How To Bet On The NBA In Season 2012/2013 Part 2


With the NBA season almost upon us, today on the blog Cassini delivers part 2 of his betting preview, helping us to find some value opportunities in season 2012/2013.


In-Running Keys

Basketball is a game of momentum, so it pays to look for games where one team gets off to a flier. They seem to be unstoppable. Three pointers are falling, and everything is going right, and the price will drop quite dramatically, but time and time again you will see the struggling team take a time-out, re-group, and the momentum visibly shift.

I personally look to back home teams who struggle at the start, as in my experience, their price drifts further than it should and offers good value. Too many people want to jump on the seemingly unstoppable bandwagon, only to see the well-timed timeout do precisely what it is intended to do, and the hot hands go cold. This is the time to lay, not back.

Home Comforts

The home court advantage is stronger in the NBA than in the other major US sports, and last season only one team had a better record on the road than on their own court. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that this season sees that team playing in a new arena in a new city in a new state – the New Jersey Nets will play this season in Brooklyn, and will become the Brooklyn Nets.

The home team winning percentages for the four sports are:

Basketball (NBA) 60.8%

American Football (NFL) 58.1%

Hockey (NHL) 55.0%

Baseball (Major Leagues) 53.5%

The higher placed teams after the regular season are rewarded with home court advantage in the play-offs, and since 1999, the home team’s winning play-off percentage is even more noticeable at 76.7%.

Opportunity Knocks

The nature of the game means that there are frequent scoring opportunities during a game, and a score can change in increments of 1, 2, and 3, with 2 being the most common occurrence. In the NBA teams typically average around 80 field goal attempts. Add in the average 25 or so free throw attempts, and that’s over 200 opportunities for the score to change, and move the prices, so be patient.

No Way Back

While a double digit lead in the NBA may seem insurmountable, it is not. Even with a couple of minutes remaining, a lead of a dozen can be lost, as I have seen many times, and made some good profits from.

Good teams don’t panic. They try to get the deficit down to single figures, and with a timely three pointer, a stop, and another basket plus a foul (for example) that nine point lead is suddenly down to a single possession of three points.

Don’t get carried away with the idea that this happens all the time, because it doesn’t, but a lay in the low 1.0x will jump up if a ten point lead is trimmed to say five with a minute remaining. Fear and greed drive the markets, so take advantage of both emotions.

A comment on that minute remaining while we are here – a lot can happen. Intentional fouling and time-outs mean that last minute can continue for a long time, and see a lot of points.

While the Under / Over is not something I typically get too involved in, if a game is close, the Overs may be worth a back because in these markets, overtime points count.

Foul Play

It pays to keep track of the personal foul count for players too, especially the star names. If Kobe Bryant or Lebron James pick up a couple of early fouls, you can expect to see them taking a lengthy break on the sideline. Players substitute in and out as the game goes on, so it pays to know when better players are being rested. Six personal fouls in the NBA, and the player can take no further part in the game.

The team foul count is important too, because once a team is ‘in the penalty’ any foul is automatically two free-throws.

Free Throws

On the subject of free-throws, these are not automatically two points. In the past, teams could nominate anyone to take free-throws, but the rules are now that the fouled player has to take his own, which means that intentionally fouling a weak free-throw shooter is often a good strategy. This is often referred to as ‘Hack-a-Shaq’, a reference to center Shaquille O’Neal who was known for his low free throw percentage. Over his career he hit 52.7%, and in 2000 missed all 11 in a game against the SeattleSuperSonics – which is not surprisingly a league record.

Season Betting

The expectancy from the markets is for the Miami Heat to win, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the final. I’m personally puzzled as to why the Lakers are favoured over the Thunder, and the health of their stars Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard will be crucial. Howard has played little in pre-season, just twice, as he recovers fully from back surgery, and Bryant is already being reported as doubtful for the opening game of the season with a sore foot. They have added an ageing former MVP in Steve Nash, but backing any team at such a short price leaves you vulnerable to an injury.

I mentioned earlier that the loss of Derrick Rose to the Bulls last season not only cost the Bulls a possible championship, but it also cost Bulls backers some money too. It’s a long season, and I prefer to keep my cash for trading individual games rather than tie my money up for months, but a lay of the Lakers would be my suggestion if long-term markets are your thing.

Betting Pre-Game

Pay close attention to team line-ups, and scheduling. Is an older team playing back-to-back road games? Did the first game go to overtime? These are all factors to consider, but unfortunately the same information is almost certainly known to everyone else, so finding an edge is next to impossible.

Betting In-Play

Where you can find an edge, is in trading these games. The best advice I can give for understanding where value can be found, other than elsewhere in this article, is to watch as many games and price movements as possible. Understand what changes momentum, track closely what line-up changes are being made, keep up with the foul situation, and learn who is and who isn’t reliable from the free-throw line.

With the price movements typically gentler than most sports, and frequent stoppages in the game, there are plenty of opportunities to enter and exit the markets. To state the obvious, be aware that the market will be a lot more volatile late on if the score is close.

Learn to spot when a price is wrong. If a team has dropped from 1.6 to 1.4 after a run, and suddenly there is money there at 1.3, that's too low. There’s no need to get involved in the first few minutes of the game, and if you do, it should be to put in a lay or lays at short prices. You will be surprised how often a bad value lay is taken. I’ve also noticed that while a small amount might be ignored, a higher amount at a slightly lower price might have a better chance of being matched. It only takes one person to match your bet, and rather than put in a lay of £5 at 1.52, try a lay of £500 at 1.5.

Betting Handicaps

The most common winning margin in NBA basketball is 7 points. This is more than just random too, because 7 points equates to three possessions, and trailing teams will often concede and stop fouling at this point if only a few seconds remain. It’s considered poor form for the winning team to try to extend a lead in this situation, so they will usually just run out the clock and protect their field goal averages rather than add a couple of meaningless points. Something to consider if the spread is -6.5 and the favourites lead by 6. You will occasionally see a foul get called when none was intended, and the resulting free-throws can cause carnage in the Over / Under of handicap markets, even if the points are inconsequential to the final result.

I’m not a big fan of the handicap markets, and the higher (double-figure) ones are especially dangerous. If the line is say -13.5, a team up by 17 or so will quite possibly take out starters and put in bench players, and if the lead drops to 12 with a few seconds left, no one on the court will care about that half point.

One curiosity is that of the winning margins between 1 and 12, the least common is 1, occurring just 4.21% of the time. The most frequent margins of 5, 6 and 7 points occur 18.78% of the time combined, and the 2 occurs 6.13% - not surprising given that 2 is the most common point score.


Trading the NBA offers opportunities almost every night from the start of the season through June, so there is no hurry. Learn the game, watch how prices move and if you see a price that looks wrong, act fast.

Some games do go to the favourite with the price moving steadily to 1.01, but these games are very rare. If you bet against the recent momentum, taking into account the game situation, you can usually profit from the subsequent bounce.

How quickly you lock in a profit (or even more important, take a loss) is up to the individual and decisions will be based on their risk tolerance, but learning how to trade the NBA will be financially rewarding, and it’s actually an exciting game too, with a lot more to it than might be apparent to the casual observer.


Read part 1 of Cassini's NBA betting preview here.



You can follow Cassini on Twitter @calciocassini

And visit Cassini's blog : GreenAllOver.blogspot

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