Strength in Numbers: How Warriors Use Passing, Assists to Beat Betting Markets

Strength in Numbers: How Warriors Use Passing, Assists to Beat Betting Markets article feature image
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Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

  • Under Steve Kerr, Golden State is 24-4 straight up and 18-10 against the spread in the playoffs after a 30-plus assist game.
  • When Golden State records fewer than 30 assists in their previous game in the playoffs, they're only 34-41-1 (45.3%) against the first-half spread, failing to cover the spread by 2.7 points per game.

The Golden State Warriors do a lot of things very efficiently, but maybe the most impressive aspect of their style is their passing ability.

Golden State ball movement leads to Klay Thompson 3 for the lead pic.twitter.com/Y93TpBeL7Z

— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 11, 2019

This three-point field goal from Klay Thompson was in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, on the road, down 3-1, to give the Warriors the lead for good with a minute left in the 4th quarter. Three crisp, clean passes and a pump fake leading to a wide open three from one of the best shooters in history.

Over the past five seasons under coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors have turned back the clock by using passing and — more importantly — assists to take their offense to a new level.

Here’s how Golden State has ranked in the NBA’s pass tracking data year-over-year since 2014-15:

Since 2014-15, the Warriors have accounted for 25 of the 55 times a team has had 30 or more assists in a playoff game. No other team has even five such games over that span. In fact, there have only been 11 40-assist games over the past five seasons and the Warriors own seven, including the top three with 45-, 46- and 47-assist games.

Since 1995, only one team has had 45 or more assists in any game prior to the Warriors’ run starting in 2014-15, and that was the Milwaukee Bucks in 2000.

Naturally, the question must be asked: How can bettors profit off Golden State’s passing success? I’m glad you asked.

Under Kerr, Golden State is 24-4 straight up and 18-10 against the spread in the playoffs after a 30-plus assist game. Not only do the Warriors do it better than everyone else, but they follow it up better than any other team.

The stark comparison also shows up in the margin. The Warriors are covering the spread by 3.8 points per game under Kerr in this spot, while all other head coaches combined are failing to cover the spread by even one point per game.

For Golden State, it even works in the first half.

The Warriors are 18-8-2 (69.2%) on the first-half moneyline and 17-11 (60.7%) against the first-half spread after recording 30-plus assists in their previous game. When they record fewer than 30 assists in their previous game in the playoffs, they’re only 34-41-1 (45.3%) against the first-half spread, failing to cover the spread by 2.7 points per game.

The Warriors are inherently a streaky team.

When they catch fire, watch out. At any point the Warriors can flip the switch and go on their patented 18-0 run. What becomes a product of those suffocating stretches for their opponents is the Warriors’ ball movement, which leads to their high assist numbers.

Look at how the Warriors’ assist total in previous games can affect their ATS win percentage in their next game:

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