300) – you’ll need to bet $300 to win $100 profit, while a $100 wager only brings back $33.33 on top – backing home favorites consistently can be akin to printing money.
Just take a look at the regular season standings to see for yourself…
Imagine you bet on the Utah Jazz for each of the team’s 36 home games this year. Assuming conservative moneyline odds of (-180) on average, every $100 wager that turned a winner would be worth $55.55 in profit.
And when you add up 31 home wins for the Jazz to just 5 losses, those $100 bets over the course of the season would’ve returned a cool $1,442.75 in profit by the time the playoffs arrived.
In total, 10 teams managed to win 25 of their 36 home games in 2020-21, demonstrating that the NBA’s historical home court advantage is here to stay even as the game evolves.
2 – Check Social Media for Starting Lineup Info
While the home court trend dates back several decades and counting, the scourge – or savior, depending on your point of view – known as “load management” is a relatively recent addition to the strategy used when betting on the NBA.
Put simply, load management is the new buzzword for keeping top players out of the lineup, even when they’re suffering from no injuries or personal issues whatsoever.
Consider this… during his legendary 15-season career, Michael Jordan started all 82 games of the regular season in 9 separate years. Throw in seasons with 81, 80, and 78 (2x) starts, and “His Airness” was never concerned about preserving energy for the playoffs.
On the other hand, LeBron James has put in 18 seasons worth of work, but he’s only started 82 games once over that span. On average, James has appeared in only 72/82 games, with 55- and 67-game seasons dotting his stat sheet over the last three seasons.
Modern athletic performance analysis – coupled with the James-inspired rise of super-teams which are virtual locks to run deep into the postseason – has compelled coaches to prioritize rest over regular season seeding. As a result, basketball bettors who don’t follow lineup changes closely can easily find themselves holding a Lakers ticket despite “King James” deciding to sit this one out.
Load management may not be an NBA purist’s idea of time well spent, but coaches resting their superstars and veterans whenever possible is here to stay. Knowing this, sharp basketball bettors keep their ears peeled for every possible indicator of an unexpected rest day.
You can play these spots on either side too. Wagering against a team resting their best roster makes perfect sense for a betting strategy, as does backing the ostensible underdogs who just caught a big break.
Whichever load management strategy you prefer, the best way to stay abreast of last-minute lineup changes is tracking teams on social media. As they say, knowledge is power, so following the best NBA beat writers in every city, verified team and player accounts, and sports betting industry news outlets on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is in every bettor’s best interest.
3 – Get Opportunities Betting Against Fatigued Teams
One of the main reasons NBA coaches are so keen on load management concerns the league’s schedule.
With 82 games squeezed into a five-month window, NBA teams regularly compete in two games over consecutive days. These brutal “back-to-back” situations occur more than 14 times per team on average, and on occasion, teams must travel cross country before taking the court less than 24 hours after their previous game.
Naturally, enduring the physical and mental gauntlet of professional basketball is tough enough, so back-to-backs make things even more difficult.
So much so, in fact, that teams facing the second leg of a back-to-back scenario only win 44 percent of the time on average. Furthermore, these teams also see their net rating fall by 2.2 points per 100 possessions, signaling a rapid decline in endurance and ability when playing twice in two nights.
As such, comparing last night’s results to today’s upcoming schedule is a no-brainer. When you see a team facing the second stretch of a back-to-back – particularly coming off of an overtime game or going on the road – betting against them is never a bad idea.
4 – Scan the Schedule for Potential “Grudge” Matches
They say the NBA is all about individual superstars dominating the competition.
But while old-school fans remember icons like Larry Bird and Kobe Bryant playing for just one team throughout their careers, top players today are all too happy to swap jerseys. When they do, smart bettors pencil in the “reunion” games against former teams as prime betting opportunities.
Perhaps the player left disgruntled and disagreeable, a la James Harden when he forced a trade from the Houston Rockets to the Nets after the 2019-20 season.
Or maybe he was wounded by an unexpected departure, as was DeMarcus Cousins in 2017 when the Sacramento Kings dealt him to the New Orleans Pelicans.
No matter the motivation, elite players squaring off against their former squads often explode by feasting on the franchise which showed them the door.
To wit, Harden posted a 29-point, 14-assist, 10-rebound triple double in a convincing win over the Rockets in his first return to Houston. And when Cousins saw the Sacramento crowd for the first time as a Pelican, he showed them what they were missing to the tune of 41 points, 23 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Whether you wager player-specific prop bets, or take the grudge-holder’s team straight up, identifying situations involving stars with extra motivation is a must.
5 – Learn the Officiating Crew’s Tendencies
If NBA players are like musicians combining to play an orchestra, referees are the maestros who dictate pace, style, and flow.
An official who calls every play tightly by the book can slow a game down, leading to more free throws, possessions, and points. Conversely, adherents of the “let them play” philosophy engineer fewer trips to the stripe and more back-and-forth fast pace basketball.
Knowing how the players perform is one thing, but the best NBA bettors take time to study the refs as well.
For instance, did you know that veteran official Derek Richardson led the league in 2020-21 when it comes to home team winning percentage (33-17 / .660) against the spread? If you did, fading spread underdogs whenever Richardson takes the floor would’ve been a highly profitable approach.
Along the same lines, Dedric Taylor reffed games in which teams combined to score 231.6 points combined on average. When compared to the over/under totals in his games, Taylor compiled a sterling 38-16 record in favor of the over last season.
In a league where officials guide the action with an iron fist, it behooves bettors to track their tendencies and try to anticipate how the refs will wield their whistles.
NBA basketball is a brutal ballet, one in which seven-foot giants can be as graceful as gazelles, while six-foot nothing shooting guards are more accurate than big game hunters. Every play holds the potential for a can’t-miss moment of athletic excellence, and nothing on Earth can compare to a packed house raptly watching playoff hoops.
Thus, it’s no surprise to see new sports bettors flock to the NBA, especially during the new era of state-by-state legalization. If you’re still a basketball betting rookie, here’s hoping the tips above put you in position to become an All-Star sooner rather than later.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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