Kickstart Your Basketball Betting Strategy During the NBA Preseason

NBA Preseason Betting Background

If you think it’s tough to bet on regular-season NBA games, you haven’t tried to bet on preseason games.

Sure, you can find lines on preseason NBA games, and you’re welcome to bet on them if that’s your thing.

I find that the lack of information leaves too many open questions for me to bet with any confidence.

In the NBA preseason:
You never really know who’s going to play until right before the game, and even then, you can’t really know how long they’re going to be left in. It’s a bit of a headache for handicappers. For the most part, you can’t even get accurate statistics for players during the preseason, mostly because there’s no consistency in terms of minutes on the court.

You can still use the NBA’s preseason to kickstart your overall NBA betting strategy. You can learn a lot as a bettor from watching preseason NBA games, whether you put money on the games or not.

Analyze the First Ten Minutes of NBA Preseason Games

If you do nothing else, watch the first ten minutes of a half-dozen preseason games between teams you plan to wager on during the regular season.

Why the first ten minutes?
This is the most predictable part of any preseason pro basketball game. It’s also the time when you’re most likely to see starting players on the court together before opening tip-off.

The first ten minutes of these early games is when a team most resembles its regular season identity. In the first ten minutes or so, you can see all the meaningful players in several different configurations. This will show you what a team is trying to do and give you a very early sense of how successful they’ll be doing it.

Another valuable lesson you can learn from the first ten minutes of a game is that ineffable thing called “team chemistry.” Since the rotation in the first ten minutes looks the most like the regular season team, looking at how well those lineups work together gives you the best (and only) early look at overall team chemistry.

Another reason you can probably skip the last three quarters of a preseason game is coaches use this time to try out things that may not even make it to the regular season court. While these can be instructive for their own reasons – mainly in terms of analyzing coaches – they don’t give regular season NBA bettors as much leverage as that first crucial quarter.

Use the NBA Preseason to Analyze Coaching Changes

The average tenure for an NBA head coach hovers between three and four years. Coaches in pro basketball have the shortest average tenures of all major pro sports. As a result, coaching changes are frequent, and they can make a huge difference in the way a team plays, both for good and for bad.

The preseason is, obviously, bettors’ first chance to see those new coaches in action.

Skipping preseason games because you don’t want to bet on them will rob you of your first chance to measure how a new coach is fitting in with his team. Will it be a Nick Nurse situation leading to an NBA Championship? You get your first crack at figuring that out during the NBA’s preseason.

Please Note:
When you watch preseason games, you get a real sense of a coach’s comfort level in their new role, in a way that a stat sheet or box score won’t give you. Watch the bench and his interactions with players.  Does a new coach look upset, confused, or frustrated? Consider that when you handicap this guy’s games going forward.

Beware that you don’t put too much value on a coach’s body language and your interpretation of it. The preseason is a high-stress time for a new coach. Not only is he stepping into a new role for the first time, but he has to worry about local fans and media, all while juggling the day-to-day demands of coaching at the pro level.

Check Out Players Returning from Injury during the NBA Preseason

When a player is injured, using the preseason to return requires an aggressive approach to get minutes and regain the favor of the coaching staff.

It’s a great time to analyze the performance of a player who’s coming back from a long period of rehab and recovery.

Remember, you can’t read a player’s stat sheet from a preseason game and use that to judge their ability.

You literally have to watch them play during a preseason game to judge their return with any authenticity. If you’d been watching Derrick Rose in the 2018 Preseason, you wouldn’t have been surprised by that 50 point game against Utah on Halloween night. Yes, he’d suffered several terrible injuries and had several botched comeback attempts, but those three seasons between 2018 and 2020 were among the best of his career. All of it was predicted by an active and dominant preseason performance before the 2018 season.

Watch comeback players for their stamina – can they handle the minutes they’re given? Are they in pain at any point on the court? Does the player seem tentative with any part of their game? Without watching the game, at least the first ten minutes when your formerly injured starter is most likely to play, you won’t know anything about how their return from injury is proceeding.

Teams Use the NBA Preseason to Unveil Shifts in Philosophy

NBA teams change philosophies at the rate other pro sports teams change their championship slogans. You’ll see more philosophical shifts in the NBA than any other pro sport.

The preseason is the first time you can see some of those shifts on the court.

You could see a team that usually relies on defense begin to open up their play and try to put up more points. You could see a team known to be slow attempt to speed things up on both sides of the ball.

You can’t see the complete range of a team’s abilities during the preseason, and limits on player time make insight into these big philosophical shifts limited at best. No NBA coach is going to give away their approach during meaningless preseason games. Still, watching preseason games can give you the color of the artwork if not the physical form.

Understanding how a team is really going to come out of the gate in the early regular season can give you a leg up on the betting public, most of whom are totally unaware of what happened during the preseason and may be betting under the false assumption that this year’s LA Lakers are going to play like last years’ edition.

How to Watch NBA Preseason Rookies

Most rookies premiere during the preseason. Watching preseason NBA games gives you access to early information about how rookies are being used. This might be really useful during the regular season when most people have no idea what impact a new player is going to have.

Don’t worry about playing time.
Nobody is getting considerable playing time during the preseason, and the time on the court doesn’t matter as much as what goes on during play. Use the preseason to determine what role a rookie is going to play during his first year. You can extrapolate a little bit from the playing time they get during the preseason but remember that coaches don’t like to put starters on the court much before the regular season begins.

You can pick up a lot about a player’s future performance by the way they’re being used, whether they’re given any kind of leading role or not, if they’re even being used when veterans or starters are on the court. The best case for a bettor is when it’s obvious that a lottery draft pick isn’t going to get nearly the PT that the betting public assumes.

This comes out first during the preseason – but you have to watch the games to really get a sense of a player’s use.


You probably won’t want to place bets on NBA preseason games. If you plan to bet on NBA games during the regular season, you’ll still want to watch some NBA preseason games.

The NBA’s preseason is among the shortest in pro sports.
Over a period of less than two weeks, NBA teams play five or six games that don’t count featuring an ever-changing roster of players who may or may not ever appear together during the regular season.

Taking advantage of what’s on offer during pro basketball’s preseason schedule means watching enough games to make some early judgments about teams that will influence your handicapping.


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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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