Sports Betting 101: NBA Betting Tips
There are few sports that offer as much action to bet on as the NBA does. In most seasons, the lengthy regular season includes 82 games, and multiple nights each week are filled with several pro basketball games during the season. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic shaking up the basketball schedule, this year’s NBA season will consist of 72 games. With sports betting on the rise, it’s only natural that people are going to wager on the NBA more frequently, and because of that, we’ve put together this list of NBA betting tips to help keep you on the winning track.
In this article, we’ll cover the following NBA betting tips.
- Bankroll Management
- Flat Betting
- Back-To-Back Games
- Load Management
- Talent. vs. Coaching and Effort
- Roster Composition
- Public Perception and Injuries
- Key Numbers
- Live Betting
For those that want to dip their toes in the water with NBA betting before diving in headfirst, check out the completely free-to-use SharpSide sports betting app. It’s available for both iOS and Android devices, and users can make free betting picks to track records, try out different strategies, rank on leaderboards, and more. Users can even win through some of the contests that SharpSide often runs. It’s completely free to use and can be the perfect next step for new NBA bettors.
Now, let’s get to the NBA betting tips.
Managing one’s bankroll is imperative for success in any sports betting venture, not just the NBA. There might be a little extra importance that needs to be given to bankroll management when betting the NBA, though. That’s due to the volume of games that are available.
When the NBA is in season, a bettor can find several games a day on multiple days during the week. Think about it. Each team is playing a ton of games in the regular season and then there is a handful of seven-game series in the playoffs. That’s a lot of basketball, which means it’s easy to get carried away.
It’s crucial to exercise bankroll management. In its simplest form, have a plan and stick to it. Don’t deviate one way or the other by chasing losses or pressing when you’re on a winning streak. One of the best ways to have controlled bankroll management is by practicing a flat betting system.
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Stick To Flat Betting If New
At SharpSide, many of our experts adhere to flat betting. It’s a simple concept to understand, but it takes discipline to stick to. What is flat betting? Flat betting is the practice of betting the same amount for each wager.
You’ll find that it’s often suggested to stick to a wager amount that is 1-2% of your total sports betting bankroll when flat betting. Using an example bankroll of $1,000, that means setting your wager amount between $10 and $20. Depending on the percentage of your bankroll you opt for, either 1% or 2%, you can then raise or lower the wager amount based on the size of your bankroll. This allows you to always stay within your bankroll guidelines and have plenty of bullets in your arsenal.
Bettors can often dig holes for themselves by trying to apply a confidence value to a wager, which is often what is done when betting in units. We like flat betting because it removes an additional level of handicapping that can tricky to get control of. Not only is it more difficult to handicap the strength of your play in addition to handicapping the wager itself and correctly assign the number of units you want to bet based on strength, but bettors can convince themselves to risk fewer units on low-confidence plays when they’ve already placed wagers of multiple units elsewhere. Bettors might think, “Oh, I’ll just put one unit on this game,” after they’ve already bet 2-3 units on another.
You may not want to hear this, but we’re going to say it: sports betting isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Can you fire off a crazy parlay and hit a huge score after betting relatively little money? Of course, and you can also win the lottery if you go buy a lottery ticket. The point is, the odds are against you doing that. Sports betting can be a grind, but it can be a successful one if you stick to firm bankroll management tendencies and put in the work.
Back-To-Backs and Load Management
With so many games on the NBA schedule, it’s not uncommon for teams to have to play back-to-back games on consecutive nights. Having to play two games in two nights can affect players’ ability to produce, due to the added wear and tear in the short timespan without the recovery time the players are used to. This can be especially true for jump shooters or jump-shooting teams, as jump shots are largely about a player’s legs. If the legs are tired, the jump shot can be affected, which can lead to inefficiency in scoring.
Be sure you pay attention to a team’s schedule, checking if the team played the night before or has another game the following night. Not only can this affect on-court performance, but it can play into how a coach uses the players. Will minutes be reduced and the bench lengthened? How much load management will be deployed?
It’s also important to just not glance at the schedule, see a team has two games in as many nights, played the night before, and assume everyone on the team played a full slate of minutes in the first game. Depending on the matchups, the coach could’ve sat some of the better players in the first of the two games looking ahead to the second one. You often see this with veteran players. Review the minutes played to get a better picture. This is how you can use load management to your advantage.
Additionally, be aware of teams playing three games in four nights, which can sometimes be the case in the NBA. It doesn’t take too long to review schedules and minutes, but it’s a very basic step in the betting process that can get overlooked.
Talent vs. Coaching and Effort
In the NBA regular season, good coaching, fundamental play, and hard work can get a team many more wins than it likely should get. Although the NBA is very much a talent-driven league, the “talent” can take nights off, not try the hardest during a regular-season contest, or coaches can apply load management.
In the 2014-2015 NBA regular season, the Atlanta Hawks won 60 games and earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but many thought the Hawks weren’t as good as a true No. 1 seed should be. Although they won the first two playoff rounds, Atlanta was swept in the Conference Finals by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Another example can be seen from the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 Boston Celtics. In the 2015-2016 regular season, the Celtics won 48 games but then got bounced in the first round by the Hawks. In the 2016-2017 regular season, they won 53 games, had the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but then were challenged hard in the first two rounds of the playoffs before getting beat easily by the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals.
The 2014-2015 Hawks and 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 Celtics were both well-coached, hard-working teams that didn’t have the elite talent that some of the other teams in the league had, but they still over-performed in the regular season. When it comes to NBA betting, bettors can look to side with these teams in the regular season when things appear in their favor but they can also look to fade these types of teams in the postseason when the true talent in the league shines.
There are two very important periods of time when it comes to attacking roster composition in the NBA: the beginning of the season and after the trade deadline.
Plenty of moves are made in the offseason, whether it be through the NBA Draft, free agent signings, or trades, and rosters can look a lot different from one season to the next. Just because a team has added a lot of star power and talent to its roster doesn’t mean everyone is going to be on the same page right away. Although players have been practicing together during the offseason, it’s not the same as the regular season. Teams with a lot of new pieces, no matter how good those individual pieces are, will need time to gel.
The trade deadline is always a big and exciting time in the NBA, and plenty of important pieces can move across the league, including very talented, high-profile players. But those players will be getting launched into a brand new situation, with a new team in a new city, new coaches, and new teammates. There will likely be some time that is needed for everything to start working as it should.
Bettors can find some very good opportunities to go against teams with star-studded rosters both at the beginning of the season and after the trade deadline before the betting market adjusts.
Furthermore, if a team stays intact from one season to the next, look to buy in sooner rather than later.
Public Perception of Injuries
You’ll hear sharp bettors address public perception all the time. Just as it does in other sports, public perception can play a role in NBA betting and it can be used to your advantage, specifically when it comes to injury news in the NBA.
Let’s say a star player such as Kyrie Irving of the 2019-2020 Brooklyn Nets was ruled out of a game due to injury. The public perception will likely be that Irving being out is a huge blow to the Nets, causing both the point spread and betting odds to change. In reality, though, with the way the Nets were built that season, Spencer Dinwiddie had proved himself as an extremely capable player at the point guard position for the Nets. He just doesn’t have the star power to his name that Irving does.
In fact, the Nets might even perform better without Irving in the lineup, if you can believe that. This often happens in the NBA when star players go out, as the rest of the team, who can be viewed more as role players, have better chemistry and play more of a team game. Although it’s certainly not easy to defend superstar players in the NBA, a team exercising good ball movement and having a lot of players involved can be difficult to defend. With the public perception being that the loss of Irving is a big one, oddsmakers may over-adjust the betting line to account for where more public money might come in. This could allow you, the sharp bettor, to get some extra value. If a point spread might’ve had the Nets (-4) with Irving in but then it shifted to Nets (-1) or Nets (PK) with Irving out, you’d be getting value in a good spot.
Another way in which you can have injuries work to your advantage in the NBA is by paying attention to injuries that aren’t as headline-grabbing but can greatly affect a team. Look at Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics, for example. Smart is a key player for the Celtics, both in the lead lineup and when the second unit is in the game. He’s also one of the best defenders in the league and an incredibly energetic player, but those two things don’t always resonate on the stat sheet and Smart doesn’t carry the same name power as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, or even Kemba Walker. An injury to Smart could be extremely impactful to the Celtics but it might not be an injury that is taken into account as much as it should by oddsmakers and the public, so the correct adjustment isn’t made.
Always try and think about what the public perception of a game or situation is, as you’ll often want to fade the public per common betting advice.
When it comes to betting a point spread in the NBA, there are a few key numbers that are viewed as more important than others, just like in football. These key numbers offer the most common margins of victory, but they aren’t as important for basketball bettors as compared to football bettors. They are worth understanding, though.
With a lot more scoring in basketball and 1-, 2-, and 3-point baskets available, there are several key numbers to focus on. In basketball, the most common winning margins are between 2 and 8 points. Those margins of victory – 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 – are all close in frequency in which they occur, but it’s the 7-point margin of victory that is the most common.
The reason why the margin of 7 points is important is that when a margin gets to 7 points at the end of a game, it means there is a three-possession gap between the two teams. At three possessions and the time winding down, the losing team is likely to concede which means the winning team is in the clear and no longer needs to score.
When setting NBA point spreads, oddsmakers will give weight to the numbers of 2 and 7 the most. In a game with a 2-point spread, it is expected to be close and come down to the final possession or two.
Where NBA oddsmakers differ from NFL oddsmakers is that they’re much more willing to move a point spread off, to, or through what could be considered a key number in basketball. In football, it takes more for oddsmakers to move lines off 3 or 7, for example.
Attacking Live Betting
Live NBA betting can be some of the most entertaining betting to do. The constant scoring and fast-paced action make the NBA uniquely positioned to thrive when it comes to live, in-game betting, but it can also positively position your bankroll.
If you’re around NBA circles, you’ll often hear the phrases “everyone goes on a run in the NBA” or “the NBA is a game of runs” muttered. These aren’t just sayings, though. The NBA really is a game of runs and you see it just about every night across the league. One team will go on a hot run and get up by double digits only to have the other team hit a run later in the game to pull the contest closer. When it comes to betting, those who are patient and able to recognize game flow can get a lot of value from live, in-game betting.
Let’s say the Golden State Warriors were 10-point favorites entering a game, but a slow start caused them to slip behind early. Maybe the other team was hot shooting the basketball, or maybe the Warriors weren’t knocking down baskets like we’re used to seeing from the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Whatever the case may be, you see that at the end of the first half, Golden State is down by 8. Now, you know that the NBA is a game of runs, you know the Warriors were 10-point favorites, and you know that have some incredible shooters in Curry and Thompson. The odds might be in your favor to bet on the Warriors with an in-game wager, specifically on the moneyline. Before the game, the Warriors as a 10-point favorite might’ve been around -550 on the moneyline and it’s hard to lay that sort of price. At halftime, down 8 points, they might be closer to even money to win the game. A few quick three-pointers and Golden State is back in the lead, the opponent is wondering what the heck just happened, and you’re on your way to cashing a winning ticket with a ton of value.
Another way to attack live NBA betting profitably is to find spots to middle. Let’s say you backed the Denver Nuggets at +6 before the game and they get off to a good start on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers. At halftime, the Lakers are down 10 points and the live betting line has the Lakers listed at +2. You could now buy the Celtics and be holding both a Nuggets (+6) ticket and a Lakers (+2) ticket. You can’t lose both bets, but you can win both.
There are few leagues that can offer as much value on live betting as the NBA, and as long as you have some of the basics down and are paying attention, you can work your way to being successful when it comes to live, in-game betting on the NBA.
For more NBA betting tips, you can check out SharpSide’s Guide to NBA Futures and Prop Betting.