OLBG Blogger Lou Flavius gives his advice on betting on the NBA.
We hope all readers will benefit from his basketball advice.
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Nobody hates basketball, not even those who think they do.
Most times, it boils down to not fully understanding the sport.
The OLBG betting school has articles covering Basketball basics if you need a refresher course.
From a betting viewpoint, there is lots to learn.
But with a bit of effort, basketball punting can be understood in a few minutes.
History, Rules & ObjectivesBefore we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s best to leave you with a quick introduction as it relates to the sport.
The Basics Of Basketball
By learning what is required in the game will enhance your enjoyment of the game.
The focus will be on the American National Basketball Association (NBA) as it’s, by far, the most popular and most prestigious league in the world.
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) will also be referenced, however.
The obvious objective of basketball is to outscore the opponent.
The game was invented by Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physical educator, and physician, in 1981 and has come quite a long way since then.
Of course, having pioneers such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, and Larry Bird did help; and modern-day stars such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant are playing their part as it relates to the exposure of the game.
Anyhow, basketball pits two teams of 12 (five active players per team at any given time) against each other on 28.7m x 15.2m (NBA) or 28m x 15m (FIBA) courts.
On every full possession, the time limit is 24 seconds to get the ball through the hoop.
Here they attempt to outscore the other by dribbling and/or passing a ball up the court and then aiming to get it through a hoop by various means (shooting, laying up, dunking, etc.)
Teams also trying to avert getting scored on by dispossessing, blocking, or forcing a shot-clock violation (which will be explained lower).
The hoop stands 3.05m (10 ft) off the ground and is 46 cm in diameter.
Each team has 24 seconds with which to get the ball through the hoop on every full possession and failure to do so results in what is called a turnover (giving up possession).
The players have eight seconds to move the ball from their half to the oppositions half.
The players also have eight seconds to move the ball from their own half of the court to the oppositions.
Points are awarded in the form of field goals and free-throws, and players accrue two points for scoring anywhere inside the three-point line and three points for scoring beyond it.
Free-throws are uncontested shots taken from the free-throw line and count for one point each if scored, they are awarded to players who are fouled as well as for a few other violations.
It is also very common for players to be awarded both the points for field goals and free-throws in the same play if they get fouled in the act of shooting but still manage to score.
Don't like the way the game is going just use your unlimited substitutes to move the scoreboard in your favour.
Unlike football/soccer basketball allows for unlimited substitutions, which means players will be benched and returned to the game as many times as the head coach sees fit.
Also, an NBA basketball game lasts 48 minutes and is split into four quarters of 12 minutes.
A tie at the end will result in five-minute overtime to decide the winner.
If the teams cannot be separated during overtime, another overtime will be played out and will carry on in that fashion until a team can pull away.
NBA League Structure & SeasonThe NBA is made up of 30 teams (29 American and one Canadian) which are split into the Western and Eastern Conferences.
The conferences are further split into three divisions, each consisting of five teams.
The Atlantic, Central, and Southeast divisions make up the Eastern Conference while the Western Conference's three divisions are the Pacific, Southwest and Northwest.
In the 2018 -2019 season, the Toronto Raptors became the first non-USA team to win the NBA title.
The season is quite packed as each team plays 82 regular-season games usually from around October to June of the following year - with the aim of qualifying for the Playoffs.
Each team plays all teams from the opposing conference twice, teams from their own divisions four times, and teams from the other divisions in their conference either three or four times.
The three division winners advance to the conference playoffs along with five teams with the best records who did not win their division. The following format describes the way teams who make it to the Playoffs are matched up.
- 1st vs 8th
- 2nd vs 7th
- 3rd vs 6th
- 4th vs 5th
For extra clarity, say the Toronto Raptors topped the Eastern Conference, and the Washington Wizards finished eighth, they will be paired in a seven-game series to determine who advances.
The first team to four wins seals progression to the next round until only one team remains in each conference.
The winners of the respective conferences then go head to head in the Finals, also a best of seven series, for the coveted NBA Championship.
The above should have left you with a clearer picture, so let’s move on to the real reason you’re here, betting.
Types of NBA Betting
The Money Line
This one is quite simple. You pick a winner and hope they win.
Handicap betting is the most popular form of NBA punting and is also referred to as the betting line or point spread.
So how does it work? It’s a little more complicated than the money line but still simple enough to understand.
This bet focuses on the winning margin and the bookies set figures with 50/50 chances.
To simplify this, let’s look at a quick example.
Say the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are set to play a game of their Finals series and you were handed the following odds:
Warriors: -6.5 @ 2.5
Cavaliers: +6.5 @ 2.5
The Warriors would be the favourites here and if you reckon they’ll win by a margin larger than 6.5 points, you’d place a bet on -6.5.
If you think the Cavaliers will win or lose, but with a margin lower than 6.5 points, you do the opposite. If the Warriors win 104-93, the -6.5 bet would be the winning one.
You simply need to subtract 6.5 from the winning total of 104, which would leave you with 97.5. So even with the handicap subtracted, Golden State still wins the game,
This means -6.5 is indeed the favourable selection and would make you £25 better off a £10 stake.
If you’d bet on Cleveland (+6.5), then you’d have to add that to their score.
You would come up with 99.5, a figure which still leaves them in the losing column despite the addition, also meaning that the bet of +6.5 would be a loss.
So basically, a handicap bet basically starts a team off with either an advantage or disadvantage.
In the example above, Golden State started the game down 6.5 points but still won by 4.5 points.
Adversely, Cleveland started with a 6.5-point advantage, yet they lost by 4.5 at the end.
Those of you familiar with football/soccer betting should already know how it works.
It doesn’t matter who wins when totals are concerned.
This form of betting only deals with the scoring totals of both teams and whether they will be over or under a set figure.
So referring to the Warriors vs. Cavaliers match above, say we have odds of:
- Over 200 @ 1.97
- Under 200 @ 2.42
The 104-93 scoreline above would add up to a 197 total, just under 200, which would leave an under bet sitting pretty.
So a £10 bet would leave you £24.20 richer (minus your stake of course), while a bet on an over would leave you at a loss.
Quarter/Half BettingBets can also be had on individual quarters or halves of a match.
The bet types mentioned above can all be used, the only difference is the periods will obviously be shorter.
Outright MarketsOutright markets give punters the opportunity to bet on the outcome of an entire season as opposed to single games.
Bets can be placed on who will become NBA Champion, who will come out on top in each conference and who wins the MVP (Most Valuable Player) award.
Markets are also available on season wins/losses totals, who make it to the Playoffs, among other things.
Playoff BettingWhile bettors would have the same options in the Playoffs as they had during the regular season, this particular stage of a league campaign offers even more.
Playoff dates aren’t exactly set in stone and the periods vary a bit every year,
The NBA’s post-season usually kicks off sometime in April and ends in June.
NBA Post Season
Normally the NBA postseason starts in April and ends in June
It starts off with an opening round, during which all eight teams who qualified from each conference vie for progression to the conference semi-finals.
After this comes the conference finals and, of course, the NBA Finals.
All match-ups in the Playoffs are played out in a best-of-seven series.
Home advantage goes to the team with the better regular-season record.
The teams with home advantage play the first two games of the series on their home floor, the following pair of games are played away from home and the last three games alternate (home, away, home), providing that all seven games are necessary.
Types of BettingAs mentioned earlier, Playoff betting on an individual game basis isn’t different from regular season betting.
The money line, handicap, and totals still apply, but there’s more to do.
Series Winner BettingSimple. All you do is bet on the team you think comes out on top of a particular series.
Series ScoreAgain, simple. You predict a series score, for e.g. you could bet on Cleveland to beat the Toronto Raptors 4-1 in an Eastern Conference match-up.
This type of betting offers a bit extra, though. Say you reckon the series to reach seven games, the only outcome that can be had is a 4-3.
So you could choose either Cleveland or Toronto, but you could also place a bet on both teams, meaning you should win one of the bets as long as the series reaches a Game 7.
Series Total BettingThis bet isn’t contingent on winners and losers, only the number of games played out in a series.
Think Cleveland will take six games to deal with the Raptors or vice versa? Then you simply bet on the series consisting of six games.
Conference Championship BettingAs the name suggests, one places a bet on the team they tip to come out on top of a conference (or both).
Finals/Championship BettingNot much to see here really.
Betting on the NBA Finals is no different from betting on a Playoff series because that’s what it is in essence, except a team gets crowned NBA champions at the end.
So now that you’re all up to speed on how the NBA runs and the different bet types, but there are still things to consider in order to avoid the many pitfalls. Below are a few:
InjuriesOf course, it pays to pay attention to the overall fitness of a squad if you’re going to bet on them.
While a star being out injured might not affect results if they’ve got enough cover, teams who rely on one or two big names could suffer huge dips if that happens to be the case.
RotationsCoaches do tend to rest their best players before big, meaningful games during the regular season; so it is something to look out for.
You’ll find that it happens more often approaching the playoffs when teams have already qualified and want to keep their stars fresh and healthy for the post-season.
Power RankingsKeeping an eye on the NBA’s power rankings is likely to do bettors a lot of good as it should point them in the right direction.
Early Season PatternsThe beginning of the NBA season is a good time to get a jump on the bookies as they take some time to adjust to changes such as new players, draft picks, coaching etc.
But it should also be a time where patterns are studied meticulously.
Hit The Court Running
Does your team have a history of starting the new season strongly?
Some teams begin with a bang and get an early run going while others build up.
Some simply play for playing sake in attempts to land prime draft picks (what is referred to as tanking).
There will be new players on all teams at the beginning of every season.
So do your best to keep an eye on trades, signings and any new deals.
Early-season form, though, isn’t always a great barometer for the entire campaign due to rotation, injuries, etc.
Home ComfortsHome-court advantage counts for a lot in the NBA, so it’s always something to be taking into consideration when placing bets.
Even more importantly, the volume of games played on the road can have an impact on teams’ fortunes.
In other sports, you hardly find teams playing more than two consecutive games away from home, but the NBA is a bit different.
Is the team tired?
Fatigue especially when playing numerous games in a short period need to be considered before placing your bet.
Teams can play up to six games straight away from their home comforts, and they come quickly too.
It’s not at all unusual to see ball clubs going on road trips during which they play four games in five nights" and in four different time zones.
This often leads to physical and mental fatigue, factors that can impact matches in a huge way.
You would be cheating yourself if you headed into betting on a match without glancing over team stats.
There are avenues that allow for the viewing of how often teams beat the bookies’ set handicap marks and their over/under records.
Bettors can also study how often teams lose when they’re the favourites and vice versa. Scoring stats also come in very handy.
If you have not checked the statistics you will have less chance of making a winning bet.
You’d think this goes without saying, but knowing exactly where points are scored is very important.
The number of points scored in the paint (within the key/below the free-throw line) is a crucial indicator as scoring from there is the most efficient way to.
Even if teams score loads from beyond the three-point line and mid-range, there’s a need for balance.
Say a team records above-average threes per game, but aren’t scoring as efficiently in the paint, there will be a need for careful study of upcoming opponents and their stats when it comes to defending shots from beyond the arc.
As you settle into your NBA betting, you’ll learn that there are plenty of other factors that affect outcomes and results, but the above should be enough to get you started and point you in the right direction.