Over and Under Odds & the Regular Season

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Updated: September 13, 2021
Milwaukee Bucks v LA Clippers

The focus of Vegas and most of the recent podcasts dealing with gambling on the NBA have been hyper-focused on the regular season and its over and under odds. This art of prediction is very different than the previous tiers podcasts that all the same channels had done the week before. When evaluating the tiers of teams, it is far more about identifying what a team really is and how their combination of stars and supporting cast will collide with their competition. In direct contrast, the over and under is a gambling sport dictated by the line that has arbitrarily been drawn. It isn’t any different than betting on the score of a football game, if one is intrigued by the odds that they think are misplaced and they see the crack in the logic they pounce on it.

As fun as the discussion is though, it doesn’t have a lot to do with basketball. All the logic in the world wouldn’t have protected your bank account against a 4th seed New York Knicks last season. Even if dealing with injuries, no one would have had the stones to bet the Lebron-AD Lakers as a play-in team just after dominating in the Finals. It was assumed that the Tampa Bay Raptors would be affected by the relocation, but who had the chips on them missing the play-in game and being slotted in the 12th seed? For a person who spends so much time watching basketball and consuming information about it, it would be assumed that there would be an advantage when it comes to gambling on the season.

This could be true going into a 7-game series. Although there are always possibilities of injuries or unforeseen internal growth from the young core, analysts with excess time spent on observing the league should theoretically have the best feel for picking teams in a playoff series. The regular season though is just a different type of monster. There are far too many moving parts and new variables added to each equation of rosters that are being hypothetically based on a theoretical fit that too often misses the mark entirely. Also, the variable of injuries over such a long period of time in an 82-game season is something no one can predict or depend on.

However, if these were the only problems with gambling on the over and under numbers of the regular season, there are those (usually mildly addicted to gambling) who feel they can map out at least rough estimates for these unknowns. The biggest problem though now in the modern era is so many players, and more importantly, a large number of stars are operating under the assumption that the regular season is somewhat irrelevant. Not only has it become commonplace for stars to practice the Kawhi Coast, and rolling to the playoffs with the engines off and floating on neutral with “load management,” the mentality even when on the floor is just not what it once was.

So many want to make this argument about generations and that the ’80s and ’90’s players are exaggerating the difference between their eras and now, and if looking at the playoffs, the effort level is essentially the same despite the different playing styles and rules that affect defensive pressure. But the effort level in the regular season makes the past eras of basketball look like a completely different sport from today’s game. Not only are coaches more coy with what they are willing to show in the regular season and more deceptive with their weapons in the playoffs, but the effort level of 60% of the league also makes it difficult to assess what a team has on their roster. We attempt to look at newly formed teams in the offseason, but what any of these pieces may or may not be in the regular season is impossible to know.

The number of players who are going to play 79+ games and giving 100% effort can be counted on 1 hand, especially if talking about the top tier players who define a team’s success. There is so much in-game load management that is impossible to calculate, that the regular season truly has become somewhat irrelevant. Instead, certain matchups and big games where it is clear that both teams are not only healthy but fully engaged that we can better assess what a team is or isn’t. It is one of the main reasons why the television ratings continue to suffer, not only is it a frequent occurrence that a star or two is sidelined for unknown reasons, but the amount of blowouts due to lack of effort from an opponent has just become normal in today’s NBA culture.

So for those who listen to these pods and think that they can accumulate enough insights to make sound bets on the over and under numbers on the regular season, I highly recommend you to spend your money elsewhere. Unless you enjoy the stress of what gambling brings, there are no sound bets in the NBA regular season, regardless of how sure an addict may sound when giving his pick and the logic behind it.

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