NBA bettors are regularly faced with massive point spreads in games when a heavy favorites plays a seemingly outmatched team. A point spread that big makes the expected winner clear, but it can be a real challenge to decide if the favorite is worth being so heavily favored. When a team is a heavy favorite it can be easy to believe that they are all but unbeatable and not look beyond that. Sometimes heavy favorites don’t win games, though, and often times they don’t cover the spread. If you are drawn to betting NBA games with an odds on heavy favorite you need to be very careful to make sure that the favorite deserves to be so highly regarded before you make your bet. Here are five factors to consider when handicapping at these games:
How bad is the underdog? – When looking at these NBA games most people will be drawn immediately to the favorite – they are the more glamorous, interesting team. It is far more valuable to start by looking at the underdog. Once you have a good sense of how good the underdog is (or isn’t) then you can more accurately assess how well they stack up with the favorite and how fair the line is. How often do they win? When they lose do they lose badly? Have they been performing better or worse than normal recently? Are they better on their home court or on the road?
What impact is the public having? – The biggest single factor on the size of a NBA point spread is the opinion of the betting public. If the public is going to be heavily tilted to one side of the action then the line for that side will be inflated so that the sportsbooks can protect themselves from over-exposure. When you have a high profile, popular public team playing against an underwhelming team that no one cares about then you are very likely to see bookmakers create a big point spread. Many times that point spread will be higher than it probably should be in these scenarios. That doesn’t mean that you can’t bet on the favorite in these cases. It just means that you have to be aware of what is happening so that you are sure that there is still value to be had despite the inflated lines. It can be very easy to get drawn into betting on a heavy favorite with a betting line, but nothing is more frustrating than losing one of these games by just a free throw or a field goal.
Is the favorite really as good as they appear? – Quite often the reputation of the heavy favorite will outweigh their current performance. It is crucial, then, that you make sure that the favorite really is as dominant right now as the line would suggest they are. Are they performing up to expectations over their last one, three, five or 10 games? Are they healthy? Are they playing with the same starting lineup that they have enjoyed their most success with and how are they doing? Are their forwards banging inside, is their point guard setting up plays, and is the center grabbing the offensive and defensive rebounds? Is the attitude of the team as strong and positive as usual, or are there causes for concern?
Will the favorite be motivated? – The favorite is probably capable of winning by as much as they have to to cover the point spread. The question, though, is whether they will care enough to put the effort in to win in that fashion. NBA teams don’t put the same effort into every game, and that shows on the stat sheet and the scoreboard. Is this an important division game or a relatively meaningless game against a squad from the other conference? Is the favorite in the midst of a tight race for playoff positioning, or are they secure in their spot and just looking forward to the legue playoffs? Are the teams natural rivals, or do they really have no reason to get excited about playing each other? Is the team fresh and healthy, or are they banged up and at the tail end of a brutal stretch of games? Are the best players playing well, or are they in a bit of a slump? All of these questions can affect which basketball team you wager on.
Are there matchup problems? – A far less talented NBA team can beat a very talented squad if they can create matchup challenges that work to their advantages. For example, a high paced team can be rendered ineffective by a slow, ball controlling squad, or a team that relies on shooting can be frustrated by relentless pressing defense. A big advantage in talent only matters if the team will be able to exploit that talent, so looking at matchups is crucial to evaluating these situations. The public will rarely look at something as subtle as matchups when evaluating a game, so this is a great place to look for value when assessing lines and before making your sports bet.