5 Tips to Betting on the NBA

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The NBA remains popular among sports bettors despite there being no other sport that can match it for pure frustration to both professional and amateur gamblers. A team can look unbeatable one night, but be abysmal on the very next next game, and the reasons are often indecipherable. 

The fact that it's played every day has something to do with the sport's popularity, yet that also is a reason for its unpredictability.

With such a long season, all teams are going to have ups-and-downs, highs and lows. But some of these variables can be predicted, meaning that a careful bettor may gain an advantage. 

Here are five tips that may help increase your odds of winning in the upcoming season.

1. Don't Underestimate Home Court Advantage

Even though most bettors will typically give the home team three or four points when trying to predict the outcome, the home court in the NBA may be worth more than that.

During a sample season—the 2009 - 2010 season—among playoff teams, the combined home record was 476-180, while the same teams on the road were 347-309. Non-playoff teams were 255-319 at home and just 152-422 on the road.

There are always teams that are capable of playing well at home, such as the Clippers, who were 21-20 in front of the home fans during that 2009-2010 season, but just 8-33 away from home. And the two worst teams in the league, New Jersey and Minnesota, both won twice as many home games as away games.


The message: When betting on non-playoff teams, your odds are better if you expect them to do better than the spread indicates. 

2. Expect the Unexpected....Unless You're Expecting It

In sports bookmaking, the odds are developed by statistical analysis based on prior performance, and there are always "odd" occurances.

A Houston Rockets team thumps the Knicks on the road, then comes home to get thumped in return by the 76ers. Or, the perennially excellent San Antonio Spurs off to a typical good season beat the Miami Heat handily on the road, then go on an inexplicable four-game losing streak. 

The lesson here is that overall statistical odds can very often blind you to the maddening habit that NBA teams of producing unexpected results. 

3. Differentiate Between Home and Away Performances

The rare team that plays as well or better on the road than they do at home may perform much differently against the point spread depending on where they are playing. In the early stages of the 2017 season, the Houston Rockets were 4-3 at home, but 8-1 on the road. Betting on them to win against the point spread on the road, then, would seem like very solid betting strategy. 

This is borne out by past history. In a sample 2009-2010 season, the Dallas Mavs were a dismal 10-31 against the spread, but a solid 26-15 as visitors.That year, they were 28-13 at home, and 27-14 on the road. 

4. Differentiate Between Home and Away Scoring

Closely related to the heading above, this one is more concerned with totals, but will also give you additional insight into straight point spread betting, as well.

If we look at the Dallas Mavericks in that sample 2009-2010 season, who we mentioned above as being a poor home team against the spread and a strong road team against the number, we'll see they averaged 101 points and allowed 98 points, both home and away, which is the main reason for their spread record.

In the same year, Orlando saw an average score of 105-94 at home and 99-97 for away games, which is typically closer to scoring averages for top-tier teams.  The Boson Celtics were an exception to the rule of thumb in that year, actually having a larger winning margin away from home. As a result, Boston was 12-28 against the spread at home and 21-20 on the road.

As far as totals in the 2009-2010 season, Boston and Denver saw their home games average five or more points more than their road games, while Memphis saw their home games average 200 points and their road games average 208.

Naturally, this will affect a team's performance against the over/under number, as Boston was 22-18 to the over at home and 18-22 away from home, while Denver was 22-19 to the over at home and 16-25 on the road.

5. Look for Overvalued and Undervalued Teams

There are simply some teams that are going to be overvalued each season and others that will fly under the radar. The overvalued teams are usually pretty easy to guess—it is very often the top performers from the year before.

Undervalued teams are always a bit harder to predict, though you might get a hint if a team has a new coach, interesting trades, or strong draft picks from an earlier year who are about to hit their strides.

There is no magic formula for winning at the NBA, but you can increase your chances by doing a bit of homework before placing your wagers.