7 Step Checklist for Betting on NBA Games

NBA Player Images Mixed With Sportsbook Betting Board

One of the best ways to improve your profitability when you’re betting on NBA games is to use a checklist. Becoming a winning NBA gambler requires a few steps, and one of the steps is using the same system every time you evaluate a game.

Figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and keep a record of your best evaluation strategies. As you build your checklists and system, you’re going to keep improving your results.

Here’s a simple seven step checklist you can use to evaluate NBA games. Once you learn how this checklist can help you win more money, expand it to include other things that work for you.

1 – Totals Strategy

Most NBA gamblers make bets on the moneyline and the point spread. But smart NBA gamblers always look at the totals listed for value too.

The total or totals line is the combined score of both teams in the game. You can bet that the combined score will be higher or lower than the total listed.

Start with what each team is averaging on the season. Look at how many points the home team is averaging at home, and how many points the road team is averaging on the road. But don’t stop there.

The next thing to consider is what other factors might come into play for this particular game. Are one or more players out or banged up? How are both teams performing over the last two or three games? Is one team more tired than the other?

Keep digging until you find every possible reason to adjust the total score you expect from the game. Sometimes what you find is going to agree with the posted line, but sometimes you’re going to find value where others have missed it.

2 – Moneyline Dangers

Many inexperienced basketball bettors make mistakes like placing moneyline wagers because they look easy. After all, all they need to do is pick the team that wins, so they just pick a heavily favored team.

The problem with this is the steep price they have to pay to bet on a heavy favorite. When you bet on a heavy NBA favorite, you only have to lose occasionally to eliminate all of your profits from previous wins.

Until you learn how to effectively handicap NBA moneyline bets, follow this simple plan. Don’t bet on any moneyline favorite that costs more than -190. Focus on finding value on favorites that are listed under -190 and on underdogs.

I know it’s tempting to place a bet on a heavy favorite listed at -300 or another steep price, because you don’t see how they can lose. And the truth is that you’re going to win most of the time when you make one of these bets. But they cost you too much when you lose to have much value in most cases.

NBA Player LeBron James During a Play

Most of the moneyline bets in the NBA that I make are on underdogs. When you bet on the underdog on the NBA moneyline you risk less than you can win. This means that you don’t have to be right half the time to make a long term profit.

3 – Ignore Positions

When I started betting on NBA games, each player had a position and teams used the classic lineup of point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. But the modern NBA has become a league where positions are rarely important.

The NBA has a few dominant centers, but teams have learned how to combat strong post play. The best centers are taking three point shots and have learned how to pass out of double teams and clogged paint from collapsing defenders.

You also have nontraditional players bringing the ball up the course and running the offense. All of this means that positions aren’t important in the NBA. Instead of worrying about positions, look at how each team matches up on a player to player basis.

How does each team guard the best players on the opposing team, and how does each team attack on offense? These things are much more important than traditional positions.

4 – Total Player Evaluation

When you evaluate NBA players, it’s important to look beyond how much they score. You need to evaluate the entire player, including offense and defense.

NBA fans are focused on three point shooting and scoring, but smart NBA gamblers look at rebounds on both ends of the court, turnovers, points per possession, and everything else you can think of.

In the NBA, there are two areas where you need to concentrate that most gamblers ignore. These two areas are offensive rebounding and the ratio of turnovers. You need to track these two things by player and team.

Both of these areas show which players and teams create more scoring opportunities. Every time a team gets a turnover or an offensive rebound they have another chance to score. Every time a team gives up an offensive rebound or turns the ball over, they give the opposing team an opportunity to score.

Start evaluating the complete package when you’re looking at NBA players and teams. This is the only way you can find true value on NBA betting lines.

5 – Do Coaches Matter?

This is a hard question to answer. It seems like some coaches make a big difference in the NBA, but is this because they’re great coaches, or because they happen to have a set of great players?

On many teams, it seems like the star players are running the team instead of the coaches.

If a star is big enough, he can even get a coach fired. This might lead you to believe that NBA coaches don’t matter.

On the other hand, if you look at a coach like Gregg Popovich, it’s almost impossible to say that coaching doesn’t matter. The only losing season one of his teams has in the NBA was his first year as a head coach in the 1996 – 1997 season. Every season since then his team has had a winning record, including five NBA championships.

Coaching does matter in the NBA, but don’t overvalue it. The players still have to win and lose games, but the best head caches help their team win.

6 – Average Possessions

One of the key stats I track for each team is how many possessions they average in each game they play. This might not seem like an important statistic, but when you compare the data for each team you can learn a great deal.

And when you combine how many possessions a team gets each game with other things discussed above and the topic of the next section it can help you identify value when you’re looking at the lines. This is especially helpful when you’re looking at totals.

Two NBA Players in a Post up Play

Track each team’s average number of possessions for all of their games, their home games, their away games, and over the last three, five, and 10 games. This gives you a picture of how they do on the road and at home, and if they’re trending up or down.

When you’re looking at the total line for a game, when both teams are averaging a high number of possessions the over might be the best bet. On the other hand, when both teams are averaging a low number of possessions, the under might be a good bet.

7 – Points per Possession

Points per possession is a simple statistic to determine or look up. Just divide the total points scored by a team by their total number of possessions. You should track points per possession for each team overall, on the road, at home, and in their recent games.

One of the most important reasons why you need to know how many points per possession each team averages is because you can use it to predict how many points the team is going to score based on how many possessions they should get in a game.

Some teams limit the number of possessions they give their opponents better than others. When a team is facing a team that limits their opponent’s possessions, you can use points per possession to predict a score that’s lower than normal. The opposite is also true.


Every time you evaluate an NBA game you’re looking for value. Value comes from finding a line that offers a realistic opportunity to make a profit on one side or the other.

Start every evaluation by looking at the totals line. Be careful of the moneyline, because it’s one of the biggest mistakes for most gamblers.

When you evaluate teams, don’t forget about the importance of individual players. Traditional positions don’t matter as much as they used to, so your best strategy is to evaluate each player in depth while ignoring his position.