NBA Betting: Public Teams
by Trevor Whenham - 11/19/2008
With the NBA back in full swing, now is a good time to spend a bit of time thinking about public teams. Public teams - those which the public is likely to support regardless of who or how they are playing - are more of a factor in the NBA than they are in some sports because more people take just a passing interest in the NBA than in other sports. That means that people pay attention to the big stars and their teams, but don't necessarily study teams closely.
Dealing with public teams doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, you don't really have to do much other than be aware of them. Here are four good tips for dealing with them:
Pick your spots carefully - When you are considering betting on an obvious public team you have to remember that the line is probably inflated by a point or more. That means that you have to make sure you have a very solid edge before you make your bet. If not then the inflated line will milk the game of its value.
Take a look at the opponents - Public teams generally face inflated lines. That can, in the right situations, provide value on the opponents - if the game is going to be close, the extra point or two on the line could make the difference between a cover and not.
When in doubt, stay away - The public can do wacky thing to lines. That doesn't mean that you should automatically avoid games with public teams. Far from it. It does mean, though, that it is a good idea to pass on the games unless you have a solid opinion one way or the other. Guessing is rarely a good idea in sports betting, but that is especially true when you are dealing with lines impacted by the public.
Don't assume the worst - A team can be a public team and can still be successful ATS. Don't assume anything about a team and how they may perform just because they are obviously a public team.
Here's a look at five teams that the public seems to be fond of so far this year:
Lakers - This one is an automatic - the Lakers are virtually always a public team. It's no surprise this year - they were very good last year, they have the best player in the league, and they are red hot again this year. They have won eight of their first nine games, and they have been favored in seven of those games - all but two road games. They were underdogs at home just four times all of last year, so the public has been consistent in their treatment of the team. There is no reason to think that the public will change their opinion of this team. If they keep scoring and playing defense like they are then they will be able to overcome the public-driven lines fairly regularly.
Celtics - The defending champs were dominant last year, and they are off to the same hot start this year. Obviously, the public is taking notice. You can see the impact of the extra public attention this year. Last year the Celtics were 52-28-2 ATS - the best mark in the league. This year they are off to a very solid 10-2 start, but they are only 5-7 ATS. Boston is going to keep winning barring a major injury, so it will be interesting to see if they continue to underperform ATS compared to last year.
Cavaliers - LeBron James is perhaps the biggest name in the sport. He's been in the media more often recently as his decision about where he will play in the future comes closer to the forefront. The team is off to a very good start, and people are gong to take notice. The team is 9-2, and is so far 8-3 ATS. The public knows that King LeBron is a great player, and they are right. What they might not be as familiar with is that the Cavs aren't exactly the deepest or most talented team in the league. Right now the team is hot and the public is winning. Chances are very good that the public will continue their infatuation with the team. It's less likely that the Cavs will keep rewarding them for their support.
Magic - Dwight Howard has been one of the true stars of this league for a couple of years. He erupted into the public consciousness in the Slam Dunk Contest last year. The Magic had a very good year last year, and they were very strong ATS - second best in the league. The combination of the public affection for Howard, the strong year last year, and the strong start this year (8-3) is turning this team into a public one.
Spurs - This is a case of where the public isn't always up to date with their loyalty. The Spurs have represented the ultimate in reliability over the past several years. They aren't exciting, but they always win, and they always go deep in the playoffs. They have star players who do their jobs, and there rarely seems to be distractions. There is just one problem - they aren't very good ATS. Last year they were just 37-43-2 ATS, and that is not atypical. This year their slow start has compounded the problem - the public has stayed loyal, and they are just 4-6 ATS as a result.