Advanced NBA Betting Strategies

NBA Daily Academy 105

The NBA is one of the most popular leagues in terms of betting handle in the United States. But like any other sport, it is tough to beat. To stay a step ahead of the NBA betting market, bettors are smart to expand their handicapping arsenal beyond the most basic strategies with the goal of becoming a more intelligent handicapper. This article will look at several advanced NBA betting strategies, including situational handicapping, fading the public, recognizing shaded lines, and utilizing live betting to your advantage.

Situational NBA Betting Strategy

Using statistics, rankings, and numbers is paramount to any successful sports betting venture. Unfortunately, while the numbers are without a doubt a sports bettor’s best friend, they don’t quite tell the whole story. Bettors must do diligent research on any team or game that they are thinking of backing, with the NBA being no exception. There are several different things to watch out for when it comes to situational NBA betting, all stemming from either the schedule or the storyline.

Know the Schedule

Given the nature of the NBA season, the schedule almost has greater importance for finding betting value than it does with other sports. Contrary to leagues like the NFL where teams only play one game each week, the long 82-game NBA season ensures that each team will be in action multiple times per week.

Given the physical toll that playing basketball at the highest level has on the human body, it is only logical that fatigue can be a factor on any given night. It’s also important to remember that fatigue can be mental, as well as physical. Naturally, teams won’t perform as well when they are tired as opposed to when they are fresh.

If you are going to incorporate schedule analysis into your NBA handicapping repertoire, do not sell yourself short. When tracking any team’s schedule, it is important to both look back and ahead of the game that you are thinking of wagering on.

Looking Back

Looking back at previous games will give you a good idea of the state of the team coming into the game in question. Start by weighing the quality of opponents that the team has faced relative to the standings and your power rankings. You also want to check to see how many games the team has played in the past week, or even two weeks for good measure. NBA scheduling can cause great variance and discrepancies in the number of games one team might play in a given week compared to another. Teams can play as few as two games in 7 days and as many as four or five. Naturally, the team who has only played two games will be much more rested and fresher than a team coming into their fifth game in eight days.

Playing games on consecutive days is notorious for leading to fatigue, particularly on the road. A classic example of this can be found in the image below, showing the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA’s top team in terms of record in 2019-20, suffering a sizable loss in the second of two road games on back-to-back nights.

Bucks Schedule

Looking Ahead

While hindsight is 20/20 and looking back on a team’s recent performance can be very telling, part of betting with a sharp opinion is being able to formulate predictions. In addition to looking back at a team’s schedule, NBA bettors should also look ahead. Is the team in the early stages of what is set to be a long road trip? Is the game coming at the end of a road trip with the team getting set to return home afterward? Is it a potential “trap game” in that it comes just before a pivotal matchup that could have significant playoff seeding implications? Based on your power rankings and the standings, does the team’s schedule get easier or harder in the near future? These are all questions that require an NBA bettor to peer into the future to see what looms ahead on the schedule for a respective team.

Know the Storyline

In addition to the schedule, situationally betting the NBA includes factoring in the storylines surrounding a particular game. A storyline or narrative could be anything that will cause an extra level of motivation for one of the teams in question for that game. The following is a non-exhaustive list of potential narratives that NBA bettors should look out for.

Player Facing Old Team

Like any other major sports league, NBA players change teams frequently. Of particular importance is when one of the league’s biggest stars packs up and heads to play for a new team in a new city. When that player returns to face his former team the following season (or same season if the move is via a trade), there will undoubtedly be an extra level of motivation on the player’s part to earn a victory. New teammates will often rally around the cause as well, particularly if the player had a notably strained relationship with his former team.

Coach Facing Old Team

Like players, NBA coaches come and go. The never-ending coaching carousel regularly leads to one team’s trash becoming another team’s treasure. Being fired is not an easy thing for anyone to swallow, and any coach who is set to go up against his former team will have an increased level of motivation to obtain a positive result. If the coach has a positive relationship with his current team, the players will often rise to the challenge. While not generally considered as dramatic as star player revenge games, coaching revenge games are also something to watch out for.

Postseason Revenge Spot

Losing in the postseason can leave a very bitter taste behind, one that often lingers into the following season. Players and coaches don’t forget who eliminated them, so when those two teams meet in regular season play the following season, there is usually an added level of motivation, given the narrative. Even though the cast of players on both teams is unlikely to be identical to the previous season, this storyline should be considered when handicapping a matchup of this kind.

NBA Betting Trends

Tracking trends is a great strategy to incorporate into your NBA handicapping practice. While you should not make bets solely on the backs of trends, they can certainly help you learn a thing or two. Trends can also open up new lines of thinking to help support or contradict your power ratings. You may be able to confirm placing a winning bet or even avoid placing a losing one thanks to knowledge gained from trends.

General Trends

General NBA betting trends come from data analysis that considers all 30 teams together. You can easily find data relative to a specific season in question for both NBA ATS and totals cover rates, like the ones shown in the images below.

NBA ATS Trends

NBA Over vs. Under Trends

Over time, a few general situational trends have been vetted and declared worthy of consideration by NBA handicappers. The next two sections touch on two such examples.

Road Favorites After a Big Loss

When you consider the advantage that NBA teams get from playing on their home court, it takes a decent gap in talent and ability for a road team to be deemed a favorite on the betting market. A great time to pounce on such teams is when they are coming off a bad loss. Often playing with an extra edge after an embarrassing defeat, teams in this spot cover the spread roughly 60% of the time.

Big Home Underdogs

The exact opposite of the trend above, being an underdog at home generally means that you are a step below your opposition. Being a home dog of 10 points or more means that the disparity in talent and power rating is sizable. No team wants to get blown out on their home court. Teams catching 10 or more at home have a strong cover rate thanks to both their increased level of intensity, but also the opponent’s tendency to ease off the gas against an inferior opponent. Even if this doesn’t come until down the stretch when a big lead has already been established, the chance for a backdoor cover is much greater with backups on the floor.

Team-Specific Trends

To take the information discussed in the section above a step further, general trends can almost always be broken down into team-specific trends. In some cases, you might find that a given team is even better than the leaguewide average when it comes to a specific trend. Other times, a team may not exhibit any evidence of a trend at all when their numbers are parsed out from the general data.

By conducting thorough research, NBA bettors can find moneyline, ATS, and totals trends for all 30 NBA teams. Examples of team ATS and totals trends can be found in the two images below.

NBA Team ATS 2019 20

NBA Team OverUnders 2019 20

While the data can be useful when considered in its generic form alone, handicappers can take things a step further and sort a specific trend category based on situational factors. Specific situations can include a team’s results as a favorite, as an underdog, when playing on no rest, and much more. Note the list of specific situations under which a trend might occur in the image below.

NBA Trends Situational Factors to Consider

Other Advanced NBA Betting Strategies

As the sections on situational strategies and trends have alluded to above, the best way to advance your NBA handicapping is to do your research. With that said, there are some other NBA betting strategies that, when deployed correctly, can help you gain a tactical advantage over the sportsbooks. This section provides an overview of three such strategies.

Fading the Public

While sharp NBA bettors do not play favorites and are willing to bet for or against any NBA team at the right price, public bettors don’t tend to follow this rule. Betting with their heart instead of their head gets many public bettors into trouble. In the NBA, fan loyalties can be for individual players just as much as teams. You might find opportunities to go against the grain that are related to either case. While betting against the public does not mean that you are guaranteed to win, basic logic makes it a good strategy. If the sportsbooks were consistently losing money to the large swaths of public bettors, how would they stay in business? By fading the public, you essentially align yourself with the casino, who as we all know, always has the odds in its favor.

Identifying Shaded Lines

By definition, line shading refers to when a bookmaker anticipates heavy betting action on one side of a matchup and consequently moves an opening betting line towards that side. This phenomenon can occur across several different sports, including the NBA. The image below details an example of what might cause a shaded NBA line.

Line Shading

Favorites and the over on totals are the most common places where shaded lines will arise. This is because the betting public heavily bets on big favorites, who are “supposed to” win, and the overs because of the excitement involved. When you come across a shaded line, the value play is almost always going to lead you to bet against it. Sharp bettors should not hesitate to pounce on the advantage granted to the opposing side. Essentially, betting against shaded lines is similar to fading the public. The only difference is that the sportsbook is aiding in the cause to keep their handle balanced.

Remember that line shading can be as dramatic as adding a point or two, or as minuscule as simply inflating the juice from -110 to -115. Trust your process and take advantage of shaded NBA lines wherever possible.

Live (In-Play) Betting

Sometimes, merely watching the early stages of an NBA game can provide a great idea of how it will ultimately play out. With this in mind, live betting should not be ruled out of your handicapping equation. Also called “in-play betting”, the live option allows you to make a wager at any point throughout a game after it tips off. Where traditional game wagers lock at tip-off, you can wager as you watch through live betting.

Keep in mind that the lines will constantly be updated to reflect the progression of the game. While finding the best value on in-play lines can be challenging, the option is great for situations when you can benefit from seeing the two teams on the court together before placing a wager. It can be a great way to diagnose team energy levels, how a player looks returning from injury, and any other number of factors that can be helpful in placing a knowledgeable wager.

Final Thoughts

Once a strong basic understanding of NBA handicapping has been established, there are several advanced strategies to utilize to improve your chances of success. Situational strategies that involve digging into team schedules and identifying key storylines and narratives around a particular game requires diligent research but can prove very rewarding. There are also many NBA trends to consider, both general and team-specific in form. Finally, taking advantage of opportunities to fade the public, bet against shaded lines, and utilize live betting are all great ways to go above and beyond. Follow these tips and you will be moving your way up the ladder to the advanced ranks of NBA betting in no time.

Henry is pursuing a Communication Studies degree and a Psychology minor at SUNY University at Buffalo. He has been a passionate sports fan from a young age and got hisstart writing about Fantasy Football. In an effort to combine an aspect of specialization along with his enjoyment of any and all sports, Henry expanded to cover other Fantasy Sports while also foraying into the Sports Betting sector. He continues to relish every opportunity to learn, grow and network within the industry. He counts the New York Jets, Toronto Raptors, Vegas Golden Knights and San Diego Padres among his team loyalties. In addition to school and sports, Henry is passionate about health and fitness and is currently studying to earn certification as a personal trainer.

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