Why do sharps love betting the NBA?

May 23, 2019 04:45 PM

Though it’s likely to be buried in an early-season media barrage that features the NBA Playoffs, the NHL Playoffs, golf’s US Open (June 13-16), and possibly even the women’s soccer World Cup (USA begins play June 11), the WNBA starts its 2019 season Friday night with a twin bill that includes the New York Liberty hosting the Indiana Fever. 

Casual fans haven’t yet developed an appetite to bet the WNBA. But many sharps consider it one of their favorite wagering sports. If you want to handicap and bet like a sharp, maybe you should start thinking that way too.

Why do sharps love betting the NBA?

  • Opening lines are fairly soft, because oddsmakers don’t spend much time analyzing the league. Oddsmakers are professionals, but this is a low-priority sport from their perspective. 
  • Stats and game-by-game box scores are readily available, which means quants have an easy time building models and adjusting on the fly. 
  • Handicapping fundamentals used by those “in the know” shine because basketball is basketball no matter who’s playing.
  • In season, oddsmakers can be slow to make adjustments to changes in performance. Last year, the Atlanta Dream had a stretch where it went 14-1 against the spread through 15 games. Eventual champion Seattle went 12-2 ATS over 14 games. On the other end of the spectrum, disappointing New York had a 6-16 ATS stretch over 22 games, and Indiana went 4-16 ATS in a 20-game collapse. 

Add it all up, and you get a few months of elite bettors at peak focus using their best strategies against oddsmakers who aren’t prioritizing the sport.

Yes, betting limits are much lower than in other attractions. Sports books never like it when it’s just “oddsmakers vs. sharps.” But, it’s not hard for bettors to grind out meaningful money by spreading action amongst shops. 

Last year’s thrilling playoffs made national headlines. It may be tough for the WNBA to build off that because so many big names won’t be on the floor.

Reigning MVP Breanna Stewart of Seattle is out for the season after suffering a torn Achilles. Teammate Sue Bird may miss most of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Perennial favorite Diana Taurasi of Phoenix could miss up to 12 weeks after undergoing back surgery. Superstar Maya Moore of Minnesota announced in February she was going to sit out the season to spend more time with her family and pursue the ministry. 

That’s created a wild futures board with many championship threats. Current odds to win the WNBA title from William Hill…

Las Vegas 11/4, Washington 3/1, Los Angeles 7/2, Connecticut 13/2, Atlanta 6/1, Phoenix 8/1, Seattle 18/1, Minnesota 33/1, Chicago 66/1, New York 100/1, Indiana 100/1, Dallas 100/1.

Las Vegas gets the nod because second-year star A’ja Wilson will be joined by force of nature Elizabeth Cambage (rhymes with “rampage”) after a recent trade with Dallas. 

Sharps will be paying close attention to the WNBA in coming weeks. Will you?

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