Every year in the NBA there are a couple of teams that get off to a surprising start. On paper they don’t look like much, but for the first few weeks of the basketball season they seem to have forgotten how to lose. That can create a real headache for NBA sports bettors. Is the team going to keep winning, or are they going to crash back to earth? Are they better than everyone thought, or are they just getting lucky? Will the wins keep coming for a while, or is the party about to end soon? Here are six factors to consider when trying to decode whether these teams are for real and how you should deal with their lines:
Who have they played? – There is nothing that can make a team look deceptively better than they are more than a soft NBA schedule. The media will rarely give this the attention they deserve – if a team has won several games in a row they will get lots of credit regardless of who they have beaten. Some wins are obviously far less impressive than others, though. If a team has not yet played any elite teams, or if they have lost to the good teams they have played while beating up on the weaklings, then we have an inaccurate picture of what the team is actually capable of. If the NBA team has played a big portion of their games on their home court then you also might not have the best picture of what they are capable of. The more that the schedule they have played so far is a reflection of what they will play all year the more meaningful the performance of the team is and better chance you have of making winning sports bets.
Have they statistically overachieved? – The stats on the scoresheet, shooting, rebounding, blocking, are far more powerful in terms of telling the story than the final score. In order for a NBA team to continue their strong performance they need to be able to continue performing at or near the statistical level they have been at. If the basketball team is overperforming in some major ways that aren’t sustainable then they are not likely to be able to keep it up. For example, if a team is performing at a level in a major stat category – free throw shooting, rebounding, three-point percentage and so on – that is better than the best teams in the league performed at last year over the course of the whole season then there is almost certainly going to be a downward adjustment. If the team is performing at a statistically reasonable level, though, then you’ll have to take the team more seriously – or at least look harder at them before discounting their performance. Remember, this is about being able to understand if the bookmakers have created lines that offer value.
Are there changes that have given them a boost? – Sometimes a professional basketball team is just one factor away from being a dramatically better team. If they added a key piece in the offseason – a new coach with a style better suited to the talent, a star center or guard who can lead by example, a power forward off the bench who can fill valuable minutes and make up for a shortcoming the team had, and so on – then perhaps that explains their surprising start. When a NBA team does make an addition like that you need to look at what the impact of the move really was, what impact the addition has had in the games that have been played so far, and whether that impact is likely to be sustained as the season goes along. If it will that goes a long way when your making your NBA sports picks.
What tempo are they playing? - Sometimes the start for a team can be explained by the tempo they are playing. In particular there are two ways this can happen – when a team plays an extremely slow style that is forcing their opponent off their game, and when they are playing very fast and catching teams off guard. As the season goes along opponents will have more of a chance to see how these tempos are being employed, and will become more effective at countering them and limiting their effectiveness. If a NBA team is playing particularly fast then they are also risking a letdown as the basketball season progresses and their stamina is tested.
Have they played a team twice yet? – Anything can happen in one game between two teams – it’s why the NBA doesn’t play best of one playoff series. The more times teams play each other, though, the better the chances that the best team will come out on top in the long run. Until a team has played an opponent twice you can’t have a good sense of how well the opponents will be able to react to what the team is doing, how the two clubs matchup, and how sustainable their current on court play is.
Are they really a surprise? – Before you get too worked up trying to figure out why a team is off to a surprising start you really have to ask yourself whether it really is a big surprise at all. Sometimes the perception of the public and the media really wasn’t particularly accurate. The public is drawn to star NBA players, flashy play like big dunks, and drama and excitement that comes with big ego and stats. If a team quietly goes about their business without flashiness or star power – and especially if they play in a small market outside of the media spotlight – then they are almost certainly not going to get the respect they deserve if they are a decent team. You can’t just trust public perception and national media previews to form your opinion of pro hoop teams and therefore your perception of what is a surprise. Until you have formed your own expectations you can’t reasonably judge whether a team meets or exceeds those expectations and you won’t be able to make smart, winning NBA wagers.