9 NBA Betting Facts You Need to Know to Win

NBA Player James Harden With Sportsbook Background

If you’re betting on NBA games now, are you using a system that helps you evaluate every game the same way? Or are you relying on luck and hope to help you win?

You need to develop an NBA evaluation system so you can track your results and learn what’s working and what’s not helping you win.

Here are nine facts about the NBA that every sports bettor needs to know. Use these nine facts to help you build your profitable NBA betting system.

1 – The NBA Is Nothing like College Basketball

The first fact you need to know is the NBA is nothing like NCAA basketball. If you bet on college basketball, you need to be careful when you evaluate NBA games, because you can’t handicap them the exact same way.

A few college teams come close to NBA style play, but as a whole the game is simply different. The other major difference is the talent level. Even though it might seem like the NBA has many players who aren’t very good, the fact is that almost every NBA player was a star on his team in college.

2 – Beware Totals

Totals, or the over under, are tough to make a profit on in the NBA. The sportsbooks base the totals on a formula that includes the average points that each team scores, but the actual scores from game to game vary a great deal.

I recommend sticking with point spread bets and moneyline bets when betting on the NBA until you develop a winning system. And when you do start looking at totals, the value is usually on the opposite side of where you think it is, if there’s any value to be found.

What I mean is that the value on a game with two top scoring NBA teams is usually on the under, not the over. And the truth is that there simply isn’t enough value on either side of the total to make a bet on most games.

3 – Some Stats Are More Important

Like every major sport, the NBA produces and almost endless string of statistics. You need to use NBA stats when you evaluate games, but you need to learn which ones are important and which ones aren’t as useful.

Two NBA Players

Points are always going to be important, so you’re always going to use them. Other stats that are important include turnovers, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, and time of possession.

Stats that aren’t as important include assists and blocks. You still need to use these statistics, but they shouldn’t make you adjust your evaluations as much as the more important stats.

4 – Who Is Next Up?

Over the course of the NBA season and playoffs, many games are played without the normal starting five players on a team, and/or with a key bench player out for the game. One area where you can get an edge is by learning which players are going to fill the roles of the starters or key players that are out, and how the replacement will perform.

Rarely will a backup perform as well as the starter, but some backups can fill in and help the team not miss a beat.

When you track all of the stats per minute, like I talk about in a section lower on this page, it helps you get an idea of how a player will perform with more minute. But this isn’t perfect. It’s impossible to predict the performance exactly, but I usually run the numbers with expanded minutes and then reduce them by around 10%.

5 – Schedule and Travel

The NBA schedule is unique when compared to the NFL and MLB. NFL teams play once a week and MLB teams play series. In the NBA sometimes teams play a game then get a day or two off, and other times they play games two days in a row.

If you track the performance for NBA teams, it’s clear that they don’t play as well on the back of a back to back schedule. But some teams do better in the second game than others.

You also have to look at every team based on how they play at home and on the road. Some teams dominate at home and are terrible on the road. Other teams don’t have a big drop off on the road.

6 – True Scoring Efficiency

One of the keys to effectively evaluating NBA games is determining the true scoring efficiency for each team. Because teams can score on three point shots, two point shots, and on free throws, it’s challenging to get an accurate view of how efficient they are.

The first thing to do is look at how many points each teams score per minute. You need to look at this and every stat overall, at home, and on the road. Then divide the total points by time or possession.

Then look at the points scored on three point shots and on two point shots. Divide each of these numbers by the number of attempts. Finally, look at how many free throws each team shoots and makes per minute and game.

This might seem like overkill, but you need to find every small edge you can. When you track all of these numbers for each team, it can help you find an edge where no one else is looking.

7 – Everything per Minute

One of the biggest mistakes gamblers make when betting on sports is looking at stats without breaking them down in a way that gives them an accurate comparison, and the NBA is no different.

Divide every NBA stat by the number of minutes to get a true comparison number.

Here’s an example of rebounds:

A player averages 10 rebounds per game and plays an average of 28 minutes per game. Divide 10 by 28 to get an average rebounds per minute of .3571.

When you use stats this way you can quickly see which player or team does a better job. Use this for every statistic that you look at, including:

  • Total rebounds
  • Offensive rebounds
  • Defensive rebounds
  • Assists
  • Points
  • Turnovers
  • Steals
  • Blocks
  • Home splits
  • Road splits

8 – Betting the Second Half

One of the most profitable ways to bet on NBA games used to be betting on the second half. If you watch many NBA games you know that in many games one team gets a big lead, and then the other team chips away at the lead and often gets back in the game.

NBA Player Stephen Curry

When a team had a big lead at the half, the smart money was on the other team in the second half. Eventually the sportsbooks figured this out and adjusted the lines in these games. But you can still find value betting on the second half.

Now the value is often on the team with the big lead, because sometimes the sportsbooks adjust the second half line too far. Start looking at the second half lines and see what happens. You can learn how to spot value if you track this long enough.

9 – NBA Coaching Is Overrated

The influence coaches have on teams and players in the NBA is difficult to evaluate. You simply don’t see all of the ways a coach is involved. But every game still comes down to the players on the floor. And it’s evident on some teams that the players do more to run the team than the coaches.

When I evaluate NBA games I rarely even consider the coaching. A few coaches are able to win year in and year out, but how much does this have to do with having good players and how much of it has to do with the system?

If you do a good job evaluating games using statistics and what you see in games, this is going to cover any influence the coaches have. If you do this and then make adjustments based on the coaching you’re going to make some mistakes.


Now that you know more about which NBA stats are important and which ones don’t help you evaluate games as much, it’s time to get started. Evaluate every game the same way, and keep working on improving your system.

Over time you’re going to build a winning model that you can use to save time and make more winning NBA bets. Be careful of betting totals when you get started, because they’re challenging to win consistently.

Remember that the NBA is quite a bit different than betting on college basketball. And don’t overvalue the coaching influence in the NBA.