Bettors Can Find Value in Unpopular NBA Summer League Underdogs


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Orlando Magic center Mohamed Bamba

In the NBA regular season, underdogs have won about 31% of their games since 2005 (5,132-11,374 record). However, dogs have won 46% (122-144) of exhibition games in that same time, which includes the Summer League. That’s produced some serious profits on the moneyline.


Why have underdogs performed better in showcase games? There is a lack of familiarity among players and coaches, and teams have varying levels of motivation to perform. This combination leads to increased variance, which favors the team getting points.

Betting underdogs has been highly profitable during the NBA Summer League. We began tracking results in 2016, and over the last three summers, dogs are 134-77-5 (64%) ATS.

That is a straightforward approach, but we can improve the results. Using Bet Labs, I’ve found a winning system that has covered nearly 70% ATS since 2016 with six matches for Monday’s slate.

Betting unpopular underdogs is the way to go in Vegas. Here are the against-the-spread win rates for underdogs based on spread-ticket percentage:

Since 2016, dogs getting fewer than 50% of spread tickets are 99-52-4 (66%) ATS. The more lopsided the betting action becomes, the more valuable underdogs have been. Teams getting points and fewer than 35% of bets are 31-9-2 (78%) ATS.

The optimal strategy, in my opinion, for Summer League bettors who don’t want to wager on every underdog is to back teams getting fewer than 45% of spread tickets. This gives us an adequate sample size — more than half of the NBA exhibition games in the Bet Labs database feature a team getting fewer than 45% of bets. Dogs in this situation are 79-36-4 (69%) ATS; a $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $3,738 following this strategy.

Ten Summer League games are scheduled for Monday. Below are the underdogs getting little support from bettors that match this system.

Note: Game matches will be added throughout the day, the last Summer League game tips off at 11:30 p.m. ET, be sure to check back. Or sign up for Bet Labs and get notifications for game matches!

  • Pistons (+2.5) vs. Pelicans (3 p.m. ET)
  • Raptors (+4) vs. Thunder (3:30 p.m. ET)
  • Cavaliers (+2.5) vs. Pacers (5 p.m. ET)
  • Bucks (+1.5) vs. Nuggets (9 p.m. ET)
  • Nets (+2) vs. Timberwolves (11 p.m. ET)
  • Clippers (+2) vs. Rockets (11:30 p.m. ET)
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