Basketball is huge worldwide, and in the basketball world, the NBA is the pinnacle. It’s the tournament that every player dreams of playing in, no matter where they learn the game. All of the big NBA clashes attract substantial global audiences, and for a big playoff game, the whole world will be watching.
From its origins as an eleven-team league, back in 1946, the NBA now boasts 30 franchises, with fan bases in every major country on earth. The league also draws the best young basketball talent, not just from the US but also from Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. With a maximum of 450 NBA players at any one time, the odds of becoming one of the elite are small, but the rewards can be huge.
A Different Way to Bet on NBA
Given that the NBA is such a huge competition, it’s not surprising that betting on the competition is big business. It is natural for fans to want to put their knowledge to the test, and bookmakers are only too happy to oblige. The expansion of the US sports betting industry since the summer of 2018 has helped to fuel an NBA betting boom, and more people than ever are wagering on the hundreds of NBA betting markets available for each game.
Most of that betting action focuses on teams and points. Bookmakers are keen to offer a variety of markets on team game performances, including Match Winner, Points Handicap, Over/Under Points, Total Points, and markets on the various Division and Conference winners. But with so much betting action focusing on NBA teams, points, and game outcomes, many shrewd basketball punters have turned to another form of betting, which focuses not on teams, but on the individuals who make the sport what it is.
Player Props Betting in the NBA
There can be no NBA without individuals, and the NBA, in turn, has made global superstars of its leading performers. Some of these giants, such as Michael Jordan, the late Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Lebron James, have transcended the game of basketball itself to achieve success as businessmen, owners, movie stars, and entrepreneurs.
Success in betting on the NBA depends largely on the performances of these individuals: how many points they score, how many points they concede, how consistently they play, and so on. Of course, players themselves are not allowed to bet on NBA games, and in an era of expanding US sports betting, the NBA itself is hyper-vigilant on this issue. Fortunately, for NBA punters, the fame and fortunes available to the NBA elite are sufficient to more or less guarantee that no player would want to risk manipulating betting markets.
So what is player props betting? Unlike team betting, when you bet on NBA players, you are not concerned with the game’s outcome. Of course, the game’s state and the way it pans out will affect how the participating players go about their business, but you are not locked into relying on one team or the other to win. In fact, it is possible to profit on player props betting without ever having an opinion on which team is the best. This is why this form of betting can be a refreshing change to the regular team betting markets.
Types of Player Props Betting
The NBA is a league that offers a wealth of statistics, and this means that there is almost no limit to the variety of player props markets that a bookmaker can offer. These markets, however, are usually the most popular:
These points markets are straightforward and the most popular of the player betting options. A bookmaker will offer points total or a point spread about a player, and you will be able to bet over or under that points figure. For example, you might see a player Total Points market on Kevin Durant that looks like this:
Over 30.5 points (-115)
Under 30.5 points (-115)
If you bet on Durant scoring over 30.5 points, you win your bet if he scores 31 or more points, while you lose if he scores 30 or fewer points. The 30.5 figure ensures that there is no tie option in this market, but you may see Total Points markets that offer a spread of points for the over/under bet.
Total Rebounds and Assists
These markets are less popular than the Total Points markets, but they operate in the same way. Each player will be given a quote on how many rebounds or assists they will be able to record in the game. These markets generally make no distinction between defensive or offensive rebounds.
You will also come across Player Match-Up markets, which are an ideal way to bet on the NBA. With just ten men in action at any one time, basketball places a higher degree of emphasis on the one-on-one confrontation than most sports. Particularly during the play-offs, the focus is all on the star players and their relative merits.
There is a wide range of potential player match-up betting options, but the most common is the market on which player will score the most points. In these points markets, it’s a simple matter of choosing which of two players you feel is likely to score the most points and betting on them. Match Up markets can also focus on assists, rebounds, and other aspects of play, providing plenty of opportunities to profit from your player knowledge.
NBA Player Betting Advice
Many punters who try out the player props markets for the first time will simply find a player they like and then back them. Often, these bets are simply side-bets while their main focus is on the usual Match Winner market. But punters who are serious about these markets will adopt a more rigorous betting strategy.
The most important and most obvious starting points is to know the players. What is their role in the team? Are they likely to be employed primarily in a defensive or offensive role? How well do they shoot the three? How good are they at the free-throw line? Are they consistent or inconsistent points scorers? This information should form the foundation of your betting and be based on each bet you make on these markets.
Even the most successful NBA star is not a point-scoring machine. These are human beings we’re talking about, and like all of us, their performance is influenced by a host of factors that can’t be gleaned from looking at a list of performances or statistics. Knowing each player, you might consider betting on involves understanding what makes them tick, what type of games they excel or struggle in, what injuries they may be carrying, and what motivates them. Having this information available will help to add depth and nuance to your awareness of the competition, which can translate positively into your bet come game time.
The hectic 82-game NBA regular season means that teams and players will not be bringing their full intensity to every minute of every game. ‘Tanking’ or the phenomenon that sees teams under-perform towards the end of a season to obtain a better draft pick potentially, is a notorious problem in the NBA, and it can lead either to some players not performing at their best in each game, registering fewer points than usual or even being rested. Load management is another issue, and some teams are increasingly opting to reduce the game minutes that their big stars have to contribute. Being aware of all of these factors will significantly increase your chances of making a successful bet.
As with all sports betting, when you bet on a basketball game, you should have the concept of ‘value’ in mind. The bookmakers know their business well, and you cannot hope to profit from your basketball betting in the long run unless you focus on getting the best odds. For example, you may think that Steph Curry is a certainty to beat Jimmy Butler in a points match-up bet, but the bookmakers will price the market up accordingly. Don’t bet unless you are as certain as you can be that the bet represents value.
Pitfalls of Player Props Betting
While player props betting can be an excellent way to put your basketball knowledge to use, some pitfalls can trap the unwary punter with any form of online betting.
The most obvious pitfall is to play favorites. It is inevitable that from one NBA season to the next, you will prefer individual players over others, and the endless NBA debates strengthen this trend over whether Player A is better than Player B. But when it comes to making your next bet or analyzing your next game, you can’t afford to be swayed by personal feelings. The secret to prop bets in the NBA is to take a professional and dispassionate approach and be prepared to bet on your least favorite player if you think the odds make it a good bet.
By its nature, a player bet will lead you to focus on individuals and their abilities, rather than the teams involved in a particular game, but this can sometimes lead you to take your eye off the ball. NBA professionals are still influenced by the way that a game unfolds. If one team builds up, a big points lead or is much stronger than the other, individuals may be called upon to play a different role in the game, thus affecting their ability to score points, rebounds or assists during that game. Focus on the contestants’ attributes, but don’t lose sight of the likely overall shape of the game and factor this into your planning.
The NBA is thriving right now, and for the basketball punter, there are so many options for basketball bets. For many, the player markets offer an opportunity to add a little extra interest to their game-watching experience. Still, these markets can also be profitable for those who are prepared to put in the time.
By focusing on the merits of the participants, understanding what makes each of them tick, their role on the court, their physical abilities, and their strength under pressure, you can give yourself a better chance of betting success.