As a NBA bettor there are few things more thrilling to find than a team that is playing much better than their record indicates. That often means that the team has a record against the spread (ATS) that is significantly better than their record. The general betting public is driven by two big things – the record of NBA teams and the media attention those teams are getting. When a team doesn’t have a great record, then, they are not going to get a lot of attention and the public isn’t likely to bet on them heavily. That means that the lines for that team aren’t likely to get inflated, and it will be comparatively easy for them to continue covering more than their share of spreads, and to create steady profit for the bettors who back them. Here’s a look at six factors that can lead to a team that is able to perform much better for bettors ats than their record would suggest:
Players playing better than reputation – The NBA is a very reputation driven league. People form opinions based on what the team has done in the last few seasons, and what stars they have on the roster. If a team hasn’t had a lot of success and lack a big name star then it can be easy for that team to disappear into oblivion – especially if the team is outside of a major media market. If one of those forgotten teams can establish a decent roster they can easily play much better than their reputation until the public catches up to their capabilities and adjusts that reputation – and that can take quite a while unless the team is really tearing up the league. The longer a team has struggled the more room there is for them to improve without drawing a whole lot of attention. This can turn into winning bets for the smart gambler.
One easy way to spot professional basketball teams performing above their reputations is too look at what their record is now, and where it was the last three seasons at the same point. If it was basically consistent in the past and they are well ahead of that then they should be a very interesting team. Of course, if they are atop the standings or have made dramatic changes to their roster by getting that point scoring shooting guard and board crashing power forward then it is too late. What you are looking for is teams that have made significant gains, but which still aren’t playing well enough to be blowing people away, getting a lot of attention as a result, and causing adjustments in point spreads.
Teams that close strong consistently – A NBA team doesn’t need to win a lot of games to cover a lot of spreads if they play well in the closing minutes of games. If their opponent has opened a comfortable lead then they may ease off down the stretch, and that can open up opportunities for a team that doesn’t give up to close the gap and get inside the spread. Expert sports picks often come from NBA handicappers who look for teams for which the fourth quarter is consistently their most productive, or teams that consistently score a lot of points in the final five minutes of games.
Teams that shoot consistently – The more consistently a team can shoot, the more likely they are going to be able to cover spreads. They don’t have to be the best shooting team in the world as long as they can regularly replicate a similar style of shooting performance. The reason for this is simple – when oddsmakers set odds they do so based on what they can expect from a team, or what their average performance is. If the team is consistent in shooting from the field and foul line then they can often achieve something close to that average, and it can be easier for them to cover spreads. If they are wildly inconsistent in shooting, though, then they would be more likely to cover spread by a big margin when they are shooting the lights out, and fall far short of the spread when they are in a shooting slump.
Teams that perform as well on the road as at home – One of my favorite simple metrics in the NBA is to compare the road record to the home court record. It is common for a team to be much better at home than on the road. There are good reasons for that – the advantage of the home arena crowd is significant in the league, road teams play more back-to-backs than home teams, and so on. When a team is able to overcome those and perform as well or better on the road than at home then that indicates that they are a tough team. The tougher a basketball team is the more likely that they are going to be able to cover spreads regularly regardless of their performance.
Team that plays in tough division – From a betting perspective I am always intrigued by the worst team in a strong NBA division. That team will almost always be ignored by the betting public because the other teams in the division have better records, bigger stars, and more success. If that worst team has some of the characteristics we have talked about already, though, then they could be a spread covering machine – especially in divisional games. The team is almost certain not to be a popular choice when playing against more public teams – as all the teams in their division will be – so their lines are likely to be inflated as a result. A tough underdog that enjoys inflated lines consistently is a bettor’s dream.