Sport

Beware the hype

Written by Sean Callander

With the NBA season just around the corner, WGM takes a look at the pre-season betting markets and the common pitfalls that eager sports bettors must be aware of.

The NBA may be a team sport, but nowhere on the sporting landscape is the individual more important to success. As you may have heard, the greatest player of this generation, LeBron James, will suit up for a new club in 2018-19 after signing a four-year, US$154 million contract with the LA Lakers.

Los Angeles had opened at $21 to win this season’s NBA Championship back in early June – even before James and his former home Cleveland lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. That opening price put the Lakers – a team that won just 35 games last season – ahead of proven NBA contenders like the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and the Cavs.

Once James’ decision was confirmed, the Lakers were backed into a crazy price of $4.50 to win the title – tied with the Boston Celtics as the second overall favorites. Part of those odds were in anticipation of LeBron’s move to LaLa Land, but the other reason why the Lakers were set at such baffling odds is the popularity of the team and Las Vegas’ close proximity to Los Angeles. In short: money and lots of it.

They’ve since drifted slightly to $11 but remain a fourth pick to go all the way behind Golden State ($1.57), Boston ($8) and Houston ($9) with Philadelphia ($15), Toronto ($21) and Oklahoma City ($41) the only other sides priced at better than 50-1.

The presence of James tips the scales of the dominant Western Conference even further. Four of the past five titles have been lifted by teams from the West with only the James-led Cavaliers upsetting that run in 2016. He also helped the Miami Heat to championships in 2012 and 2013 but it’s been a decade (2008) since a team from the Eastern Conference in which LeBron didn’t feature went all the way. And it’s highly unlikely that the East is going to upset the order this season.

The decade-long “Process” to rebuild the Philadelphia 76ers is finally paying dividends but it’s hard to envisage either they, or the Celtics, defeating the all-conquering Warriors over a seven-game finals series.

Golden State have cast a significant shadow over the NBA in the past four years, winning three titles while pushing the Cavs to a decider two years ago. But across the long 82-game NBA regular season, Golden State have gradually been drifting back to the field. After a recordsetting 73-9 run in 2015-16, they went 67-15 in 2016-17 and 58-24 last season. That tells us that even the very best teams can comfortably lose 30 percent of their regular season games. But betting stats don’t always correlate with actual records – the Warriors were poison for punters. Their 45-57-1 record against the spread ranked 26th of 30 last season.

In contrast, Boston covered the line in 62.6 percent of their starts last season for a league-best record of 62-372. And the worst team for punters? James’ own Cleveland Cavaliers, who went 40-63-1 for a bankroll-busting 38.8 percent. That record slumped to just 31.1 percent when the Cavs started as favorites and 27.7 percent as road favorites. Yep, the public love a champion, even if he’s costing them at the betting window.

The most profitable advice we can offer is to keep a close eye on the betting stats as opposed to the actual records of NBA teams. There are some great sites that provide this service and we’re happy to recommend www. teamrankings.com as an easy to use resource that will provide all the betting data you’ll require.

It’s also reasonably easy for casual punters to measure the ebbs and flows of form across the marathon NBA regular season. Due to the speed and intensity at which games are played and sheer volume of matches in a season, injuries frequently occur and squad rotation is common. Due to the fact that teams will often change their starting line-up and sometimes rest their star players ahead of big games, reacting to team news and injury updates is one way to find an edge in NBA betting. In contrast, also watch for teams that start to compile a winning streak while keeping a regular starting five on the floor. Cohesion is a big plus in the ego-ridden world of the NBA.

Another key factor for NBA bettors to consider is strength of schedule. The NBA uses an asymmetrical structure that means individual team schedules can vary greatly in terms of the strength of opponent. The volume of games each team plays means the impact of road games is arguably bigger than in other sports. A longer schedule introduced ahead of the 2017-18 season means teams no longer have to play the dreaded “four in five” (four road games in five nights) but can still play four road games in a row, all in different time zones.

* Always remember with all forms of sports betting, ensure you have appropriate bankroll strategies in place, always chase the best possible price and understand the concept of value when making EPL wagers.

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