Freedman: Goodbye, NBA Props SZN … You Will Be Missed
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Stephen Curry
- Freedman knows almost nothing about the NBA.
- For Game 4 of the NBA Finals, he went 13-0 betting on player props.
- His secret: Almost always bet the under.
If you’ve read my recently published Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography about how to fail at life and succeed as a fantasy sports writer, you’ll notice that not once does the word “basketball” appear.
That’s because I know nothing about basketball.
I don’t watch it. I don’t play it. I don’t even know how to spell it. “Basquetball,” maybe?
And yet, in the wake of the Warriors’ NBA Finals Game 4 victory last night, I’m sad that the NBA season is over . . . because over the past half year NBA props as a category have been my most profitable type of wagers.
This Bankroll Isn’t Going to Bet Itself
After the NFL regular season, I started betting a little on NBA props just for fun. Having action on individual players each day gave me more of a reason to follow and learn about the sport. Plus, I was using the FantasyLabs NBA Props tool and reading all the Action Network NBA content, so I wasn’t just blindly placing bets. I was leveraging the best knowledge available.
Rather quickly, I started making money. It wasn’t a lot — because I’m never going to go big on a sport about which I admittedly know nothing — but it was substantial enough to make me shift my daily routine of placing NBA bets from the “I’m just doing this for fun” category to the “I’m working right now, don’t interrupt me with meaningless questions, this bankroll isn’t going to bet itself” category. (P.S. I’m a pleasant person, really.)
Over the last six months I’ve basically been a break-even bettor at everything except for NBA props (and also the NFL combine and NFL draft). Till the NBA returns in October, I don’t know what I’m going to do for fun (or supplemental income).
Game 4 Was Glorious
For Game 4 last night, I placed the following 13 prop bets.
- LeBron James no double-double (+350)
- George Hill under 10.5 points (-115)
- George Hill under 2.5 free throws (-150)
- Kyle Korver under 7.5 points (-130)
- Kyle Korver under 1.5 three-pointers (+125)
- Jeff Green under 7.5 points (-130)
- Jeff Green under 3.5 rebounds (-150)
- Jeff Green under 1.5 free throws (-115)
- Stephen Curry over 3.5 free throws (-140)
- Draymond Green no double-double (+115)
- Draymond Green under 1.5 free throws (+135)
- Klay Thompson under 1.5 free throws (+115)
- JaVale McGee over 0.5 blocks (-250)
For the evening, I went 13-0 (+14.1 units), good for a 108.6% return on investment.
During the regular season there were some slates when I placed triple the number of bets and lost a supermajority of them, so it’s not as if I’m claiming to be an NBA prop genius. I’m not.
But last night’s 13-0 performance wasn’t an outlier. Thanks to the tools and content at The Action Network, since January I’ve been transformed from an NBA novice to someone who knows enough to bet the under on any Quinn Cook prop I can find . . . which is a nice segue to the next section.
Bet the Under
Notice that 11 of my 13 bets were of the under/no ilk. That’s not a coincidence. In my limited experience, I’ve had way more prop-betting success with unders. Maybe that’s because I’m something of a pessimist. Perhaps I’m at my best when my naturally cynical viewpoint comes across propositions that happen to be inflated.
But, additionally, it’s possible that sportsbooks post player-specific lines that are simply too high. Maybe they upwardly skew the lines because they know (based on historical data and bettor psychology) that the majority of money they get will be on the over. Or maybe their lines are elevated because of quirks in their projection methodology. Or perhaps the issue is one of selection: They post lines only for certain types of players, and when those players experience changes in playing time or production they’re usually negative.
There are lots of possibilities and factors to consider — but this I know: Whenever the NBA starts up again in October, I’ll be betting as many player props as I can . . . and most of them will probably be the under.