NBA Win Total Trends, Betting Strategy & Complete 2020-21 Odds
Over-under win total betting seems simple enough. Predict a team’s regular-season record based on roster, depth, scheduling and coaching and choose your side.
But injuries, rest, trades and other external factors have a way of creeping up during the 82-game season and affecting a team’s record, and at times the difference between a single win and loss can be the difference between a team going over or under.
That’s why looking for trends can come in handy when betting on the NBA. We analyzed the last 11 years of regular-season over-under win totals (30 teams x 11 years=330 total) and found a few trends that could help you in deciding which way to go on a certain team. For the 2019-20 season, which was cut off due to the pandemic and NBA stoppage, we took a team’s final regular season record and extrapolated it to 82 games to see if they would have hit its over or under.
The overriding conclusion is the under is your best play, but buried in the stats are three additional monster trends:
- Bet the under for teams projected to have 50.5 wins or more (59%)
- Bet the over for teams projected between 16.5 and 27.5 wins (66%)
- Bet the under on teams with 10-win swings in either direction over previous two seasons (60%)
CHECK OUT & COMPARE: NBA Title Odds From Top Online Sportsbooks
For the 2020-21 season, these are actually win percentage bets because this will not be an 82-game season (it is 72 games) and because COVID-19 could still affect the schedule.
2020-21 NBA Team Win Percentage Odds
|Milwaukee Bucks||68.5||BET NOW|
|Boston Celtics||63.5||BET NOW|
|Brooklyn Nets||62.5||BET NOW|
|Miami Heat||60.5||BET NOW|
|Philadelphia 76ers||58.5||BET NOW|
|Toronto Raptors||58.5||BET NOW|
|Indiana Pacers||54.5||BET NOW|
|Atlanta Hawks||47.5||BET NOW|
|Washington Wizards||45.5||BET NOW|
|Orlando Magic||43.5||BET NOW|
|Chicago Bulls||41.5||BET NOW|
|Charlotte Hornets||36.5||BET NOW|
|Detroit Pistons||32.5||BET NOW|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||30.5||BET NOW|
|New York Knicks||30.5||BET NOW|
Check out the latest odds to win the Eastern Conference.
Bet $1 Get $200 NFL Special plus 20% Deposit Bonus up to $1,000
|Los Angeles Lakers||66.5||BET NOW|
|Los Angeles Clippers||65.5||BET NOW|
|Denver Nuggets||60.5||BET NOW|
|Dallas Mavericks||57.5||BET NOW|
|Utah Jazz||57.5||BET NOW|
|Portland Trail Blazers||55.5||BET NOW|
|Golden State Warriors||54.5||BET NOW|
|Phoenix Suns||52.5||BET NOW|
|New Orleans Pelicans||48.5||BET NOW|
|Houston Rockets||47.5||BET NOW|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||41.5||BET NOW|
|San Antonio Spurs||41.5||BET NOW|
|Memphis Grizzlies||40.5||BET NOW|
|Sacramento Kings||40.5||BET NOW|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||33.5||BET NOW|
Check out the latest odds to win the Western Conference.
Bet $1 Get $200 NFL Special plus 20% Deposit Bonus up to $1,000
Tip 1: When in Doubt, Go Under
Betting the under is never as much fun as betting the over, but those who did so over the last 11 NBA seasons have profited to the tune of an enviable 54% success rate. That’s right. If you had bet the under on every NBA team for the last 11 seasons, you would have cleaned up.
Over the last 11 seasons, of the 330 teams who competed in the regular season, just 151 have gone past their regular season over-under win total. That’s compared to 179 teams that went under.
And there wasn’t just one massive outlier in the data that skewed the numbers. The unders have been remarkably consistent during the time period. From 2010 to 2014, a five-year span, teams were 81-69 hitting the under. From 2015 to 2019? They were 81-69, too. There were only two seasons (2013 and 2016) in which more teams hit the over than the under; 16 teams hit the over both seasons, while there was a 15-15 push in 2012.
NBA Win Totals 2010-19
And while some teams have been better hitting the over on a year-to-year basis, there aren’t many teams that skew the data too heavily. The Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, LA Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves all have hit their over three or fewer times, while the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz all have gone over seven or more times in that 11-season span.
Tip 2: Lower NBA Win Totals More Likely to Hit Over
If so many teams are going under their season-long total, where’s the sweet spot to find overs? It’s with the teams that oddsmakers are expecting to be below .500 during the regular season. We split the 330 teams over the past 11 seasons in to two categories: Those with preseason win totals set at 40.5 or worse, and those with win totals set at 41.5 or higher.
- The 163 teams with expected win totals above .500 went 71-92, hitting the over 44.1%.
- The 167 teams with expected win totals below .500 went 80-87, hitting the over 47.9%.
Narrowing that focus further, one area that did well going over was, surprisingly, the worst of the worst. Over the last 11 seasons, 51 teams have been pegged with win totals between 16.5 and 27.5. Those 51 teams went over at a 30-21 clip (58.8%), including teams with win totals between 16.5 and 22.5 going 9-4 (69.2%).
The expected worst teams in the league have been able to grind out enough victories to go over.
Looking for a sweet spot above .500? Teams with preseason win totals between 42.5 and 49.5 hit the over at a 45-41 clip (52.3%). That eight-win total grouping accounted for more than 60% of the above-.500 over hits.
If you bet the over for teams with win totals between 16.5 and 27.5, and the under on everyone else from 2010-20, you would have been 189-141 or 57.2%.
Tip 3: It’s Tough to Top 50
The Golden State Warriors’ recent dominance that included regular seasons of 67, 73, 67, 58 and 57 wins have changed the perception of how difficult it really is to top 50 wins. A 51-win NBA season is equivalent to a 10-win NFL season or a 101-win MLB season. Even in a top-heavy league where super-teams are becoming the norm, 51 wins is hardly a sure bet.
And those seasons are even more difficult to come by with the expectation of having one. From 2010 to 2020, oddsmakers set over-unders of 50.5 or greater for 68 different teams. Only 24 of those teams hit their respective over during the regular season, while 44 went under. Teams with an over-under of 50.5 or greater went under 64.7% of the time
That trend is growing, too. The days of star players appearing in 80+ games appear to be over, with load management and resting minor bumps and bruises in the lead-up to the postseason becoming the norm. The best teams in the league are sacrificing regular-season wins for postseason availability, and the unders are pouring in.
Over the last three seasons, teams with over-under win totals of 50.5 or greater are just 5-14.
This, of course, doesn’t mean those teams failed to hit 50 wins. The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors won 67 games but just missed out on topping their over-under of 68.5 wins, the highest mark from the last 10 seasons. Likewise, the 2016-17 Oklahoma City Thunder had a successful 55-win season but missed their mark of 57.5 wins.
Tip 4: Watch Closely for the Rule of 10
More star players switch teams in the NBA than any other sport, so wild year-to-year win total swings are commonplace. Teams that add talent in free agency can go from .500 expectations to championship aspirations, while offseason losers can swing from .500 hopefuls to tanking nobodies.
We looked up the teams that had a 10-win swing, either an increase or decrease, from one season to the next.
Recent examples of increases: the 2018-19 Philadelphia 76ers (42.5 in 2018 to 54.5 in 2019) and 2017-18 Denver Nuggets (34.5 in 2017 to 45.5 in 2018).
Recent examples of decreases: the post-LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers (53.5 in 2017-18 to 30.5 in 2018-19) and the post-PG13 Indiana Pacers (43.5 in 2016-17 to 31.5 in 2017-18).
In all, there were 44 teams that saw a year-to-year jump of more than 10 games. Of those 44 teams, they had a combined over mark of just 18-26 (40.9%).
There were 47 teams that had a decrease of 10-plus wins from one year to the next, and those squads hit the over at just a 20-27 clip (42.5%).
The takeaway here is that oddsmakers seem to overvalue the regular-season impact incoming stars have on their teams, while undervaluing the stars who leave teams behind. Find a team that had a wild swing from year-to-year and you’re likely to find an under. Combined, the two groups were just 38-53, hitting the over (41.7%).
Some notable examples include the 2019 Cavaliers, whose O/U win total dropped 23 games to 30.5 after James left. They fell short of that mark, going 19-63. The 2016-17 Trail Blazers saw an inflated win total projected to 46.5 from 26.5 the previous season. They, too, fell short, finishing 41-41.
About the Author
Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago since 2012. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin. Strotman graduated from Marquette University in 2012 and during his time there reported on the men’s basketball team, covering both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.