5 Tips For Successful Early Season NBA Betting


With the NBA season commencing, how should we approach the opening month of the season? Today Jeff Fogle gives us 5 tips to help us navigate the early weeks of the NBA season successfully.

With the 2013-14 NBA regular season officially tipping off on Tuesday October 29, it’s time to get your handicapping effort in gear for several months of wagering opportunities. Many longtime bettors have found the first month of action the easiest to beat.

  • Oddsmakers are slow to adjust to the impact of personnel and coaching changes
  • Oddsmakers are still buried in the NFL, college, and European football, limiting their NBA focus
  • Teams themselves are experimenting with new lineups and forms of attack

If you’re paying close attention during this time of turmoil, you have a very good chance to stay a few steps of the market.

Here are five tips that will help you get properly positioned to take advantage.

Tip #1: Know The New Faces In New Places

You absolutely have to be aware of who the new head coaches are, what they bring to the table, who the new players are within the high-minute rotations, and what they bring to the table too. It’s impossible to pick early season winners if you’re just “trusting your gut” based on what you remember from last season. That’s true every year but it’s particularly true in 2013-14 because of how the landscape is changing:

  • Some teams are going all in on a “win now” philosophy
  • Some teams are going all in on a “lose now and hope for a great draft pick” philosophy
  • Some teams are gathering talent that doesn’t necessarily fit together well
  • Some teams have picked up stray pieces that allow them to complete the puzzle

Review current rosters for all 30 teams. Review the coaching histories of new hires. Think through the process of what’s likely to work and what isn’t. If you take these steps and nothing else, you’ll be well positioned to at least read-and-react once games are being played that count in the standings.

Tip #2: Use Your Team Outlines To Adjust Last Year’s Final Marks

Now you’re ready to update your numbers from last year. Whether you use Power Ratings, stat averages, or some other numerical methodology for a starting point, take last year’s final numbers and adjust based on the most likely impact of the new faces in new places and overall team goals.

Early indicators suggest you’ll have more teams falling backward than moving forward. And, the distance for those falls from grace will be larger than any surges up the ladder. The nature of professional sports is that it’s hard to get a lot better quickly, but very easy to get a lot worse. That reality is exacerbated this year when a handful of teams have decided that they want to get a lot worse on purpose temporarily so they have a shot at drafting young super-phenom Andrew Wiggins prior to next season.

If you don’t keep your own Power Ratings, the easiest starting point for this tip is to take last season’s final margin differentials in points allowed and points scored per game. You can grab those on this page from ESPN’s website. How many teams can make a run at +5.0 or better in margin differential? How many are going to fall back to -5.0 or worse? If you’re fluent in point differentials, then you’ll instinctively see bad pointspreads when they hit the board.

Tip #3: Use Futures Prices And Regular Season Win Props for Guidance

If you’re concerned that you don’t have the expertise to paint the complete NBA picture entering the season, use Futures prices and Regular Season Win propositions as “consultants.” The market for Regular Season Win propositions is pretty sharp. So, settled numbers are telling you what the smartest people in the market think. You can’t call “sharps” on the phone to ask them about the coming season. This is the next best thing.

Check your favorite bookmakers to get up-to-the-minute numbers for all 30 franchises. You may find out that professional wagerers are more optimistic about some teams than you are (maybe you weren’t thinking of Brooklyn as a 52-win team), but more pessimistic about others (will Utah really only win 25 games?).

I don’t want to suggest that the market is foolproof when it comes to preseason projections. It will be wrong about several teams, as happens every year. It’s smart to use it as a consultant in this manner as you make your own evaluations. Pay closest attention out of the gate to your biggest differences from the market. Maybe you’ll isolate some advantage teams for yourself.

Current NBA Team Win Totals at Pinnacle Sports - Odds as at 29th October 2013.

 Team Win Total O/UPinnaclePinnacle
 Miami Heat  61.0 Over Under
 LA Clippers  57.0 Over Under
 Chicago Bulls  56.5 Over Under
 San Antonio Spurs  55.5 Over Under
 Indiana Pacers  54.5 Over Under
 Houston Rockets  54.5 Over Under
 Oklahoma City Thunder  53.0 Over Under
 Brooklyn Nets  52.5 Over Under
 G State Warriors  51.5 Over Under
 Memphis Grizzlies  51.0 Over Under
 New York Knicks  49.0 Over Under
 Denver Nuggets  45.5 Over Under
 Dallas Mavericks  43.5 Over Under
 Minnesota Twolves  41.0 Over Under
 Washington Wizards  41.0 Over Under
 Detroit Pistons  40.0 Over Under
 Atlanta Hawks  39.5 Over Under
 Cleveland Cavs  39.5 Over Under
 New Orleans Pelicans  39.0 Over Under
 Portland Trailblazers  38.5 Over Under
 Toronto Raptors  36.5 Over Under
 LA Lakers  (36.5) Over Under
 Sacramento Kings  31.0 Over Under
 Milwaukee Bucks  28.5 Over Under
 Boston Celtics  (27.5) Over Under
 Charlotte Bobcats  26.5 Over Under
 Utah Jazz  25.0 Over Under
 Orlando Magic  23.5 Over Under
 Phoenix Suns  19.0 Over Under
 Philadelphia 76ers  16.5 Over Under


Tip #4: Chart Out The Early Schedule

There’s a big difference between betting on fresh teams and betting on tired teams. You definitely want to pursue the former and avoid the latter. Early season schedules are varied in the challenges they present. It’s very important that you know what each of the 30 teams is dealing with in the opening weeks of a new season.

  • Try to avoid teams playing on night two of a back-to-back, unless they have a lot of depth.
  • Try to avoid teams playing on extended road trips, unless their indicators are very strong
  • Look to back fresh up-and-comers at home against tired big-name NBA powers

Longtime winning bettors in this sport believe they can learn to recognize how coaches and players prioritize games and pace themselves through a grueling campaign. It’s a skill you want to develop. Mapping out schedules in advance will help you see opportunities coming up, and evaluate results as they come in. You’ll know not to penalize a team in your ratings if they played a bad game when exhausted. You will dock anybody who plays a bad game when fresh and rested.

Tip #5: Put “Pace” On Your Radar

It’s my view that a hidden key used by the most successful NBA handicappers involves their understanding of pace. Some methodologies that only focus on point or Power Rating differentials miss out on the nuances that are created when slow teams play fast teams, when slow teams play each other, or when fast teams play each other. The extra percentage points in your won-lost record that come from a study of pace will be well worth the effort.

Now, this will be tricky for several teams out of the gate this year because of coaching changes and personnel moves. My best advice is to study this category on the fly once the regular season commences. Look at possession totals. Listen to what coaches and players are saying about their preferred approaches (coaches will often mention in press conferences that they want to speed things up or slow things down). Monitor line moves in the market on Over/Unders because professional wagerers who study pace will pound bad openers that are too high or too low.

Become fluent in pace as quickly as you can. Your overall understanding of the league will improve, and you’ll start finding many side and total winners you had missed before.


This coming NBA season is full of exciting storylines. I’m sure you’re excited about the betting opportunities that await. Best of luck!



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Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JeffFogle

Jeff writes about Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, and American college sports on his StatIntelligence blog