How to Bet on the NBA?
The NBA betting landscape is a true "catch-22". There are a lot of levels that go into betting on the NBA, which we will go through in this article. For starters, there are 82 games for each team and a lot of moving parts to keep track of on a daily basis. To bet on the NBA a bettor must understand injury reports, player usage rates, the best time to place their bets, line shopping, and much more.
Injury Reports and NBA Betting
The reason understanding injury reports makes the first topic on this list of betting on the NBA is because it indeed has become the most important thing to grasp this season. NBA bettors alike would likely agree with that statement above. However, many may not even understand the actual injury report requirements set out by the NBA league office. Here is the official wording from the NBA:
NBA Injury Report: 2022-23 Season
NBA teams must report information concerning player injuries, illnesses and rest for all NBA games. By 5 p.m. local time on the day before a game (other than the second day of a back-to-back), teams must designate a participation status and identify a specific injury, illness or potential instance of a healthy player resting for any player whose participation in the game may be affected by such injury, illness or rest. For the second game of a back-to-back, teams must report the above information by 1 p.m. local time on the day of the game.
Reports are updated on a continual basis throughout the day. (Via offical.nba.com)
NBA teams are required to give out injury news at least twenty-four hours before the game on the next day (excluding back-to-backs). Although, the key in this quote is the final part. The "reports are updated on a continual basis throughout the day" is probably the frustrating part for NBA bettors. If you have been betting on the NBA this season, you likely often feel that you have no clue who is playing in a given game. This is especially true with many players being listed as "game-time decisions" and are not listed as available to play or out until close to game time.
One of the best examples of this was on February 5th, when the Knicks forward RJ Barrett was listed as "Doubtful" for a game against the Sixers at 6:22 PM with an illness. The issue? The game's start time was scheduled for 6:10 PM that day. He ended up not playing in the game, despite being listed in the starting lineup an hour prior.
Obviously, all the prop bets placed on RJ Barrett were voided as he did not play in the game. No harm no foul for NBA prop bettors with wagers on Barrett. But what about those with wagers on the spread, the total, or other prop bets in the game? For instance, the Knicks on the season are 5-2 on the season without Barrett, compared to roughly .500 with him active. Although a small sample size, it could have been something that NBA bettors with wagers on the Sixers would have liked to know before being locked into their spread bets.
The Importance of Usage Rates
Another major issue with injury reports being as sporadic and chaotic as they are in the NBA is it makes it tougher for prop bettors. One of the most important things to understand when betting on NBA props is a player's usage rate on their respective teams. Once again, we will reference the words directly from the NBA to explain this term for prop bettors and fantasy users:
Usage rate is a key stat for fantasy basketball. It is defined as the percentage of team plays used by a player when they are on the floor. It’s important because it indicates how large of a role a player has within his team’s offense, which means how many opportunities he’ll have to score. (via nba.com)
Knowing a player's usage rate plays a lot into how an NBA prop bettor should decide their wagers. Staying with this same example, any bettors that bet on fellow teammate Jalen Brunson know that he averages more assists when Barrett is not on the floor. Any prop bettor that had bet on Brunson under in assists was hurt by this news that came out as the game was tipping off.
If you are betting on the NBA, a very useful tool to use to follow player usage rates is Roto Grinder's CourtIQ. We used this exaggerated example to prove our point that NBA prop betting can be frustrating with injury reports, but these exact injuries can play into your favor as well. Once a bettor has an understanding of how a player's usage rates with or without certain players on the court, you can use this information accordingly.
To use another example here is data from the RotoGrinders Court IQ tool showing the usage rate and stats per 36 minutes for the Milwaukee Bucks when they have Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez on the floor.
This image is filled with useful data from NBA prop betting. If you look at the bottom of the image, let us focus on Brook Lopez. Lopez averages 15 points per 36 minutes when he shares the court with Middleton during the season. He also has a usage rate, which we referred to above, of 15%. Now take a look at this next image, which displays Brook Lopez's usage and stats when Middleton is off the court.
As shown at the bottom of the image again, Lopez's usage rate increases by 2.7% when Middleton is not on the court. He is also averaging 2.12 more points per 36 minutes, while his total rebounds (TRB) drop significantly.
A lot of numbers here, but what does it mean to the prop bettors?
Well, to simplify it, in fifteen games where Khris Middleton has played this year, Brook Lopez has averaged 10.7 points per game. In the forty games without Middleton, that points per game jumps way up to 15.7 for Lopez. This means a bettor should feel more confident betting on Lopez in matchups where Middleton is listed out with illness or injury.
Deciding When to Place NBA Bets
To begin this article, we mentioned the Catch-22 for NBA betting. As most bettors know, in many cases and sports it is best to bet early before lines move throughout the day. Oftentimes, where a line opens, moves against the bettor's favor as it gets closer to game time as sharp bettors or the public handle bet on said line. With all that being said, it becomes a personal choice of the average NBA bettor to place wagers early to avoid line movement, or to wait for more clarity on the injury report and lineups. What you sacrifice in line value, you can make up for in knowing more about the lineup and avoid being blindsided being late roster news that could negatively affect your wager.
Here at Pikkit, we have covered in our blog about prop bets, that player props can tend to be more beatable as there are 100's listed for each game compared to just one spread. The NBA is a great example of that. This is why if you are betting on the NBA you should keep an eye out for key injury news. While books might be quick to adjust the line of a star player based on injury news, they may lag behind some of the lesser-bet players that benefit from the same injury report.
Importance of Line Shopping in NBA Betting
Finally, like all sports, line shopping is a must. Whether you are betting on NBA spreads, totals, or player props, getting the best line will be a huge difference-maker in the long term. Unlike football, basketball does not necessarily have a key number to look for on a spread. In NFL betting, it is common that 6.5 and 2.5 spreads are keys since it is a full touchdown or field goal to cover. In the NBA this is far less common but does not make line shopping any less important. With the number of scoring runs, late-game free throws, and potentially buzzer-beating shots (whether meaning to the game or not) there are so many variables in the sport that makes getting the best available line a must for a bettor.
The last thing you want is an avoidable bad beat by poor line shopping. This is especially true when betting player props. For a game total, you might see a line of 233.5 available on one book, but 234.5 on another. With a game total as high as 233.5, one point increase or decrease is less than a half percent change. However, with player props, the percent changes on a line are much higher. The .5s or "hooks" make all the difference
Using the Pikkit app's line shopping tool, here is a perfect example.
Here is Jabari Smith's points + rebounds line from 2/15 against the Thunder. This line moved between 22.5 and 24.5 throughout the day, but this image shows the line pregame. On Barstool Sportsbook it was available at 23.5 with less juice than the 24.5 line on Caesers Sportsbook. Smith finished this game with 15 points and 9 rebounds. So, those bettors that didn't get the best line one stat lower lost their 24.5 prop bet by .5.
When betting on the NBA make sure you follow the injury reports, find the best time to bet, and understand players' usage rates on their teams. However, line shopping the bets you place might be the most important part of long-term success. You can make that part easy by downloading the Pikkit app.
Download Pikkit here to make betting on the NBA more enjoyable and profitable.