NBA Betting Trends We Love From the First Half of the Season
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz.
The first half of the season is in the books, but we’re not quite ready to jump straight to the second leg of this season just yet. The NBA is a story-driven league and for every storyline, there’s likely a bet that correlates.
Whether it’s a team just over-performing expectations against the spread early or a player going out of his mind on a particular prop, there have been a bunch of situational trends that have risen above the rest so far .
We’ve compiled a few of those trends from before the break that have been both fun and profitable to bet.
The Knicks Are … Back?
Let’s not bury the lead here. The Knicks are above .500 at the break.
If you close your eyes, you can still hear the sound of Knick fans celebrating being relevant in March for the first time in a very long time. A $100 bettor would be up $1,365 betting on the moneyline, the second-best mark in the league per Bet Labs.
Let’s take it to the next level, though. Over the first half, the Knicks are 21-16-1 (56.8%) against the spread, the fourth-most profitable team in the NBA.
The Knicks have covered the 1H spread in 13 straight games. 📈
Can New York (-0.5) make it 14 straight against the Spurs tonight? pic.twitter.com/RjuJKCYrYB
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) March 2, 2021
From strictly a betting perspective, the Knicks’ most banner-worthy achievement has to have come in the first half of their 37 games this year.
New York is 26-10-1 (72.2%) against the first half spread, including covering 13 games in a row for one stretch.
Whether the Knicks are truly back remains a mystery for the few months. But they’ve made bettors money multiple ways in the first half, and that’s about all you can ask for from this team. — Evan Abrams
The Absurdly Good Utah Jazz
At the break, the Utah Jazz are on top in the Western conference with the best record (27-9) in the NBA. They are also 25-11 (69.4%) against the spread this season, the most profitable team in the NBA.
Much of that success was fueled by a wild stretch between Jan. 8 and Feb. 17 where the Jazz went a mind-boggling 19-2 against the spread. Most impressive was the fact that they covered the number by an average of 7.9 points per game.
Until their game against the Philadelphia 76ers, it felt like the Jazz were running away with the season the way a certain team did in the 2015-16 season. In fact, the last team with a ATS win percentage of 69% or higher this far into the regular season did it in the 2016 season: The San Antonio Spurs.
Unfortunately, they finished second in the West (behind the 73-win Warriors) and lost in the Western semifinals.. — Abrams
Pelicans Flying Over(s)
Death. Taxes. Pelicans game going over.
The Action Network’s own Raheem Palmer has been on this trend a bunch this season and it has come through … a lot.
On Jan. 18, the Pelicans ranked 26th in the NBA in Pace (98.82) 18th in Offensive Rating (108.5) and were 6-6 to to the over in their games. Since that date, they Pels rank third in Offensive Rating (119.2), 16th in Pace (99.63) and they’ve been the most profitable team when betting the over during that span.
Between Feb. 9 and Feb. 25, the Pelicans ripped off a 10-game stretch where every game went over the total and at this point in the season, their overs have hit by an average margin of 5.76 points. — Malik Smith
A Silver Lining In the Season Schedule
This season has been a grind for the players, but it has also been tough for bettors with lines dropping late, games getting postponed, players being ruled out at the last minute and, of course, back-to-back games (so many back-to-backs).
There has been one upside in this wacky year, though. When teams play in the second game of a “baseball-style” series, unders have been a very profitable bet.
A big factor behind this trend is familiarity, and it has been even more profitable since the beginning of February — unders are 14-6-1 in this spot and a $100 bettor would be up $738 over that span. — Smith
Entering the second half of the NBA season, underdogs are 206-327 (38.6%) on the moneyline, profiting a consistent $100 bettor a whopping $5,217 for a 9.8% return on investment.
In the Bet Labs database, no season has been more profitable for NBA moneyline underdogs through this point in the regular season.
The most profitable underdog straight up on the moneyline? The Charlotte Hornets (+$1,540). — Abrams
Next Magic Man Up
If you’ve been following our props column, you know we’ve been playing a ton of Orlando Magic overs this season.
Orlando has been playing shorthanded all season long. Jonathan Isaac was out for the year before things even began, and Markelle Fultz joined him not long into the new season. Aaron Gordon has also missed a month, and Evan Fournier missed a chunk of January too.
Goodbye four of five Magic starters, and hello opportunity.
We forget that even the guys down on the end of the bench were 20-point scorers at one point. All of these guys are professional NBA players, and injury absences mean somebody has to take shots, throw passes, and soak up usage.
Quite often, that has meant playing Nikola Vucevic overs. Vooch has been an absolute monster this season and a deserving All Star. He’s at or near career-bests on basically every counting stat. Vucevic is scoring 4.6 more points per game than his previous career high, and we’ve played him to go over points, rebounds, assists, and even 3-pointers at times.
His points, and especially his rebounds, have been a great bet this season. Betting the over on his points this season has gone 21-15 and the over on his rebounds has gone 21-14, according to data from FantasyLabs.
You can see the progression of how much you would have profited from betting $100 on each of those props every night through the first half of the season.
Once Evan Fournier returned from an early injury, he was a cash cow too. I was hammering Fournier points and assists over after his injury return until the books finally adjusted the lines upward … a couple weeks too late. Overs on his points prop went 11-5 from Jan. 20 through the end of the first half.
It’s entirely possible Vucevic and Fournier could get traded in the next few weeks. If they do, I’ll be taking unders for a while as each adjusts to new, smaller roles. But it will be next man up in Orlando, with even more opportunity available for whoever is next in line. — Brandon Anderson