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  • Writer's pictureAvoid the Vig

How to Bet the NBA

Win Percentage

With the traditional NBA vig being -110, a bettor needs to win 52.38% of the time just to break even. Anything more, is considered profitable.

Home Court Advantage

Much like the NFL, NBA home court advantage is considered to be approximately 3 points. If two teams are power rated equally, the home team would traditionally favored by 3 points. However, since 2005, home teams have covered only 49.2% of the time. Although it is only 0.8%, bettors should keep this in mind when handicapping NBA games. All edges, even of the smallest variety, add up, which can turn a Joe into a profitable gambler.

Avoid the Trendy Favorite

Much like the NBA market, attacking inflated lines can be a profitable exercise. When the public is heavily on the favorite, the books move the line to account for the action. This leaves a tremendous opportunity for the sharps to fade the public. Since 2005, when a team receives 30% or less of bets and the line is inflated at least 1 point, those teams have covered at a 55% clip.

Target Divisional Unders

Regardless the sport, most casual fans like to see high scoring affairs. Because of this, when these individuals bet, more often than not, they bet the over. When books anticipate a lot of public action on a game, they may set the line a shade higher in anticipation of the public money on the over, which allows the sharps to pound the other side. One of the most profitable situations is the under in divisional games. In games where teams are in the same division and the line moves down at least one point (sharp action), the under cashes 55% of the time.

Load Management

It seems like systems and trends eventually run their course. The sharps identify the angle and attack it over and over again until the sportsbook and odds makers catch on. One area that is still ripe for the picking is regarding load management. A fairly new concept in sports, load management is when a player sits out to preserve the proverbial tread on their tires. Considering the NBA is the sport where one player can impact the outcome of a game more than any other, it is an extremely profitable exercise to find out if a star is sitting and attacking the lines before the sharps bet it and the books adjust the line. Following team reporters on Twitter can provide this actionable intel. Think of it as the early bird gets the worm.

Scheduling Discrepancies

The NBA is notorious for having bad scheduling stretches for teams. At some point during the season, each team plays three games in four nights. When this occurs, fatigue becomes a major angle in the betting market. Most of the time, the bookmakers account for scheduling concerns into their line. However, when a team goes to overtime the game before, they are in the midst of excessive travel, or they played a very physical team, there still may be value in playing the well-rested team.

When a team is playing 3 games in 4 nights, the over hits 58.8% of the time. When players are tired, they are more likely to put effort in on offense than the defensive side of the court.

Back to Back Games

Much like the previous paragraph about 3 games in 4 nights, back to back games also hold significant value. If a team is traveling on the 2nd leg of a back to back schedule, they are 18% more likely to lose. These back to back contests also increase the prospect of sitting a player for load management or lowering their minutes in the game. The NBA season is long. Many title contending teams simply do not value regular season wins as much as they used to.

Game After a Blowout

Teams that win by 15 or more points in the previous game and are favored by 10 or more points only win 42.5% of the time in the following game. Whether its the oddsmakers or the public overreacting to the previous contest or the players themselves are resting on their laurels, more often than not, fading the dominant team offers significant profitable value.

Conversely, teams that had a poor offensive performance have a tendency to hit the over in their next home contest. In fact, these games go over around 62% of the time.


NBA lines traditionally post about 24 hours before tipoff. Just like the NFL, attacking the opening numbers can be advantageous if the bettor does their homework. When you bet the opening lines, you are betting against the oddsmaker and not the sharps. Getting closing line value is extremely important.

Money Management

Compared to the NFL where each team plays 16 regular-season games, the 82 game NBA season offers more time to get to know the teams. The more understanding a bettor has the easier it is to feel more confident when they bet. However, having this many games to bet on can be overwhelming. Having a good money management system will prevent the bettor from betting too much too often.



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