Like most gamblers, I started betting on the NBA using point spreads. But once I learned how to handicap games, I learned I could find value on moneylines and totals. Totals are also called over under lines.
In this post, I will share many of the strategies I learned through trial and error. If you can learn a few strategies for NBA totals here, you won’t have to spend as much time learning them the hard way like I did.
1. Defensive Metrics
I’ve seen NBA gamblers make this mistake over and over. They start looking at totals and only focus on the offensive stats and metrics. In a way, this makes sense, but it’s a mistake.
The NBA is more of an offensive league than ever in history. The rules are set up to increase scoring, the players who make the most money are paid because they can score, and the public is more interested in a shoot-out than a defensive struggle.
Many of the main stars in the NBA don’t play great defense. In fact, some of them don’t look like they play defense at all. But defensive ability and play still have a lot to do with how many points teams score.
When your profit depends solely on your ability to find and analyze information, you can’t afford to ignore anything until you determine that it doesn’t help you win.
If you don’t know who will be guarding the best offensive players in each game and how good the player is at shutting down a scoring threat, you’re never going to make much profit gambling on NBA totals.
2. Offensive Metrics
I didn’t list offensive metrics first because most gamblers start and stop with the offense. However, now you know that defensive metrics are just as important as offensive metrics, you can learn a little bit more about NBA offenses.
- Do you know how good the fourth-best scoring option is for each team in the NBA?
- Do you know which player is going to step up when the lead scorer isn’t in the game?
- Do you know which teams play faster than others and which take the most free throws per game?
Not only do you need to know the answers to all of those questions, but you need to be such an expert on offensive play in the NBA that you can answer any question that anyone could possible come up with.
You don’t need to memorize all of this information, but you have to be able to access it quickly and evaluate it effectively so you can make good value decisions on NBA totals.
In other words, if you want to beat the NBA totals, you have to be an expert on everything there is to know about defensive and offensive metrics.
3. Team and Player Home and Road Splits
Here’s the single biggest area where NBA gamblers kill their chances of winning when betting on NBA totals. And this is such a simple mistake that once you learn about it, you’re going to wonder why you ever made it.
I know I just finished telling you how important offense and defense are, but stay with me for a minute.
You have to separate home and road statistics for every player and team in the NBA. If you don’t evaluate games and totals this way, you have almost no hope of beating the totals.
4. Stars and Rest
Every sports gambler who bets on NBA totals knows how important stars are when you evaluate games and totals.
It’s easy to see that if a guy averaging 25 points a game isn’t playing, it will alter the expected total of a game.
But you have to know how rested each player is for an upcoming game and how rest changes each player’s performance.
It’s important to track how every player performs based on how much rest he has, but the stars and big-time scorers have more influence on totals.
If you don’t know how much rest every player on the team has, you’re missing a key part when you’re evaluating a game. Without this information, you can never afford to make a bet on an NBA total.
5. Travel Considerations
Another important thing you have to use when you evaluate NBA totals is travel. While NBA players tend to be in better condition than most people, they’re still humans.
The first thing I look at is how many days in a row the players have had to sleep in a hotel room. You can’t argue the fact that players who slept at home last night perform better than players who slept in a motel.
I know that money is not much of an object for NBA team, and they have the best possible accommodations for their players when they travel, but it’s still challenging to find a great place for people who are over six feet tall, with many players around seven foot tall, to sleep.
The next thing I consider is how far the road team has traveled. A trip from Dallas to San Antonio is much different than a trip from New York to Los Angeles.
If you’re not considering every little thing that can influence the total, you have almost no chance for a long-term profit.
6. Who’s the Next Man Up?
If you’re evaluating a team and the leading scorer averages 26 points a game, and his backup averages eight points a game, and both players are playing, your evaluation is fairly straightforward.
It makes sense that the guy who replaces the main scorer in the lineup is going to score more when the main scorer is out. But do you have a good idea of exactly how much more the backup is going to score in this instance?
You can’t see this if you don’t follow the team closely, but when the main scorer is out, the usual fourth option is suddenly one of the top scorers in the league. It’s not important who these players are in this example. But it is important that you know this type of information for every player and team in the NBA.
Betting on NBA totals is just like betting on point spreads and moneylines.
When you evaluate totals, you have to start with offensive and defensive metrics, but these metrics are worthless unless you dig deeper and look at the home and road splits for players and teams.
Not only do you have to evaluate the stars for each team, but you also need to consider how rested the main scorers are on each team. Did they play yesterday, or did they get the back end of a back-to-back series off, and how many straight nights have they slept in a hotel room?
Finally, how much can the replacement score if the number one scorer is out?