Monday 25 September 2017

Over Thinking in the NBA

The 2017-18 NBA pre-season is less than a week away, and it's probable that the apparently inexorable increase in 3-point shooting and scoring will continue.

The 3-point line was added for the NBA in 1979, and in the 1980-81 season, there were an average of four attempts per game. With a success rate of 24.5%, the resulting points came to a less than stellar 3 points per game.  

Last season (2016-17), there were a record 54 3-point attempts per game, with an average of 58 points scored per game.  

It's a good example of how a game changes over the years, and how statistics become redundant after significant changes to rules and / or scoring. It's why I typically don't go back more than five seasons when looking at trends.

Another interesting observation is that the pace of the game last season was faster than it has been in recent years. Each team averaged 96.4 possessions per 48 minutes, the highest since 1992-93. No surprise then that there was a record number of points per game last season - the highest since 1990-91. 

No surprise either that the sportsbooks were onto this, with the average points total a record high 210.7.

After six seasons with an average in the 199.4 - 200.9 range, 2015 jumped to 204.9, with 2016 an even larger jump to 210.7. 

This time last year, the previous five seasons had shown an edge in backing Unders when the total was set at less than 189. Knowing the trend was towards higher point totals, I went with sub 184, with a likely more manageable total number of bets.

That would be an understatement, given that had I not died of boredom waiting for a selection, the season total would have been one, and a losing one at that.

There was value backing Overs on high totals, which is logical given that most casual bettors may not be aware of the reasons why they are seeing higher totals, and back the Unders thinking they are getting one over on the sportsbooks. It's not usually that easy.

For the record, backing Overs when the total was 215.5 or higher had a 55.6% strike rate last season. Expect the average totals to increase again this season, and look for profitability on the Overs a little higher than 215.5. 

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