Trends & Betting Strategy For NBA Win Totals Wagering
Mark Strotman | 7 mins
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 12 years of regular-season over-under win totals (30 teams x 12 years=360 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 at betting sites, but buried in the stats are three additional monster trends to consider when looking at these NBA odds on your favorite popular betting apps:
- 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%)
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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 12 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 12 seasons, you would have cleaned up.
Over the last 12 seasons, of the 360 teams who competed in the regular season, just 167 have gone past their regular season over-under win total. That’s compared to 193 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 three seasons (2013, 2016, 2021) in which more teams hit the over than the under; 16 teams hit the over in those three seasons, while there was a 15-15 push in 2012.
NBA Win Totals 2010-21
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 four or fewer times, while the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz all have gone over eight or more times in that 12-season span.
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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 360 teams over the past 12 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 1 80teams with expected win totals above .500 went 80-100, hitting the over 44.4%.
- The 80 teams with expected win totals below .500 went 87-93, hitting the over 48.3%.
Narrowing that focus further, one area that did well going over was, surprisingly, the worst of the worst. Over the last 12 seasons, 55 teams have been pegged with win totals between 16.5 and 27.5. Those 55 teams went over at a 31-24 clip (56.3%), 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 48-44 clip (52.2%). That eight-win total grouping accounted for more than 60% of the above-.500 over hits.
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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 2021, sportsbooks set over-unders of 50.5 or greater for 75 different teams. Only 27 of those teams hit their respective over during the regular season, while 48 went under. Teams with an over-under of 50.5 or greater went under 64% 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 four seasons, teams with over-under win totals of 50.5 or greater are just 8-18.
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.
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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 47 teams that saw a year-to-year jump of more than 10 games. Of those 47 teams, they had a combined over mark of just 21-26 (44.6%).
There were 49 teams that had a decrease of 10-plus wins from one year to the next, and those squads hit the over at just a 20-29 clip (40.8%).
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 41-55, hitting the over (42.7%).
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.