5 Tips for a Better NBA Prop Betting Strategy

NBA Prop Betting Strategy

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.

Though I’m not suggesting they become the primary type of bet you make, I believe they have their place.

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.

It’s difficult to win more than 50% of the time betting on sports. It’s even more difficult to actually be profitable, since nearly all typical bets (i.e. bets on the spread) have odds of -110 to account for the vig.

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.

Please Note:
When the odds are around -120 regardless of which side of the bet you’re on, the sportsbook is simply daring you to take it. For just about every NBA game, there are going to be dozens of prop bet options – if you can’t find good odds on the play you were hoping to make, just keep browsing until you find something a little more favorable.

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.

For example:
Joel Embiid is one of the best scorers in the game, averaging 28.5 points per game in the 2020-21 regular season. His size and physical dominance make him a mismatch for most of the league’s big men, who are either not big enough or not quick enough to cover the Sixers center.

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?”

It’s just a reality in today’s NBA that there aren’t as many quality rim protectors as there were in the days of Wilt, Kareem, Hakeem, etc.

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.

Please Note:
All of this is to say that it’s important to think about the matchup that’s going to be taking place, and not just rely on how a player has performed in the past. The NBA is all about player vs. player (especially during the regular season), so always consider who is going to be guarding who before placing a bet.

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.

The league is full of high-level scorers and there’s bound to be at least a handful who are in the midst of a good scoring run at any given point in the season. Identify these players and see how far they can take you.

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.

When it comes to prop bets:
It’s even more important to utilize several betting platforms because each will likely have different prop bet options, not to mention significantly different odds. If you’re not “shopping” for the best odds for the play you want to make, it’s going to hurt you in the long run even if it doesn’t feel all that important on an individual basis.

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?

Far less action means odds that are not nearly as sharp as the common props.

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.

Another prop that I think is undervalued is the top point-scorer (between both teams).

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.

For example:
The highest scorer on Team A might have -140 odds to be the game’s high scorer, but the highest scorer on Team B could be around +135. In most cases, public money will over-inflate the top option’s odds, meaning there’s value going with the second-highest favorite.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Of course:
You have to do your research if you want to set yourself up for success, and can’t risk significantly more than you stand to win on a single bet.

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.

PLACE YOUR BETS NOW!

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Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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