If you want to make money betting on NBA games, you have to use statistics. While stats aren’t the only ingredient in a solid handicapping system, it’s almost impossible to win without using stats.
Trial and error is the way most NBA bettors learn which statistics to use, but I’m going to give you a shortcut based on what I’ve learned. Here are six NBA statistics I’ve learned are important when you handicap games.
1. Adjusted Shooting Percentage
He has to make half of his shots for an NBA player to average 50% shooting on shots worth two points. But an NBA player scores the exact same number of points per shot, making 33.3% of his shots worth three points as the layer making 50% of his shots worth two points.
Which player is more valuable? You can make an argument for either player, but the total production is basically the same for each player. The player shooting more three point shots that can shoot at least 33.3% might be a bit more valuable because of the pressure and spacing he creates for the defense.
I convert the total shots for every player to an adjusted shooting percentage. Separate the shots worth two points and the shots worth three points for each player, see their effective shooting percentage for each shot, and then combine the percentages.
A quick way to do this is to divide the total number of points that aren’t from free throws by the total number of shots. You can also look up effective field goal percentage, which is often listed as eFG% in many statistical services.
2. Offensive Rebounding
Offensive rebounds are one of the most important plays in an NBA game. Every time a player secures an offensive rebound, he basically prevents a turnover. When a player misses a shot, and the defense secures the rebound, it’s the exact same thing as when a player commits a turnover.
You do need to track offensive rebounding by player, but you also need to track it by team. Some teams are better than others at getting offensive rebounds, but each player on the team contributes to the overall team rebounding ability.
On the other side of the coin, some teams and players are strong defensive rebounders. Remember, a team that secures a defensive rebound is basically creating a turnover.
Rebounding is just as important as scoring when you’re handicapping NBA games. Over half the shots taken in almost every NBA game are misses, so the team that can control the rebounding has a higher chance to win.
3. Rebounds per Minute Average
Now that you know why rebounding is so important, I’m going to give you a simple way to compare rebounding ability from player to player and team to team. I use rebounds per minute for every player and team, but you can also use rebounds per 36 minutes to do the same thing.
The reason you need to track individual players and teams is so you can make adjustments when a starter isn’t playing.
One thing you have to be careful of is the third string player usually only plays a few minutes on average per game. So his rebounds per minute numbers might change a great deal if he starts playing more minutes.
4. Turnover Percentage
When a team commits a turnover, they not only miss an opportunity to score, but they also give the opposing team an extra opportunity to score. Therefore, the NBA team that commits the fewest turnovers in a game always has a better chance to win the game.
While I do track turnover percentage for individual players, this is an area where team statistics tend to be more telling. Teams that turn the ball over a lower percentage of the time tend to continue operating the same way throughout the season.
An individual player can change the team numbers, but for the most part, the only time you need to make adjustments are after a trade involving players who play a lot of minutes.
When I track turnover percentage, I divide the number of turnovers by the number of possessions.
5. How Important Are Assists?
I’ve struggled with how important assists are the entire time I’ve bet on NBA games. On the one hand, assists are important, but are they more important than turnovers or rebounds?
Assists are one area where you really need to watch the players to get an idea of how important they are in creating offense. A guy that has 10 assists a game is probably more than twice as important creating offense than a guy who averages five assists a game, but you need to watch the players to see.
You can’t afford to ignore assists for players and teams, but you also can’t afford to put too much weight on the assists numbers. It might take you some time to find the right balance, but you have to keep working until you do find the right balance.
6. Home and Road Splits
I never use overall team or player stats when I’m evaluating NBA games. I always use the road or home numbers when I evaluate games. A few players put up basically the same numbers at home and on the road, but few are able to put up the same numbers on the road as they do at home.
If you’re using overall statistics when you evaluate NBA games, you’re making a mistake. You should only use the road statistics for the visiting team and the home statistics for the home team. And it’s a good idea to break the road statistics down more.
Never use overall NBA stats again. By simply splitting the stats into road and home splits, you will improve your handicapping abilities.
If you’re not careful, you can go down the rabbit hole and never come out the other side using statistics when handicapping NBA games. But if you don’t use enough statistics, it’s just as bad as using too many stats.
The key is always going to be figuring out the right mix of stats to use. For example, if you’re not winning when betting on NBA games, the odds are good that you’re not using enough statistical data in your handicapping.
When I started using the six NBA stats listed in this post, my handicapping returns immediately improved. Combine the six statistics listed in this post with your current NBA handicapping and see if you can get the same boost in results that I did.