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Of the four major sports, the NBA is the toughest one to predict when it comes to betting. There are injuries, back-to-backs, travel distance, long road trips, players resting on short notice, and so much more that factors into spreads and over/unders throughout an NBA season. Navigating all these trend busters can feel like walking through a minefield, with one trend unexpectedly blowing your chances at a huge return on investment.
Finding trends to trust in the NBA is no easy feat either. This isn’t like college basketball or the NFL where there are some very obvious and very productive trends that allow you to earn money. When it comes to the NBA, there doesn’t seem to be any such trend that provides great returns no matter what. What might have worked one season oftentimes doesn’t work the next because Vegas makes adjustments and learns from their losses. But with all that being said, let’s try to find the best trends to trust, even if you should only trust them the way you’d trust a rookie second-rounder with the ball in his hands for the final shot of the game.
SOLID SU; SOLID ATS
If you’re looking for a spot to beat Vegas that won’t make you crazy trying to analyze numbers and break down every stat sheet, just take a look at a team’s record as the year develops. If they’re doing well, you’ll likely find that they’re doing well ATS also. Unlike college basketball, which, at the time of this article, has a Xavier team that is 13-7 SU and 5-14-1 ATS, in the NBA wins normally result in ATS success as well.
That doesn’t mean that the team with the best record in the league is going to also have the best record ATS. In fact, right now the Thunder are dominating ATS, but are just 28-19 overall, while the Bucks are 40-6 SU, but just 25-21 ATS. That’s still good for ninth-best in the NBA, which is why this subheading uses the word “solid” instead of “great”.
Last season, the Bucks were a bit of a surprise on their way to the best record in the NBA and thus, were able to go an NBA best 57-36-4 ATS. But this year they weren’t taking anyone by surprise, and as great teams become more public their lines become harder to predict.
The Lakers, who currently have the second-best record in the league, are 10th in the league ATS. Yet, this trend remains reliable because out of the 10 best teams in the league SU, eight of them are in the top 10 ATS as well. Two years ago, seven of the 10 best SU records in the NBA also showed up in the 10 best ATS. However, last season a warning was issued, when just three of the 10 best teams SU were in the top 10 ATS. Again, there is nothing you can 100% trust in the NBA.
BETTING BIG UNDERDOGS
Despite how uneven the NBA can be at times, more often than not, NBA games end up being tight contests. As of the writing of this article, there is only one team in the league with an average margin of victory over 10 points and that is the Milwaukee Bucks. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is not a single team in the league with an average margin of defeat greater than 10.
Yet, throughout the season there are huge point spreads that appear when two mismatched teams take each other on. The NBA schedule is a long and grueling one, and coaches and players are looking for any excuse to rest their star players. A huge lead in the fourth quarter is one of those reasons, and it could lead to a mini-comeback from a bad team.
If you see a point spread greater than 10 points, really study the teams that are playing each other. Don’t just blindly bet on the favorite because of who they are, but look at how much they’ve been beating teams by and also how well the other team has played against the league’s best teams.
SCORING DECREASES IN THE POSTSEASON
For numerous reasons, scoring drops every season come playoff time. The worst teams in the league are no longer there for the best teams to feast on, and defenses tighten up as the level of play elevates as teams fight for the title. Sometimes the drop is minimal, but it is never insignificant.
For the past two seasons, the top five scoring teams in the regular season all outscored the highest-scoring team in the playoffs. This is an important trend to recognize as you bet on postseason games and see over/unders set at surprisingly low numbers. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a team that averaged 115 in the regular season is going to easily average 115 in the postseason. Understanding that as you gear up for the playoffs is a great way to create a better return on investment, especially in the early rounds of the postseason.