Betting on the NBA - accumulators and value selling explained

Updated: 7850 Basketball

In my first analysis of NBA betting I briefly mentioned thepossibility of buying or selling value, which is one of the mainadvantages when it comes to betting on basketball compared tofootball for example. While the concept is pretty easy tounderstand

Betting on the NBA - accumulators and value selling explained
Darren Brett Tipster Competition Manager

Horse Racing, greyhounds and snooker specialist with thirty years experience of writing about sport across multiple platforms. A QPR and Snooker fan

In my first analysis of NBA betting, I briefly mentioned the possibility of buying or selling value, which is one of the main advantages when it comes to betting on basketball compared to football for example. 

The OLBG betting school also covers the full gamut of basketball betting advice

My concept of buying and selling value is pretty easy to understand, as it has some similarities to certain football markets.


In this blog, I will offer an extended view on the topic and shed some light on how exactly we have to deploy it in order to generate profits with as little risk as possible.

I am using the accumulation concept as it is one of the most popular among smaller stake punters.

Lately, it became the focus of attention for me thanks to the bonus system offered by certain bookmakers, a full list of bookmaker offers can be found here.

However, in order to accumulate successfully, we must take several steps to better understand the NBA betting markets.

Major NBA Betting Markets

There are three major markets when it comes to basketball betting: 

  • Point spread 
  • Money line  
  • Game totals.

The money line is basically picking a winner and that market is of least interest.

It can be used to gain value in close games where the spread is in the region of 1 to 4 points, but nothing more than that. 

The other two (Point Spread & Game Totals) are much more intriguing for both bookies and punters, but they are also one of those markets that are always on the move and not just in terms of odds.

If we are to draw a comparison, the spread and total resemble to some extent to the A/H and Total Goals in football but are much more complex 

They are more complex due to basketball dealing with many points rather than just several goals. 

Just like in football though the actual number of the AH line could change in the hours prior to the game.

This could be manipulated by the punter (from AH 0 to AH +0.25 for example as a result of the 1X2 odds drifting/choosing a different line than the basic to allow for a bigger margin of error).

In basketball, the spreads and points could change too but within a much bigger margin. 

One such situation is when a team favored strongly is reported to lose an important player in which case a spread can even move from negative to positive with that team. 

You need to be on the ball to monitor the changing spreads and odds, and then accumulate when you see the value. 

That phenomenon has no football parallel as in football you will not see an Asian Handicap for Man United moving from -1 to +1 if Rooney is reported to be injured, 

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For example. It could go from -1 to -0.75, but rarely more than that.

The same goes for the point totals, which in most cases are guided by the market. 

We rarely see any significant changes there, but there are cases, where point totals moved significantly with up to 6-7 points again as a result of player developments, which dictate market support.

A classic example I always mention is the announcement that San Antonio Spurs, riding an 11 game winning streak, will be resting Tim Duncan and Tony Parker against Portland in 2012.

As a hot favorite prior to the announcement, the Spurs were given a starting spread of -4.5, which shifted to +7 following the announcement and all the way to +10 right before tip-off. 

The game ended with a 40 point blowout victory for Portland.

In addition to the major markets, there are numerous other options like player totals (points, rebounds, assists or three-category lines), race to 20 points, quarter results, etc. 

While they all are very interesting to discuss further, I shall not do that in this post as the purpose of it is completely different than simply assessing all possible markets.

Two Common Rules To Guide Us

Having been betting on basketball and NBA in particular for more than 10 years now, I managed to discover two common rules, which more experienced punters establish for themselves when approaching the different markets. 


I would like to stress that they are more suited to the NBA rather than college basketball or European basketball, which could be slightly different and require additional analysis of the possible deviations and overall differences.

The first rule, which is extremely important for the purpose of this post, is the “Blowouts rule”. 

A blowout in the NBA is considered any win by 21 points or more and the established rule here is that one must consider a blowout the least likely outcome of a game between teams, none of which is either a complete outsider or on a hot streak. 

According to Basketball-Reference, in the last 2 seasons, there have been less than 300 blowout wins, which is around 10% of the total games played and outsiders were involved in around two-thirds of those blowouts, which is extremely important when analyzing the suggested spreads for a particular game. 

Knowing that, one can always find a way to maneuver around those spreads and increase the likelihood of finding a winning bet. Take a note of that as we will come back to the maneuvering when we accumulate.

The second rule is the so-called “Possessions rule”, which addresses the likelihood of a game finishing with point difference within a certain number of possessions. 

In basketball, a possession is like an attack in football but while in football one attack has two possible outcomes (goal or no goal) in basketball the outcomes are measured in points and are as follows:

  • Possession leading to one point (in case of a defensive foul and one free throw scored)
  • Possession leading to two points (when there is a basket from inside the three-point line or two free throws scored)
  • Possession leading to three points (when a three-point shot is scored, three free throws or a technical free throw and a successful two-point shot follows)
  • Possession leading to four points (when a three-point shot is scored with a foul and the free throw is converted or in case of a technical foul and a three-point shot scored after that)

The four-point possession is extremely rare and always ignored, so we are working with the possibility of an attack ending with three points at most for the attacking team. 

More often than not, the outcome is two points, which is the generally accepted value of possession for betting purposes.

Understanding how does that help us when placing our bet is pretty simple - when two evenly matched teams face each other, we should compare the spread, suggested by the bookies to the number of possessions needed to cover it. 

If the spread is 5 points, according to the rule, that translates into 2 or 3 possessions. 

The common understanding is that any spread up to 6-7 points or up to 3 possessions indicates the game could actually go either way and the likelihood of a blowout is now almost completely out of the question. 

I will not go deeper into explaining the practical side of this in terms of how teams approach close games at the end of the 4th quarter, but one must always remember that up to 3 possessions can be covered even with less than a minute left in NBA games.

What Is Value Selling And What Good Can It Do Us?

All the previous points lead us to this. 

When bookies offer us a point spread within the 3 possessions on a game, which we have enough confidence, based on the pre-game developments, will not end up in a blowout.

We could manually lower the value of the original line in favor of securing certain more favorable spread that also brings lower odds, not worth taking alone but suitable for accumulation purposes. 

The big bookmakers offer a huge range of  Basketball point spreads, with every score option added, just take a look at their websites. 

sports app

E.G: if the original spread is +7 at standard odds of 1.91, we are given the option to extend the spread almost twice, hence lowering the value to anywhere between 1.83 (for +7.5) and 1.35 (for +13)

This is what I call “selling value”.

If on a given night we can come up with a significant number of bets, they could be combined into a very solid accumulator. 

Especially if we do not sell too much or use them as a supplement to a bet which we have enough confidence in at the original odds.

Five games with sold value down to 1.43, for example, accumulate odds of around 6.00, which considering the security of big enough spreads resulting from the selling,

This offers us a likelihood for success between 70 and 80% depending on the precision of game selection. 

While this might not be spectacular, it combines perfectly with bookmakers parlay bonus system of up to 50% on NBA accumulators.

Successful five-game accumulator or parlay offering us odds of 6.00 brings a 15% bonus or the final value of the bet is almost 7.00. 

You can see the difference in plus and minus spreads with a £10 accumulator below. 

Team Standard Reduced Odds
Indian Pacers +7 @1.90 +9 @ 1.62
Toronto Raptors -6.5 @1.90 -5.5 @ 1.71
Miami Heat -2.5 @1.86 -1.5 @1.71
Denver  +4.5 @ 1.90 +6.5 @ 1.71
LA Clippers  -5.5 @1.90 -3.5 @1.76
Return £242.40 + Bonus £142.57 + Bonus

Now while bigger accumulators inevitably lower the likelihood for success, the bonus on eight games for example is 30%, which actually compensates a lot of the sold value. 

In other words 8 games, we have additional confidence in by using the technique equal 5 games on the standard spread, which the bookies are offering at the higher odds. 

The system can be applied to the points market as well, but there is less logic and more risk behind it and often the reverse practice is more popular, namely buying value for securing higher odds than the standard line. 

Overall the technique of selling value, which as mentioned in the beginning can also be found in football with the handicaps (unfortunately considerably less productive) can be used to help us lower the risk and the stakes as accumulation basically have that as its main advantage.

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