Once the NBA Finals are set sports handicappers scramble to figure out how the teams match up, who has the edge and where the value is in futures bets and individual game lines. For serious NBA bettors this means looking back at every aspect of both teams that led to them getting where they are. This is a valuable process, but it can be easy for bettors to get misled by what they see if they aren’t careful and thoughtful. Here are five factors that can easily be misinterpreted when analyzing an NBA Finals matchup prior to betting on it:
Regular season record – There is only one thing about the regular season record of a NBA team that matters at this point – that they won enough games to get into the playoffs. Beyond that, nothing matters anymore. Some people will point to the fact that one team won significantly more games than the other as proof that they were much better. There are many reasons that can be misleading. One basketball team could play in a much weaker conference or a particularly weak division. A team could have also faced a long absence of their star player due to injury or could have acquired a player at the trade deadline that changed them significantly. Whatever the reason, the truth is that the regular season record has far more opportunities to mislead then it does to provide useful insights to the serious NBA bettor looking to make winning wagers.
Regular season meetings – Bettors will often look closely at the games played between the opponents in the regular season and they can draw strong conclusions from them if the games appeared to be one-sided. While that may indeed be an indicator of what will happen in the series there are a lot of reasons why the regular season series could have no bearing on the NBA finals at all. Maybe one team was well rested coming into the games while the other team was very tired. Perhaps one team was fighting injuries while the other team was healthy. It could be that one team was playing for their lives, while the other team had no reason to get up for the game. Until you understand the entire context surrounding the games you cannot draw meaningful conclusions from those games.
Playoff success – It can be easy to become excited about a team that has had barely a misstep in the playoffs. You need 12 wins to make the NBA Finals and at times teams will get there by playing just 13 or 14 games. That can make them seem very dominant, particularly if the opponent has played many more games. That playoff success can also be misleading. It is quite possible that a big reason for their success was that they had gotten lucky and have played a relatively weak set of opponents in the playoffs. If there had been several upsets in the playoffs, then the team could have avoided playing elite teams all the way to the final series. The team that has played more games could actually be better positioned because they have had to overcome more adversity on the court, and are more ready for the pressure and intensity of the finals as a result.
Public betting preferences – Some hoop bettors will look at the way that the bets are being distributed in a series as an indicator of how the series could turn out. If one NBA team is drawing the large majority of bets then that could be interpreted as major strength for that team. That isn’t always the case. The public can be distracted by any number of factors; the star power of one team compared to the other, a major basketball market, historically successful public team playing against a small market team that isn’t well known, and so on. The public betting action will tell you which storylines are more obvious and compelling, but not always which team will win the series nor which club you should wager on.
Media coverage – The media ultimately has one goal; to get the most viewers, readers, or listeners that they possibly can. That’s how the media pays the bills. This means that they are going to cover the NBA stories and angles that most interests the public, and which stories are going to attract the most people. It can be a big mistake to pay too much attention to stories that seem to be everywhere heading into the series. Those aren’t necessarily the most important, just the most compelling. On the plus side, those are the stories that the public is most likely to pay attention to, so if you don’t think they are particularly important or accurate then you could have an opportunity for nice value. That’s what expert NBA handicappers realized a long time ago and that’s one way that they cash in by making winning bets on the point spread or the moneyline.