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How to Bet on the NBA: 5 Tips and Strategies

by May 29, 2020

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The NBA provides many opportunities throughout the season for bettors to make money. 30 teams each play 82 games, and that is not counting all the playoff action.

Some bettors dive in right away in the beginning of the season, believing they have an edge over the oddsmakers. Others will wait until they see enough of a sample size from teams before wagering. Either way, the NBA is more wide open now that it has been in many years considering the Cavaliers and Warriors are no longer dominating the sport.

What is the best way you should approach NBA betting? Here are some useful strategies to help you use the NBA for building your bankroll.

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Know the Schedule

If you are an avid follower of the NBA, the phrase “back-to-back” is ingrained in your vocabulary. “Back-to-backs” refer to teams who are playing on consecutive days. Often times, bettors automatically fade teams on the second leg of a back-to-back. They assume tired legs would put them at more of a disadvantage.

However, oddsmakers are aware that many bettors will look to fade teams in these situations and inflate lines accordingly. One prime example of this is the Los Angeles Lakers. If the Lakers were playing the second game of a back-to-back, many bettors would look at an aging LeBron James and a weak Lakers bench and assume they would not perform well. According to teamrankings.com, the Lakers are 7-1 ATS when they play a game on no rest. In fact, 13 teams cover more than half their games on the tail end of a back-to-back.

Whatever the case, one should not just automatically assume a team is at a disadvantage because of scheduling. Teamrankings.com offers a number of different trends one can look at for every NBA team. These trends include things like how a team performs after a win or loss, with equal rest as their opponents, or as home or away favorites or underdogs among others. Thus, one should research trends like this before making any wager.

Don’t Lock in too Early

Similar to the phrase “back-to-back”, the term “load management” is also common lingo in today’s NBA. Many of the top teams know they are destined to make the playoffs. Therefore, they will choose to rest their stars every so often to keep them fresh for the playoff run.

Spreads are often available 24 hours in advance of the next day’s action. However, sometimes the plans to rest a key player is not revealed until a couple of hours before tip-off. Would you feel better about backing the Clippers if Kawhi Leonard was playing as opposed to resting? Thus, avoid the urge to bet a game hours in advance until you are assured of the team’s plans.

Who is Motivated, Who is Not?

Over the course of a season, certain teams that are out of playoff contention may “tank” without admitting they are tanking by playing younger players so as to get a sense of what they have for the future. As recently as a couple of years ago, this “strategy” was also employed to put teams in position for a better draft pick. Since then, the league has taken measures to prevent tanking by changing how the draft lottery determines a team’s draft position.

Either way, it becomes apparent later in the season which teams have the motivation to play for better playoff seeding and which teams do not. Again, oddsmakers will also be in tune with this thinking and are likely to adjust lines accordingly. However, one can still take advantage of this knowledge even if it means betting on totals instead of spreads.

Player Props can be Profitable

While oddsmakers may inflate lines and take the betting value away from certain spreads or totals, it is harder for them to do so with player props. Most sportsbooks will offer a variety of different props for players each game. Anything from how many points a player will score, or how many assists or rebounds a player will have can be bet on.

Depending on a team’s defensive statistics or tendencies, a bettor could formulate a decent idea of how an individual player will perform. Thus, instead of hemming and hawing over if a team will cover, they can focus their attention elsewhere.

When dealing with player props, motivation level should also be taken into consideration. LeBron James and other stars have often said they love playing at Madison Square Garden. Often times they save their best performances for the biggest stage. What if a player is playing against a former team? Does the game have a high projected total? If so, that makes it more likely that players’ statistics will be inflated.

Hold Off on Team Futures

In many sports, bettors like to take advantage of futures bets early in a season as they can lead to huge payouts. In a sport like the NBA, it would be wiser to wait a while before placing such bets.

Though the NBA is more wide open now than it has been in recent years, the fact remains certain teams are locks for the playoffs. No one had any doubt that the Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks were destined for the playoffs at the beginning of the season. For that reason, their futures odds to win a championship will not change drastically once the playoffs start.

Since one will not get much different odds later in the season, it is best to hold off on these futures. What if Lebron James were to go down with an injury during the season as he did in 2018? What if a team’s rival made a dramatic move at the trade deadline that left your team in a more vulnerable position?

The allure behind futures bets is to lock a bet in early at choice odds. However, NBA futures odds do not typically fluctuate much before the playoffs. Therefore, you are better off waiting until season’s end to place such wagers.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

Basketball, Betting 101, Betting Tips, How-To