Essential Advice for Profitable Betting on the NBA Preseason

By Noah Davis
Published on September 26, 2018
NBA Preseason

It feels like the NBA just left us, but it’s actually already due back in just a matter of days. The return of The Association arrives on Friday, September 28th, when the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets wage war.

The game itself is meaningless and is just one of many in a long string of pointless exhibition contests. Still, there is work to be done as all 30 NBA franchises get ready for the new season, and best of all, sports bettors can make money along the way.

In addition, new coaches are testing out their systems and rotations, while rookies are trying to learn the nuances of the games while also cementing roles.

Some first-year players will have a bigger impact than others, but precisely what type of role they carve out could actually have a huge impact on the 2018-19 NBA betting season.

But let’s first start off with NBA preseason betting.

It’s volatile, a little bit crazy, and certainly out of your control. However, it can be a lot of fun and even quite profitable if you pick the right teams in the right spots.

Of course, that’s always easier said than done.

To get you ready for a (hopefully) successful run through the 2018-19 NBA preseason, let’s go over some keys to profiting in this difficult sports betting genre.

Nobody Knows Anything

I know you came here for expert advice, but nothing is quite more transparent than this: nobody truly knows what to expect in preseason contests.

That branches out to all sports, but with very little under anyone’s control, predicting how NBA preseason games will go is rather difficult.

While very true, that also helps bettors because Vegas isn’t always going to know how to price games. They won’t have all of the information for each game every single night, so that leveled playing field actually can work to your advantage.

You need to do a lot of work to gain leverage in NBA preseason betting, but take solace in the fact that even the best NBA sportsbooks setting the lines probably don’t know much more than you.

What Do Coaches Do?

I think one of the most important aspects of preseason NBA betting is knowing the coaches, their assistants, and how teams in general go about their business.

Here are a few things to consider.

  • Coaching systems, styles, and game-planning
  • Coach intensity and personality
  • Player minutes handling
  • Superstar handling
  • Rookie roles
  • Rest and scheduling

All of these aspects are one-offs to keep in mind in all sports betting circles, but for NBA preseason wagers, they can apply to any given NBA coach as well.

Some coaches like to run their starters into the ground even though it’s the preseason. Tom Thibodeau is notorious for this during the regular season, and that’s something that can leak into preseason play as well.

Others play it safe with their top players and rest them or limit them more than most. Steve Kerr can do this with the Warriors, and that can extend to any teams with star players that spend a lot of time going deep into the playoffs.

There are other coaches who give zero heads up as to what they’re doing with their rosters and/or shake things up more often than bettors would prefer.

In the past, Portland head coach Terry Stotts has been infatuated with being secretive with the status of his players, while Denver’s Michael Malone and others have shaken up rotations and starting lineups seemingly just to mess with everyone.

I’m sure that’s not actually the case, but every coach has a different philosophy and approach, both to games that matter and the ones that don’t.

Learn who the coaches are and what they tend to do during preseason, and that can greatly assist you when it comes to trying to match teams up in order to come away with an accurate pick.

Track Injuries and Starting Lineups

Just as important as paying attention to coach styles and tendencies is keeping track of the actual players. I do think that how the coaches operate has a direct impact on the ultimate status of the players, but they also can work together.

This isn’t just about keeping tabs on players from a day-to-day perspective. You should also note anyone who has had serious injuries in the past, what they did during the offseason, and/or whether or not they had anything from last year that may have bled into training camp.

Gordon Hayward is an obvious name that stands out.

He was badly injured in the first game of the season and didn’t play the rest of the year. The odds are decent that Boston will hold him out at points in the preseason and restrict him even if/when he does suit up.

Injuries aside, there are going to be other periods during the preseason where players get their rest days.

One easy way to get ahead of lineups is to just look at the scheduling. Teams will often rest players at some point during back-to-back sets, and any teams playing in consecutive days during the preseason will be at even greater risk to sit their key players.

It is going to take a lot more research and dedication than normal to actually get good information on player activity during the preseason. However, the harder you work, the better edge you’ll have on Vegas.

What Players Have Something to Prove?

When the top stars are being rested due to scheduling, injury, or something else, it’s up to you to know every narrative floating around the league so that you know which players stand to benefit and how they might perform.

Obviously, a team resting their top players is going to be at a severe disadvantage if they’re facing a team that isn’t doing so. However, if both teams are limiting or sitting their top talents, the next thing to look for are players motivated to prove themselves, secure a roster spot, or even carve out a big role for the upcoming season.

Training camp and preseason exists for refinement and so the NBA can make easy money, but it’s also there for gems to smooth out their game and see if they can’t earn their keep.

This can come in many forms, whether it’s highly-touted rookies, second-round picks, undrafted players, summer league stars, journeyman veterans, or low-level assets acquired in trades.

Remember, the starting five is what you usually lean on during the regular season and the playoffs, but when it comes to preseason NBA betting, you want to know every team’s full roster, front and back.

The better you know every player, the more matchups come into play for NBA preseason wagers.

Knowing the rosters inside out will make it easier to find spots where you can make confident predictions about a game. You’ll uncover more opportunities to get money down when you have a genuine edge over the bookmakers.

Get Social and Proactive

Two tips in one here, as I think being active on social media and also digging deep for player and team research is extremely key in actually winning in NBA preseason betting at a consistent rate.

I’d say that against the spread data really isn’t that prevalent in this betting genre, but there is still a lot that can be taken from coaching tendencies, player drive, and simply being privy to information.

Twitter is probably the best social platform for getting solid insight and current news on players, their narratives, and surprise status changes.

You can’t just blindly accept one or two reports on Twitter, however. Be diligent in fact-checking and don’t rely on any one piece of data to help you come to a conclusion.

Regular-season NBA betting tends to be easier in that regard, but with so many extra variables in NBA preseason wagering, you need to get as much information as possible to help you make an informed decision.

Place Bets Early

Depending on pricing and the news that is available, it can often be profitable to place your wagers well ahead of game time.

Usually, NBA lines come out the night before a game and are adjusted a few times the day of the contest. The night before may be a bit too early in some spots – especially in exhibition games – but once those first full lines are out, you can pounce if you feel you have enough information and can exploit the pricing.

I’d personally only go hard at early lines if odds stood out to me in glaring fashion. However, the closer you get to the game, everyone will be privy to player and team news (especially the bookmakers), so betting on your wager before the lines could potentially move may allow you to maximize your betting value.

Target Underdogs

Another great approach when it comes to preseason NBA betting is simply finding attractive underdogs to go after.

This doesn’t mean to only bet on underdogs or to bet on every upset pick you come across.

Value is something you have to assess on your own, and eventually, you’ll just know it when you see it, but due to the volatility of this betting genre, you do want to give yourself a little wiggle room in the event things don’t shake out as expected.

That’s going to happen a lot, too.

Players will get scratched, minor injuries will end their night, coaches will wave the white flag earlier than usual, and if some really weird stuff pops up, games will be canceled out of nowhere.

Nobody really cares about these guys, and that includes the players and coaches. They’re not going to sacrifice their health, much less any kind of negative impact on the actual season, just to win a meaningless preseason game.

More than just targeting underdogs, though, I’d really temper expectations with favorites and limit my high-level exposure to them.

In regular-season play, my personal limit on betting on a favorite in the NBA is probably around -175. It just really depends who it is, who they’re facing, where they’re at in the schedule, and where they’re playing.

In preseason, I’d cut the favorite’s price down to -150 or lower, and honestly, anything over -125 just doesn’t pop off the board to me.

I want actual value, and as much as I can get it, I want +100 or far better, provided I can really talk myself into it.

I’m NOT just blindly rolling with the Warriors, Rockets, Celtics, and the like during the preseason.

As I’ve mentioned, their top guys can sit out or be limited, so why bet hard on them when I’m not getting them at their very best?

Instead, try to look for reasons to take chances on underdogs.

Don’t build a faulty case just to chase upside, but if you can state your case for an upset pick, and you feel good about it, it’s usually going to be worth a look.

Live NBA Betting

Beyond preparing like crazy for a betting genre that has no mercy on your sports-loving soul, one other way to maximize NBA preseason wagering is to simply wait to bet until after the game actually starts.

Living betting in sports is incredibly underrated and arguably not taken advantage of quite enough. It’s crazy, because the top sports betting sites are adjusting odds on the fly, based largely on how the game is playing out right now.

In a sport like basketball – one full of runs, comebacks, and injuries – live betting allows plenty of opportunities to maximize the benefits from your knowledge and betting style.

The NBA preseason is especially suitable for exploiting the advantages that live betting offers.

Maybe you know that a certain star player won’t be playing in the second half. His team might be up 20, but suddenly the opposition to win (at +250) or to beat a +15 point spread (at +115) looks pretty attractive.

What the edge you have ends up being can fluctuate, and so can how you use it and/or bet with it. But there are so many different variables that go into preseason contests that you can exploit pricing on the fly if you play it just right.

Limit Exposure

Lastly, you should really only bet on NBA preseason games when you feel good about a bet.

Even if you’re confident, all the research checks out, and the odds are impossible to pass up, you still might lose. However, you’ll at least know you went about it logically and liked your wager beforehand.

Don’t just bet for the sake of risking some cash. That’s sports betting advice you can take across all genres, but I’d emphasize it greatly for preseason wagering.

I would suggest limiting your exposure in general, and if you aren’t in love with pricing, just take the night off. Forcing bets of any kind is a bad idea, so make sure the odds call to you and you like the wager before putting your money down.


Ultimately, betting on preseason NBA action is actually pretty simple.

You want to make sure you have even more information than usual, try your best to verify that information, and maximize your value.

That’s really not far off from how you should approach any sports betting genre on a regular basis. However, preseason contests are so tough to predict that not doing your due diligence is just setting yourself up for failure.

One last thing to consider is that every single day of NBA preseason betting is different than the last. The more you’re dealing with unproven players and guys that don’t spend a ton of time playing with each other, the less reliable the overall product is bound to be.

This is why I’d certainly limit my bankroll exposure to this betting genre – especially if you’re new to it.

Essential Advice for Profitable Betting on the NBA Preseason
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Essential Advice for Profitable Betting on the NBA Preseason
Preseason NBA betting isn’t anything like the regular season, and it’s dangerous, but that doesn’t mean you can’t consistently profit from it.
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