How to Beat NBA Props

Quick tips on the best ways to bet on the NBA prop markets

It feels like the NBA season just ended (kind of true!), but it is back with (hopefully) minimal COVID-based interruptions. I am not a huge NBA DFS player, but it is probably my favorite sport to bet, particularly when it comes to props. I have a 30% ROI this year betting on the NBA:

This is inclusive of any side wagers I’ve made, and the NBA Draft — which was a smash — but is mostly rooted in prop betting. These are my quick tips for you to find success in NBA prop markets. Spoiler: literally anyone can do it.

Use Multiple Books if Possible

Most of my prop bets range from 25-100 dollars, or are points bets, which I’ll discuss in a bit. Obviously this makes me a pretty small-stakes bettor, and if you are considering going into props heavier, you need to take into account that you may be limited if you have success.

One way to mitigate this is to use multiple sports books. Legal sports betting is becoming increasingly more prominent around the country, and legal states typically gain access to multiple sites over time.

Living in New Jersey is probably the biggest edge I have in sports betting. Being on multiple books (I primarily use DraftKings, FanDuel, MGM, PointsBet, and Fox) decreases my chances to be limited because it spreads out my bets, but it also helps me to shop for the best price. The edge of an extra rebound or half a point here and there really adds up over time.

Use Projections

One of the reasons NBA prop betting is so profitable is that the sport is so projectable. This is something you will typically hear discussed in NBA DFS circles as well, since the game is iterative in nature versus largely events-based. I think that you can leverage this information better in props, because you only have to be correct on one player or event versus an entire lineup.

Much like with sports books, having access to multiple projections sources will be helpful to find the best edges. NBA production is heavily minutes-based, so typically that is where you are going to see the biggest differences. Having a good idea of range of outcomes will help you make the best bets.

There are also some great tools out there that will do a lot of the work for you. Fantasy Labs has an excellent player props tool that will show you the how props rate versus their projections. They offer a free trial if you are interested in checking it out*.

*this paragraph was not paid for by Fantasy Labs

Grind the News

All betting markets are influenced heavily by news, and NBA props are no different. But unlike other sports, players sitting out in basketball can directly create huge edges in props. In the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald sitting out doesn’t necessarily get Andy Isabella the ball, even if he gets more time on the field. In NBA, minutes is money. So is usage.

Being around your computer near injury reporting times (1:30, 5:30, 8:30 ET), and the start time of games can create some prop edges. And you need to act fast. Books will take down the spreads of games first, but will still move on to props rather quickly.

It seems appropriate that as I was writing this up, we got some information on James Harden’s potential availability tonight.

Harden is one of the most-heavily used players in the NBA, and his potential absence would create a ton of opportunity for his teammates. Admittedly, I’m a little rusty entering the season, and we don’t know exactly what Houston’s lineup or rotations will look like given that they had some major roster changes, but I was still able to get down a couple of +EV wagers if Harden does end up sitting.

Wall is already likely to see some decent usage tonight, and his 6.5 assists prop could be low even with Harden active. If Harden were to miss, it’s an even better bet (I should have hit it harder). Wood is someone who would immediately see a lot more scoring chances with Harden out.

If you aren’t sure who is going to benefit from potential injury or rest situations, I once again have to recommend Labs. Their on/off tool is free, and is well-suited for fantasy and betting. There are other options, such as Add More Funds’ NBA Wowy, but I like Labs’ the best. Studying up on potential scenarios prior to the news will help you to react quicker, and find better bets.

Maximize Your Edge

Again, this is applicable to all betting, but you want to get down more money on props that give you a larger edge. If you are betting each prop the same, then you aren’t properly maximizing your expected value over the course of the season. I like to consider both the raw total and percent edge when making these determinations.

You may not have time to find the “optimal” bet size using something like the Kelly Criterion, but if you are thinking about bets in a Kelly-ish way, you will put yourself in position to profit more off of your best bets.

I also recommend utilizing points betting if you have access to PointsBet. Points betting allows you to win more based on how right you are (and subsequently lose more if you are very wrong). For example, if I took Wall over 6.5 assists as a points bet for $10, I would win $5 if he finished with 7 assists and $35 if he finished with 10 assists. Conversely, I would lose $25 if he finished with 4 assists.

These bets are typically juiced up or down from the standard betting line, but you can still find some good ones throughout the year. I recommend finding numbers that are low so that you can maximize your return if you win with minimal risk of loss.

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