Laying Large Pointspreads in NBA Betting
Statistical data tells us that when it comes to wagering on sports, the betting public will usually gravitate towards the favorite unless there is a perceived inequity in the posted betting odds for a particular game. This is especially true when that favorite is one of the most popular teams in a particular league or sport. I guess you can chalk this up to the old adage that "everyone loves a winner".
They underlying nature of rooting for the underdog is also part of the sports betting culture as long as the value in the betting spread for that particular matchup is perceived to be in your favor. There are some huge disparities in talent when it comes to teams in the NBA in a league that is filled with haves and have-nots, which sets up some interesting betting strategies in matchups with double-digit pointspreads.
Looking back at the results for the 2013/2014 NBA regular season, there were 15 teams with straight-up winning records and 15 teams with records below .500, which suggests that there is some level of parity within the league. Upon closer inspection, there were just nine teams with 50 or more SU wins which equates to a winning percentage of 60 percent. When you take a look at these same results against the spread, there was just one team with a winning percentage higher than 60 percent; Phoenix at 52-29-1. There were only 12 teams that posted a winning record ATS and the majority of those teams hovered right around the .500 mark. The overall winning percentage for favorites ATS in the NBA in 2013/2014 was 49.4 percent, with home favorites covering just 48 percent of the time.
This would suggest that betting on the underdog, especially when the spread in the game reaches double-digits, might carry some traction. However; just like any bet in sports, you have to know how and when to pick your spots.
The first thing you need to decide is how good is the heavy favorite in a NBA matchup as well as just how bad is the underdog? It has been a given lately that a team like Miami is going to roll over a team like Philadelphia. These two teams exist at the complete opposite end of the spectrum in the Eastern Conference, but they met three times in 2013/2014 with mixed results.
The 76ers opened the regular season with a stunning 114-110 victory as 10-point home underdogs. They then got hammered 101-86 in early January as 11-point underdogs at home. These two closed-out the regular season against one another with nothing on the line for either team and Philly carved-out a 100-87 win as a 5.5-point road underdog.
There are two primary takeaways from this example. The first is the tendency for even the worst teams in the NBA to play better right out of the gate. You should always be on the lookout for double-digit spreads in the first month or two of the new season as teams are still trying to figure things out. The second takeaway, is that once a team is clearly out of the running for a playoff spot, its motivation to play the better teams in the league tough begins to rapidly fade. Tanking is a real phenomenon in the NBA, so it is hard to have any confidence in a team that is content with piling-up losses down the stretch.
The betting public has a huge influence on the actual betting lines for a mismatch. This leads the Oddamakers to set heavily inflated betting odds to steer some of the money towards the underdog. As mentioned, Bettors still tend to gravitate towards the high-profile, glamour teams in the NBA no matter how wide the spread, so often times there is some solid value in the underdog when that spread gets to be too wide. The best course of action in games such as this is to handicap the matchup based on the current stats and betting trends for each team to come up with your own spread for the game. If it is much lower than the existing betting line that some of your favorite sportsbooks have posted for the game, then jump all over the underdog and the points.