Stephen Nover is Covers.com`s senior NFL analyst. He is also a handicapper at Covers Experts.
It doesn’t matter that the NBA is the hardest sport to beat next to the NFL. Nor does it matter that NBA lines are extremely sharp, or that some of the players in the league are among the most detestable in all sports.
We’re still going to bet NBA. So let’s at least try to make some money from it. To accomplish this we need to be aware of certain harsh realities.
Basketball is an eight-month grind similar to baseball. That means riding hot streaks and dealing with cold streaks. Money management is as important as handicapping.
Bet a little more when winning, but don’t ever let yourself get too cocky. This is a sport that slaps you down to size real fast by nature of its randomness and garbage-type finishes that often decide the point spread winner. If you’re losing you need to scale down your action until you regain your rhythm.
For the NBA is a rhythm sport. The lines almost always seem accurate. So face it, you’re rarely going to get value. Sometimes you will, but it’s usually just during the first couple of weeks. If you refuse to play unless you get a great number, you’re going to be sitting out a lot.
So don’t be afraid to get involved. Now, I’m not saying be undisciplined. No matter how much you like a side, you have to pass if the line is too out of whack. Rare is the time when you really love a side and are able to also take a great number on the same game. You’ll get bit a few times, losing by a point or two, but in the long run you’ll make more money provided you handicap right and play the game even if the betting line isn’t entirely to your liking.
Some gamblers disagree, saying you should never play unless you’re getting the best number. That’s fine in theory, but hard to apply in the NBA since a large part of handicapping pro basketball is situations, injuries, matchups and your own subjective feel rather than power rankings, statistics and coaching.
Basketball is a hard sport to get rich on. I’ve beaten the NBA five of the past six years hitting between 54 and 58 percent. Perhaps that doesn’t sound spectacular, but it’s solid profit taking into account there are 30 teams playing 82 games followed by the postseason. I would dare call a liar anybody who claims to consistently hit better than 60 percent over the long run playing a lot of games each season.
Having the right feel in the NBA is huge. The key question, of course, is how to acquire the right feel? It’s developed through experience, watching the games, analyzing players, understanding situational aspects, reading pertinent up-to-date material and talking to sources if you’re lucky enough to have good ones. And in the end, it comes down to trusting your own instincts.
Unless your whole life has been devoted to handicapping NBA, you have to make certain concessions. For instance, I don’t spend a lot of time pouring over statistics and compiling power rankings. These are factored into the betting line anyways.
The oddsmakers at Las Vegas Sports Consultants - the company that supplies the betting numbers to most of the hotels in Nevada - use power rankings to make numbers as other linesmakers do. I do make overnight numbers and compare them. But the oddsmakers’ numbers are solid and need to be respected. There’s no reason to try to improve on their time-tested numbers.
Betting totals is something else altogether. There are individuals and betting syndicates who are extremely proficient in this area. Las Vegas bookmakers were plagued for many years by one especially sharp individual in this area.
Bookmakers adjust totals much faster than sides. It’s my experience gamblers are either very good or very bad at over/unders with most having no clue how to beat totals. Over/unde