The National Basketball Association (NBA) provides sports bettors with ongoing wagering opportunities for nine months of the year. With 30 teams playing 82 regular season games, plus a postseason in which 16 teams play 15 seven-game series, there are at least 1,200 games to wager.
The NBA gives sports bettors a lot of opportunity when it comes to betting on moneyline or point spreads, but that’s not all. Totals bets also tend to be good as long as you do your homework.
Although there isn’t the volume you’ll find in MLB, there are a lot of golden opportunities for smart sports bettors. That’s because the NBA is composed of very few premium teams, quite a few passable clubs, and anywhere from six to eight teams each season that lose at least 60% of their games. Play the moneyline against those teams and you’re going to win cash.
As an example, the Milwaukee Bucks won only 15 games in 2014, which makes wagering against them using the moneyline a smart idea. The only problem is that it can be difficult to find moneylines for the NBA. If you are patient and shop around, however, you usually can. If you end up having to play the spread with a team such as the Bucks, make sure you’ve crunched the numbers.
It’s important to handicap each game carefully, always looking for value in a moneyline, point spread and the over/under. Look for trends, try to identify teams that are about to go either on a winning or losing streak, and pay close attention to injuries. The road schedule in the NBA can be grueling, and the home court advantage tends to be huge.
Each NBA team features 12 players on the active roster, plus three more who practice with the squad. That means that there are 450 available players at any given time in the league. Because there are so few players, one guy can make a huge difference for his team.
The Sport of Basketball
The game is divided into four 12-minute quarters. At halftime, sports bettors can often find great opportunities to make cash on the second half by betting on half-time lines and over/unders.
One complication for sports bettors is the fact that the game can go into overtime, which is an additional 5-minute period. This can wreak havoc on a totals bet and even a spread. Plus, games can go into multiple overtimes before they are decided. These types of games can cause trouble for bettors in a variety of ways: Along with wrecking a totals bet, an overtime game might also tire out a squad that is playing the next day, making it difficult to handicap the game.
Basketball is defined as a team sport, but in the NBA it tends to be more of an individual effort. This is a superstar’s league, so if a club has three of the top players in the league, some solid role players, and a few guys that can come off the bench and contribute, then they will be a contender. Also in the NBA, size does matter, and tall, skilled big men are rare and highly valued.
Understanding the Importance of Each Player
One way to think about NBA players is to consider the area of the court that they command. Some players are major contributors in the frontcourt, while others are powerful forces in the backcourt. Then there are players who transcend both areas, scoring from anywhere, positioning themselves perfectly when a shot is taken, and calmly setting up plays.
The other thing to look for is the physical and mental attributes of a player. An incredible athlete with a low basketball IQ will have a tough time getting any playing time in the league. However, a good athlete who understands the game and its nuances can dominate and change the outcome of just about any contest. One player can make a major difference.
One debate regarding the NBA concerns whether the sport is about offense or defense. The fact is, the game is really about both. However, scoring tends to be the thing that gets most of the time on a highlight reel and scoring stats are what most people look at first.
Here are some key elements to consider when analyzing a team’s offensive strength:
- Ability to control the paint, especially rebounding
- Putting a team on the court that can score from anywhere
- Speed and quickness in transitioning
- Three-point conversion rate
- Foul shooting percentage
- Offensive rebounding, which creates more shot opportunities
- Point guards with great assist stats
- Low turnover rate
If these areas are sound, then chances are you’re looking at a team that can put points on the board. However, even the best shooters can go cold. When that happens, even the best handicappers find it difficult to analyze a game.
Pace is a factor that is often overlooked by those evaluating NBA teams. Pace measures how many possessions a team has during an average game. A team that is at 101.5 has 7 more chances to score in a game than a club that is at 94.5. That’s a major factor when you consider that means the potential for a club to score 14 to 21 more points than their opponents. The pace factor, when taken into consideration with other stats such as rebounding and assist-to-turnover ratio, can be enlightening.
The three-point shot was widely introduced by the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1967. It has two purposes: make the game more exciting, and give the smaller player a chance to make a larger impact. It proved to be a fan favorite, while also making things tougher for basketball handicappers and sports bettors. In 1979, the NBA added the three-point shot.
Some teams will take a large number of three-point shots but hit very few, while others may take fewer but knock down a large percentage. The three-point shot is an art unto itself, and some teams will live or die by it.
When you look at a club’s three-point stats, weigh the balance between three-point and two-point shooting. A good-shooting NBA team will hit between 46% and 50% of their shots from the field. A good three-point shooting rate is between 37% and 40%.
The Foul Shot
When a team is given the chance to make two points by going to the foul line, they have a golden opportunity. Anything above 77% will give a club an edge, particularly if they can get their opponent into foul trouble.
Each time a player is charged with a foul, he has a personal foul and the team is given a foul. A team is allowed five fouls per quarter. After that, every time they commit a foul, their opponent takes two shots from the foul line. Players are allowed a total of 5 fouls during a game. Once they commit their sixth, they are out of the game.
Along with looking at foul shot percentages, consider how often a team actually goes to the line, and how often their opponent is sending players to the charity stripe. A team that is good at drawing fouls can end up with an advantage.
Defensive and Offensive Rebounding
The NBA closely tracks rebounding. Along with defensive and offensive rebounds, you’ll find statistics that are concerned with rebounding percentages and differentials. A team with a positive rebounding differential (such as a +4.0) often ends up with more shot opportunities per game. They also limit their opponents to one shot per possession.
Offensive rebounds are a very big statistic because they accomplish two things: They provide the offensive team with an extra possession while taking away a possession from the opposing team. Although it seems strange, offensive rebounding is an especially effective defensive technique.
A team that has a player who can block two shots per game or commit 2-3 steals each game is at a significant advantage. Good defense can disrupt an opposition’s timing, derail their offense, and create easy transition points.
A big guy who can block shots actually does much more than is typically seen in the box score. Offenses will have to adjust their game when facing such a formidable player, and the easy score is often taken away from them. These types of effects may not be immediately recognizable when reading through basic stats.
A team that is giving up more than 99 points per game and that allows teams to make more than 45% of their shots from the field has some real holes in its defense. The points per shot (PPS) statistic provides some finely detailed information for sports bettors. The best teams in the NBA hold teams to under 1.20 PPS. The high and therefore ineffective end of that stat is 1.30 PPS.
You’ll also find differentials on every major statistic, including points scored, three-point shooting percentage, points per shot, and many more. This area of statistical analysis is very helpful when creating your team matchups. Use them as an indicator of team strengths and weaknesses when handicapping and predicting the outcome of a specific contest.
Teams that have owners, front office people, and coaches who work toward the single goal to win the NBA championship tend to put together highly competitive clubs. Look to ownership and for a highly competent and aggressive GM to find teams that will be winners and contenders. If there are problems with an organization, then chances are there will also be problems on the court.
Winning teams make deals and trades to improve their roster, actively go after important free agents, and work hard to keep key contributors on the team. Successful front office personnel have also developed the difficult skill of assembling teams with good chemistry and teamwork. They can’t all be superstars, but every player can make an important contribution to a team. Look for a front office that is focused on creating a club with top players as well as great role players and reserves.
The Business of Basketball
Basketball does have a salary cap. However, unlike football or hockey, it is not a hard cap. The salary cap in the NBA is soft, and although not as soft as MLB, it allows teams to avoid some of its limitations. One of the toughest things for any NBA team to do is to trade for players that have big contracts if it puts their club over the cap.
Fortunately, there are numerous exceptions to the cap, which allow teams to spend more than has been designated. Some of the clauses that permit deviations from the cap rules include the exception for “qualifying veteran free agents” (Larry Bird exception), “early qualifying veteran free agents,” and minimum salary exception. All of these, and other provisions, allow teams to violate the cap.
The Four Seasons
Every professional sport in the U.S. has four seasons. The four seasons for the NBA are:
- Preseason, which includes team camps and preseason games.
- Regular season, which is an 82-game season.
- Playoff season, which offers 15 seven-game series.
- Summer season, which includes the summer leagues and NBA draft.
Basketball is ongoing throughout the year, which means that sports bettors must keep up-to-date even after the championship series has been played.
This page is offered as a way for sport bettors to understand some of the basic elements of the game and the league. Although this is a fairly extensive introduction, it just scratches the surface of what every serious bettor needs to know. Utilize the NBA betting pages on this website, as well as current information regarding players, teams, and the league. Always use the most current information to make your NBA sports betting picks.