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Dissecting recent NBA dog phenomenon

By Steve Makinen  () 

The NBA has undergone an unexpected wagering phenomenon that can be traced back to last February’s All-Star Game. But from what I’ve been able to decipher on Twitter, not many bettors are aware of it.

 

The circumstances of the pandemic, load management, cautious approaches to injuries and a lack of fans in the stands have led to vastly improved performances by underdogs. In fact, since the NBA returned from the All-Star break on Feb. 20 last year, underdogs have posted an overall record of 261-413 outright and 347-308-14 against the spread. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, they have been good enough to produce + 95.2 units of profit, a return on investment of 14.2% on moneylines and an ATS mark of 53%. Simply put, had you been blindly playing underdogs over the last calendar year, you’d have a pretty large bankroll.

 

But to better understand the significance of this transformation, we need to see the results of recent seasons for comparison. Here are the records by season for 2016 through Feb. 13, 2020:

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