NBA All-Star Game Trends: Are Underdogs a Smart Bet?

NBA All-Star Game Trends: Are Underdogs a Smart Bet? article feature image
Credit:

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Team Stephen forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks

  • Betting lines are now available for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game (Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, TNT) between Team LeBron and Team Giannis.
  • Using Bet Labs, we identify against-the-spread, moneyline and over/under trends for the NBA All-Star Game.

Wagering on the NBA All-Star Game is difficult because handicapping player motivation for a pickup game is nearly impossible. Bettors start with the best of intentions and can be left looking like Fergie when she sang the national anthem last year.

To help gamblers, I have identified the smartest ways to approach the 2019 NBA All-Star Game (Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, TNT).

Using the Bet Labs database, these are the spread, moneyline and over/under trends bettors need to know before placing an All-Star Game wagers.

NBA All-Star Game Underdogs

Sample size is an issue when analyzing the All-Star Game as we have only 14 games in our database, which makes it tough to draw meaningful conclusions. To resolve this issue, we can expand our sample by including all basketball exhibition games. This includes the All-Star Game, USA vs. World All-Stars, Sophomore vs. Rookies and Summer League games.

These contests are showcases for the players and league that rarely feature defense. In a game with questionable motivation, the team getting points has been undervalued. Since 2005, underdogs in exhibition games have gone 198-134-9 (59.6%) against the spread (ATS).

Team LeBron is a 6-point favorite as many believe he bested Giannis Anteokounmpo during the draft. But Team Giannis features four of the top seven scorers (Giannis, Stephen Curry, Paul George and Joel Embiid) in the league this season and three of the five best players (Giannis, George and Curry) according to Kevin Pelton’s wins above replacement player metric.

Six points feels disrespectful and if the chatter leading up to the game is that Team LeBron is clearly better, that may be the motivation Team Giannis needs to cover the spread.

NBA All-Star Game Moneylines

When the underdog covers, it often wins the game outright in exhibition matchups. Since 2005, moneyline underdogs in these contests have gone 153-182 (45.7%) straight up.

A $100 bettor wagering on the dogs would have returned a profit of $4,436 for a 13.2% return on investment.

NBA All-Star Game Over/Unders

Scoring is up in the NBA this season. NBA teams are averaging 110.6 points per game, the most since the 1984-85 season. Offense has been on the rise the past decade and this has impacted the over/unders for the All-Star Game.

From 2005 to 2012 the average over/under was 265.5, but since 2013 the average has jumped to 315.3 points. Despite the rising totals the over in these games has gone 8-5. This follows the overall trend of overs being profitable in showcase games.

With defense an afterthought, overs have gone 187-148-6 (56%) in all exhibition games since 2005. However, that doesn’t mean bettors should instantly wager on Sunday’s over.

Last year the NBA All-Star Game total closed at 332.5, the second highest for an All-Star Game in our database. While the game was high scoring, the teams combined for only 293 points — well below the closing line. Players gave more effort than normal on defense which contributed to the under hitting.