NBA Playoffs Coaching Betting Rankings: Popovich, Stevens Thrive in Second Half

Apr 27, 2019 10:00 AM EDT
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Photo credit: USAToday Sports. Pictured: Gregg Popovich and Brad Stevens

  • There are quite a few likely Hall-of-Fame coaches still battling in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
  • Using the Bet Labs tools, I go through which coaches have over- and underperformed the most in the NBA Playoffs and how to bet them.

NBA playoff series are all about adjustments. Over the course of a seven-game series, one team is going to find a weakness and exploit it, and then the other team will adjust. That cycle continues until a team emerges victorious.

Sometimes those adjustments come in between games; other times coaches are great at making halftime tweaks. Watching film to spot all of those instances can get quite cumbersome, but I think the betting market can provide us some data that can be a good proxy for which coaches adjust well — or which coaches are generally successful in the playoffs.

Our Bet Labs database has coaching data for how head coaches have performed against-the-spread (ATS) in the full game, first half and second half. The database also has moneyline data for those scenarios, as well.

So of the current coaches left in the 2019 NBA Playoffs, which have historically done the best in the playoffs? And do any of them have stark splits for the first and second halves?

How Have NBA Coaches Performed in the Playoffs?

Note: The first number is the record. In parentheses is the money won or lost, assuming $100 per bet.

Most-profitable coaches: Popovich, Stevens and Kerr

Interestingly, the current coach with the best ATS playoff record is the Warriors’ Steve Kerr, who has gone 50-37 in his career, netting bettors $1,072. The Warriors’ spreads are often high, but it seems like the betting market has not adjusted enough. He has been profitable ATS in every season except for this year; the Warriors are currently 2-2.

More interesting Kerr trends: While he’s been very profitable ATS for the full game, that hasn’t translated into success in either the first-half or second-half spreads. He is, however, the most profitable coach against the second half moneyline, going 60-20-6, netting $100 bettors $1,175. Last year, he went 17-4 in the second half, good for a 21.6% Return on Investment (ROI). Not surprisingly, the Warriors were listed as second-half favorites in all but six games.

The two other highly-profitable coaches have been Gregg Popovich and Brad Stevens. Pop has been about even for the full-game moneyline, but he’s been an excellent bet in every other scenario, especially against the first- and second-half spreads.

Stevens is probably the most interesting coach. He’s been profitable ATS, and while the narrative is that he overperformed last year without Kyrie Irving (that’s still true: look at his moneyline record vs. money won), the ATS data actually shows he’s crushed as a playoff favorite:

  • As home favorite: 15-3
  • As home dog: 4-6
  • As road favorite: 4-0
  • As road dog: 8-11

Of note, the Celtics opened at most books around +7.5 in Game 1 vs. the Bucks.

He also has incredibly stark first half/second half splits. His Celtics have been terrible ATS and on the moneyline to open games; in fact, of the remaining coaches this year, he’s easily the least-profitable coach. But apparently he’s excellent at making half-time adjustments because he’s easily the most-profitable coach against the second-half spread.

And again, the most value has been when he’s a second-half favorite: His teams are 16-6 ATS in that spot. He’s produced a negative ROI as a second-half underdog ATS. He’s 21-10 ATS when the full-game spread is within 5.5 points either way; he seemingly thrives in close games.

Least-profitable coach: D’Antoni

Mike D’Antoni, meanwhile, is easily the worst moneyline coach in the second half, which is interesting because we’re about to get a second-round series against Steve Kerr, who, again, is the most-profitable second half moneyline coach. D’Antoni’s teams have gone 27-40-1 in that spot. Here are his home/away and favorite splits:

  • As home favorite: 14-14 (-$298)
  • As home dog: 3-5 (-$181)
  • As road favorite: 3-4 (-$167)
  • As road dog: 7-17-1 (-$1,079)

The time to fade him historically is on the road as a dog, which should happen at least a couple times against the Warriors next week.

Make sure to check out Bet Labs for a ton more betting data!

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