Prop bets are frequently looked at as more of a novelty bet than a real, profitable betting strategy. Some would disagree, but the relative “randomness” of prop bets can make playing them on a regular basis feel like trying to make a living on scratch-off tickets.
If you know what to look for, there’s no reason they can’t complement what you’re already doing as a bettor. In this article, I’ll lay out 5 tips to help you improve your NBA prop betting strategy.
1. Don’t Settle for Bad Odds
If you’re making prop bets just for the sake of making your viewing experience more entertaining, no judgement here, but this may not necessarily apply to you.
However, if you’re making these bets with a financial motivation, there’s one rule which stands out as more important than any other: when it comes to the odds, don’t settle.
It’s not uncommon for online sportsbooks to have a prop bet where the odds are -120 or worse for all your options. That means you’d have to bet 20% more than you stand to gain if you win (for example, risk $12 to win $10). While that might not sound too extreme, over time the high prices add up.
Though everyone has different levels of skill (and of course, luck) when it comes to props, it’s a safe assumption to say that there are very few who can be profitable routinely making bets with -120 odds. I would typically recommend staying away from those odds even when it comes to a moneyline bet, but in that case you’re at least paying for, in theory, a team that’s “expected” to win.
2. Consider the Matchups
When we look at NBA players, we generally default to their season averages as a measure of roughly how “successful” they’ll be on any given night. Though this isn’t necessarily a mistake, it’s probably not the best way to evaluate a prop bet on a night-to-night basis.
A hypothetical prop bet on any given night might be over/under Embiid – 28 points (-110). Upon seeing this betting option, your first question should be, “What’s the matchup?”
That means on most nights, other teams simply don’t have an answer for Embiid. With that being said, there are still a few defenders, most notably Rudy Gobert or Myles Turner, who can put up a good fight against the league’s best big men.
3. Go With the Hot Hand
Throughout the course of the long, 82-game (in non-covid times, of course) season, players go on hot and cold streaks for several games at a time. If you’re able to find a player who is coming off two or three good games in a row, it might be a good idea to see if you can piggyback off their success at the sportsbook.
The game’s elite scorers such as Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Trae Young, among others, tend to go on 5 or 6-game stretches where they just can’t seem to miss. Yes, the sportsbooks are obviously going to take a player’s recent success into account.
But, the general public is apt to think “player X has had three straight high-scoring games, he’s due for a bad one.” This form of the Gambler’s Fallacy means you might be able to find some decent odds on a player who’s hot, since public money will likely be betting on the hot streak to end.
4. Shop Around
One of the most common, and most easily-corrected, mistake bettors make is only using one platform. When you’re only betting with one sportsbook, you can’t line shop and compare odds to find the best for the play you’re trying to make.
Whether you’re in the market for player props or are looking to put a bet in on team props (for example, over/under the total number of three-pointers a team will make), looking at a handful of different sportsbooks will give you the confidence to know you’re finding the best betting option for you.
5. Consider All Your Options
When bettors think of props in the NBA, they’re probably thinking about betting totals on points, rebounds, assists, etc. However, there are several different options that might be preferable to these standard choices. The reason they might be better?
One particular prop that often goes overlooked, but has tremendous value, is a player’s total points, rebounds, and assists combined. Based on the matchup a player has in a particular game, bettors can get a good feel for whether or not they’re going to be looking to score, distribute, or some combination of both.
This one isn’t a favorite of mine because it’s easy to predict, but rather because you can get some very favorable odds if you choose the second of third option.
The bottom line here is that it pays to look at the prop bet options that aren’t going to be receiving quite as much action as the typical ‘over/under individual player point total’ that dominates NBA props.
When it comes to betting on the NBA, sometimes prop bets are actually easier to win on a consistent basis than betting the spread or the moneyline for the whole game.
Whether you’re looking to grow your bankroll, add some extra entertainment to your basketball-watching experience, or a combination of the two, prop bets are an exciting way to get some skin in the game.