Odds are you’re not on any sportsbook’s list of respected NBA bettors. Very few are.
“It’s not a long list,” says Jeff Sherman, sportsbook manager at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook who oversees NBA odds. “Only a handful of guys are on it.”
Reading our NBA betting manifesto likely won’t get you a spot on the list, but it will give you an idea of what the pros tend to bet and what teams the Joes are gravitating toward heading into the season, which tips off next week.
We’ll cover notable bets, which coaches are best and worst against the number, season win-total action and much more.
• “[There are] far more on Lakers and Celtics than anyone.” — Alan Berg, senior oddsmaker at Caesars Palace.
• The Lakers have the most bets to win the NBA title at the Westgate SuperBook, Station Casinos and MGM sportsbooks.
• Teams that attracted the most money to win the NBA title at the SuperBook:
1. Golden State Warriors
• More money has been bet on the Warriors to win the title than any other team at MGM books, thanks to a six-figure wager on Golden State over the summer. “If you take that bet out, the No. 1 team for us in terms of money would be the Celtics,” MGM sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback said.
• Around the first week the SuperBook posted odds to win the NBA title, a bettor placed two $10,000 bets on the Warriors to win at +110 and $10,000 at +120.
• A bettor at the SuperBook in September placed a $67,736.25 bet on the Warriors to make the playoffs at -10,000 odds. Seven months later, if Golden State qualifies for the postseason, the bettor will make a $677.35 net profit in April.
• Approximately 50 percent of the money wagered on DraftKings’ odds to win the NBA title is on the Warriors.
• Approximately 45 percent of the money wagered on FanDuel’s odds to win the NBA title is on the Celtics.
• The Cleveland Cavaliers are the largest liability in the SuperBook’s odds to win the NBA championship futures market. With LeBron James‘ return in question, the Cavaliers were listed at 50-1 in June and attracted action. “When all the speculation was going around, we took some action on [the Cavs],” Sherman said. “We took a $2,000 bet and a $1,000 bet on them at 50-1. Now, they’re 500-1.”
• The Charlotte Hornets have attracted the fewest bets to win the NBA title at the SuperBook, which, as of Monday, had accepted only one $50 wager on the Hornets at 300-1.
• A VIP guest at the SuperBook placed a $90,000 bet on the San Antonio Spurs to make the playoffs at -180. The wager would produce a net win of $50,000.
• At DraftKings, 40 percent of the money wagered on the odds to win the rookie of the year are on Knicks guard Kevin Knox (+750).
• Combined, Joel Embiid and James have accounted for roughly 40 percent of the amount wagered on DraftKings’ odds to win the MVP.
Season win-total action
• The largest liability for the SuperBook in its season win totals is the Spurs under 43.5. The number climbed to as high as 45.5 before dropping back to 43.5 after San Antonio point guard Dejounte Murray suffered an ACL injury and was lost for the season.
“Right when he put it up, one our sharp bettors played under 43.5,” Sherman said. “He’s betting it under, but the public’s been overwhelming it to the over.”
• The largest season win-total liabilities for Caesars Palace books: Spurs over 45; Hawks under 24.5 and Rockets over 55.5.
• The Hawks’ win total was sitting as low as 22.5 at some books, which is tied for the 15th-lowest since the 2002-03 season. According to Greg Guglielmo of analytics site ELDORADO, 13 of the 16 teams with win totals of 22.5 or lower have gone over their win total.
• The Warriors are the ninth team to have a season win total of 60 or more. According to ELDORADO, only two of the previous eight teams have gone over their total.
The profile of the NBA sharp bettor
• According to Las Vegas bookmakers and professional bettors, sharp NBA bettors almost exclusively target totals, over/unders for both the first half and full game and rarely bet the day-to-day point spreads.
• “The sharper player is more concentrated on the totals,” Sherman told ESPN. “We don’t really have people that come in here that bet sides on a daily basis for the limit.”
• There is debate among bettors and bookmakers about which market is tougher to beat — NFL or NBA sides (point spread). “It’s a push,” one bookmaker said.
“To me,” Sherman said, “[the NBA] is a tougher sport to beat during the regular season, unless you’re focusing on those intricate aspects like the sharp players do: coaching tendencies based on halftime totals, pace of play based on game totals.
“On a day-to-day basis, there are typically two flurries of sharp action. First, sharp money normally appears when the overnight lines and full-game totals are posted late the afternoon on the day before a game. Sharp action often returns the morning of the game, when books begin posting odds of the first-half point spread and total. Sharp action also will show up from time to time when news breaks regarding injuries or coaches deciding to rest players.”
“The last month of the year, there are some sharp guys that show up and take advantage of situations where teams may not roll out their best lineup due to injuries or tanking.” — Matt Lindeman, senior oddsmaker at Caesars Palace.
• Limits on NBA sides on average range from $2,000 and $5,000 at larger Las Vegas sportsbooks, but often vary book to book and guest to guest. Limits on NBA totals often top out at $2,000.
Coaches’ records by the numbers
• 65-100-4: Cavs coach Tyronn Lue’s record against the spread as a favorite (39.39 percent).
• 138-97-1: Wizards coach Scott Brooks’ record against the spread as an underdog (58.72 percent).
• 23: The number of games the Warriors have been an underdog under coach Steve Kerr. Golden State is 10-13 ATS in those games.
• $1,530: The amount of money a bettor would be up if he/she bet $100 on the Spurs in every game coached by Gregg Popovich (903-807-28 ATS).
• 8: The number of current head coaches with losing records against the spread: Lue, Luke Walton, J.B. Bickerstaff, Fred Hoiberg, Doc Rivers, David Fizdale, Billy Donovan and Alvin Gentry.
• 9: The number of current coaches who have coached more games that went over the total: Lue, Terry Stotts, Brooks, Mike D’Antoni, Michael Malone, Walton, Bickerstaff, Dwane Casey, Brett Brown.
• 54.23: The percentage of games coached by Quin Snyder that have stayed under the total (146 overs, 173 unders).
• 56.90: The percentage of Memphis Grizzlies games that have gone over the totals under Bickerstaff (78 overs, 61 unders).
• 58.64: The percentage of Bickerstaff games that have gone over the total in the first half (78 overs, 55 unders).
• 56.79: The percentage of Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s games that have stayed under in the first half (105 overs, 138 unders).
[Data courtesy of BetLabSports.com]
• 9 a.m. ET: The time when daily referee assignments are posted on NBA.com.
• 61.18: The percentage of games officiated by Mitchell Ervin that have gone over the total (93 overs, 59 unders) in the last five seasons.
Other “over” refs: Eric Lewis (56.42 percent), Ed Malloy (56.25 percent), Brent Barnaky (54.69 percent).
• 61.20: The percentage of games officiated by Eric Dalen that have gone under the total (142 unders, 90 overs) in the past five seasons.
Other “under” refs: Jason Phillips (56.40 percent), Leon Wood (56.0 percent), Curtis Blair (55.63 percent).
• 54.91: The percentage of games officiated by James Capers that the first-half total went over in the past five seasons.
• 56.73: The percentage of games officiated by Tre Maddox that the first-half total went under in the past five seasons.
• 56.42: The percentage of games officiated by Zach Zarba that the second-half total went over in the past five seasons.
• 59.76: The percentage of games officiated by Derek Richardson that the second-half total stayed under (150 unders, 101 overs) in the past five seasons.
Information from ESPN Stats & Information and TeamRankings.com was used in this article.