6 NBA Handicapping Considerations Most People Overlook

Rockets vs Golden State Warriors With Betting Lines

When it comes to betting on the NBA regular season, there are a range of factors that can impact the final score aside from the talent on each team.

In contrast to the NFL where each game matters significantly, NBA teams can take nights off for the sake of rest or achieving better overall team health.

At first glance, it can seem like these factors make betting on the NBA regular season more difficult, but if you’re able to use the information to your advantage, it can actually make things a little easier for handicappers.

I’ll run through the top six factors you need to consider, that you may have previously overlooked, before placing your bets.

1 – Back-to-Back Games

This one isn’t nearly as common as it used to be, but it still happens during the course of an NBA season.

Much to the players’ chagrin, NBA teams still occasionally play on consecutive nights, often times in different cities. It’s no surprise that in the second game of a back-to-back, even good teams have a statistically significant lower winning percentage.

To get into the numbers, teams that are above .500 have suffered a -.053 winning percentage difference. The bad teams are even worse in the second game of a back-to-back, with a -.114 winning percentage difference.

One way to get a slight advantage is to highlight these games on the schedule.

Then, if you see a team in the second game of a back-to-back, bet on their opponent. Because the general public might not always be aware of the scheduling scenario, you could find yourself with some pretty favorable odds on sportsbooks around the internet.

Although the numbers suggest that any back-to-back game will have a negative influence on a team, where the games are played is very important.

Teams that are playing in consecutive road games don’t have nearly the same drop as teams that are playing at home on the first night, then on the road the second night.

If you’re looking to play a game a little heavier than normal, betting against a team who is going from a home game to a road game on the second night of a back-to-back is usually a smart play.

2 – Stars Sitting Out

In no professional sports league are star players more important to a team’s success than the NBA. With only five players on the court, a single player can be, and often is, the difference between winning and losing a game.

Lebron James Sitting Out

At 82 games and a lengthy postseason, staying healthy is of the utmost importance for the NBA’s best players. It’s so important, in fact, that it’s not uncommon for stars to take a couple of games off during the season in the hope of preserving their health.

A couple of times per year, you can expect almost all of the top NBA players to register a DNP.

Furthermore, teams might sit multiple stars at the same time and all but concede the game at hand.

Obviously, if you’re able to find a game where a good team is sitting their best players, you can find great value betting on an underdog moneyline. This does take some close following of the news on the bettor’s part, as teams don’t always announce the starting rosters until close to tip-off.

3 – Individual Matchups

Whether you talk about Jordan vs. the Pistons in the late 1980s, LeBron vs. the Raptors in the mid-2010s, or the battle between the stars that will dominate for years to come, player vs. player and player vs. team matchups are inherent to the NBA game.

One of the best predictors of a game or series outcome is how the stars match up against each other.

For some stars, there have been lesser players who slow them down throughout their careers. It’s important to take note of these matchups and consider what it means when it comes to betting implications.

Not only will understanding these matchups help you to better predict who might win or cover the spread, but it can also present an opportunity to win some prop bets along the way.

For Example:
If you think that a certain defender has a reputation for holding star players well under their scoring average, a prop bet on the total amount of points a star will score for that night might be a good play.

4 – Playing Styles

Most NBA teams have transformed their styles to incorporate faster gameplay and an emphasis on the three-point shot. This has led to increased scoring for nearly every team and a shift in which players have the most impact on the outcome.

This information is crucial to take into consideration because even some “top” NBA players don’t have the same influence as lesser players due to their positional value. A team that has multiple three-point shooters is likely to have success against a team that utilizes size in their matchups.

Stephen Curry Shooting

This factor, however, isn’t as significant when teams are more evenly matched in their strengths and weaknesses.

Determining where the matchup advantages lie is as simple as pointing out what the strengths are of a team’s top three or four players. If there seems to be an imbalance in which areas of the game each team thrives in, the team that has better guards will usually have an advantage.

Taking a look at matchups also has major implications for the over/under.

Obviously, if two teams with high-scoring guards play against each other, the over will be set high. However, this might inflate the total number line and create some value on the under. In most cases, when something seems too obvious, bet the other way. Sportsbooks play on the public’s perception of a game, so try not to get sucked into the trap.

5 – How Much a Team Wants to Win

This one might sounds like a joke, but it truly is an important factor in the NBA, much more so than in any other professional sport.

Not all NBA teams put an emphasis on the regular season, and it becomes apparent when they play against a potential mid-seed playoff team.

For Example:
If a top three or four team in the NBA is playing the 10th or or 11th best team (or an expected four to six seed), the lesser team will often have an advantage.

This is because they’re playing harder in the regular season in hopes of getting a higher playoff seed, which is valuable when you’re not a top-tier team.

Before betting on a game, ask yourself who needs to win the game more and factor that into your decision.

6 – Prime Time

Although I’ve discussed star players sitting out, teams not giving full effort, and other factors that weaken the “true” competition of the game, prime time can erase all of that.

Each week, there are one or two NBA games that will feature a matchup of two good teams to a national audience.

These are the games where players build their star power and teams send a message to the rest of the league. You can expect a much more realistic representation of two teams in these games.

What does this mean in practice?

  • It usually means that games will be played very closely and when spreads are a high number (think six points or more), it’s a good idea to seriously consider taking the underdog.

Unless there’s a major discrepancy in talent between two teams, prime time games will usually be a good matchup that comes down to the end.


Betting on the NBA regular season based solely on a team’s talent is one of the most difficult tasks in sports gambling. Be sure to consider all of the factors in this article and you’ll give yourself a shot (pun intended) at growing your bankroll.

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.