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Apr 10, 2019

NBA predictions: How data can help your betting

What are the challenges?

Why is data important in NBA predictions?

What metrics can be used to make NBA predictions?

NBA predictions: How data can help your betting

There are various methods to choose from if you want to make NBA predictions, but the difficulty is in being consistently accurate enough to make money from them. Read on to find out how data can help with your NBA predictions.

What are the challenges with making NBA predictions?

Betting in general, no matter what the sport, is not an easy thing to master. There are varying degrees of complexity, randomness, luck and skill that is involved depending on not just the sport, but the countless markets that are available in the sportsbook.

Basketball’s simplistic and fast pace nature makes it no only an engaging sport to watch, but also provides viable betting avenues and strategies to use to make a profit – what betting’s core principle is all about.

There are various markets to chose from when trying to make NBA predictions, with the Money Line, Handicap, Totals and outrights or season-long markets being the most common. Different markets have different levels of complexities and this makes some more popular than others when it comes to making predictions.

Hindrances like injuries and rotation can also have a telling impact on NBA predictions. Due to the NBA’s high intensity combined with an 80+ game regular season, rosters and line-ups can change dramatically game by game, which then has a direct impact on a team’s chances of success or failure.

‘Tanking’ is another factor bettors should be aware of before making NBA predictions, as knowing if a team is tanking or not can make those predictions a lot easier, with teams more likely to begin losing more games (or ‘tanking’ as its often referred to) when they accept that they do not have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.

The lower a team’s position in the conference standings, the better the draft pick they receive which incentivises teams to finish as low as they can to get the pick of the best college talent. This can obviously impact the team’s level of performance, which means it is imperative to consider when trying to predict how they might perform in a given game.

What metrics can be used to make NBA predictions?

There are various metrics that bettors can use to get ahead of the curve and inform the decision making process when betting on basketball, here are just a few of them;

At the most basic level, bettors can look at a team’s win loss record as well as their recent form and head-to-head record against specific opponents. Most bettors will also look at individual player stats to help analyse an upcoming game (the impact of one player in basketball is far great than in a sport like soccer).

There are a whole range of basketball statics that can be used to track a player’s performance, these include but are not limited to;

Statistical Abbreviations

Abbreviation Meaning
PTS Points
AST Assists
REB  Rebounds (OREB & DREB = Offensive and Defensive rebounds)
STL Steals
BLK  Blocks
TO Turnovers
FGM & FG%  Field Goals Made and Percentage
3FGM & 3FG%  Three-point Field Goals Made & Percentage

Although this basic data provides bettors with a good place to start with making NBA predictions, it is unlikely to yield any value in the betting market (where the bookmakers and other bettors in the market will likely used much more advanced metrics).

This is where more advanced data will come in useful. Below are some examples of data that can help bettors make a profit from their NBA predictions.

Floor Impact Counter

Bettors may opt to use FIC as a means to base their NBA predictions off of, as this metric groups together every statistic from a player’s box score and condenses it into a single unit to analyse which players are most effective.

Knowing how to calculate FIC and what to look out for when using this metric is imperative to incorporating it into a successful NBA betting strategy, so make sure you are fully aware of what each of the statistics that feed into FIC mean before using it.

Three-point specific stats

It’s no doubt that a the three-point play has been on the rise in the NBA, up almost 30% in the last 40 years.

Positonless players who don’t fall into the forward, guard or centre roles definitively have added the three-point shot to their arsenal and are sometimes able to decide the outcome of games by themselves, with the most successful teams in the NBA having the highest 3Pt % compared to the teams lower down the conferences.

Identifying the teams who boast a high 3PT% could be a viable avenue for NBA bettors to pursue, especially when betting on the Totals market, as the increase in scoring averages in the NBA has coincided with the rise and importance placed on effective three-point shooting.

When looking at three-point specific data, the obvious approach is to look at a player or teams’ offensive stats for three pointers. However, it can be just as beneficial to look at it from the angle and asses who is weak on the defensive side of three pointers - this can help bettors identify a mismatch and take advantage.

The 2017-18 Champions Golden State Warriors relied heavily on their 3PT% in their title win, boasting the highest 3Pt% then any other team in the league with 38.3%. Conversely, the worst ranked team that year, the Phoenix Suns, had the lowest 3PT% with 33.4% which indicates how important three-point shooting has become when trying to be a successful team in the NBA.

Turn over percentage

Measuring a player’s TO% (a player who gives the ball away to the opposition via a poor pass, fouling, stepping out of bounds, travelling, shot clock violating or having it stolen) can be a limiting statistic as although a turnover can be a negative, some of the best players in the NBA like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Lebron James all have a high TO% because of how much they handle the ball.

Human error effects everyone, even the best players, so by the law of averages if a payer has the ball more than another (because he is the chief creator, shot taker or overall best player) then they are more likely to have a higher TO% because there is more chance of errors.

As long as a player still records a good FG%, AST and REBs, having a high TO% doesn’t make them a bad player – if anything it could promote how important they are to the team due to how much they have have the ball in the possession that gives them the chance to poetically turn the ball over.

Pace factor

Measuring the number of possessions a team has during a game, Pace Factor is a metric used to judge a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency. Having the most or least amount of possessions per game isn’t what’s important, it’s what a team does with those possessions that matters most.

Golden State Warriors had ranked fifth in Pace last season and 11th in Pace this season yet still had and have the best offensive efficiency in the entire NBA which indicates that despite having less possession then other teams i.e. less opportunities to score, they were the best of making the most of their possessions.

NBA predictions: What else should you consider?

Twitter

Although social media is saturated with people posting their tips and picks for upcoming games (some of which will use fake records to sell their services), it can be a helpful source of information for betting. Following accounts that are well versed in the statistical and analytical side of basketball can be a great way to empower your NBA predictions.

Experienced basketball writers and statistical-based accounts and official team accounts are ways of keeping up to date with the latest news and information that are essential when placing a bet on the NBA.

With line-ups and team news being so crucial to determining who is likely to win a match or how many points might be scored, being one of the first to learn of someone being rested or injured could give you a crucial advantage against the rest of the betting market.

Home field advantage

The extent to which playing as the home team makes them more likely to win a game of basketball. Playing at home is seen to be advantage due to many factors with the first and arguably most important one being the crowd.

Having thousands of cheering fans all back a team in offence and defence can spur the home team on to perform at their best whilst also have potentially negative effects on the away side as they could feel intimidated and play at a lower level then they would do normally.

Court familiarity is another potential positive factor of playing at home as players will know every inch of their court and will draw back to the many previous experiences they’ve had making positive offence and defence plays to use in their games.

The potential fatigue associated with travelling longer distances for the away side could have a negative impact on them which in turn benefits the home side but it must be stressed that studies into this factor were inconclusive.

Home/road splits

Tying into home field advantage, the number of consecutive home or away games could be a factor bettors should consider when trying to me NBA predictions, as its more likely a team will do better on a long stretch of home games then they would on a long run of away games due to the reasons stated above.

Fatigue

Playing a large number of games consecutively with reduced rotation could result in fatigue and the risk of injury which could impact a player’s performance negative or take them out of competition altogether if they do get injured.

Often, players will play on consecutive nights, sometimes four games in five nights and this can have a detrimental impact on their performance, especially in the tail end of those runs, so bettors should monitor a team’s schedule before making bets on them.

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