The NBA's 82-game regular season spans more than five months and gives an astute sports bettor plenty of opportunities to profit. Sportsbooks and oddsmakers must post a number on every game. However, bettors do not need to play every game. By isolating the best situations and using the advice below, you will be set up to enjoy a very profitable NBA season.
Pay attention to matchups and pace
Matchups are an important handicapping factor. Some teams like to play fast and push the pace, while others are more content in a slow-down, half-court setting. Underdogs are always worth a look when they play a slow-down style, especially against opponents that want to push the pace and are uncomfortable in a half-court set.
Possessions per game is a great way to measure pace. Offensive and defensive points per possession (PPP) is also an excellent way to compare teams and a better barometer than using points for and against. For example, a fast-paced team will consistently score and allow more points than a slow-down team. However, by adjusting for pace with points per possession, you can determine which teams are more efficient offensively and defensively during each possession.
Analyze statistical data
There is plenty of statistical data to work within the NBA, with the 30 teams playing 1,230 regular-season games. Field goal percentage and scoring margin are two critical statistical categories, and throughout the season, these will generally indicate which teams are the best.
The most significant variables on a single game basis are three-point shooting and free-throw shooting percentage. These two statistical categories can fluctuate significantly on a short-term basis and create misleading single-game results. Watch for these two stats when handicapping teams, as it often presents value in future games.
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Watch for situational trends
Home teams typically shoot better and get more favorable foul calls. Home teams win around 60 percent of the games outright, translating to approximately a three-point edge in the point spread, which means if two equal teams are playing, the home team will generally be a three-point favorite.
Another reason home teams have an edge is because of travel. Usually, home teams play several straight games at home and face opponents playing several road games in a row, all in different cities. NBA road teams often play back-to-back days without rest. They never play three straight games without rest, but sometimes teams play three games in four nights or four games in five days which can leave a team fatigued.
Pay attention to current form
The long 82-game regular season means teams go through hot and cold streaks, coinciding with injuries. Basketball is a unique team sport as just a single star player can account for 30-40 percent of the team's offensive production. When an All-Star is missing, this can be worth several points in the betting line.
A more subtle injury to a role player, such as a key sixth man or top defender, can provide stronger betting opportunities because oddsmakers adjust the line less when role players miss games, even though the results can still be impactful. Current form is essential to follow. Make sure you are backing a team that is playing well and has its preferred lineup intact.
Handicapping the NBA Playoffs
Handicapping the NBA Playoffs is different than the regular season, especially since the same teams play each other in a best-of-seven series. Rest and travel are no longer a factor. However, some of the same handicapping strategies listed above still apply.
Matchups and statistical data are essential. The zig-zag theory (betting on the team coming off a loss) must also be recognized. Teams that lose a game adjust game plans and play better in the next game. Do not overreact to a single-game result, and continue to use your overall season statistics and matchup data to handicap the entire series and locate value opportunities.