The NBA has created a new pinball machine, and bookmakers are going on tilt. Scoring has surged to record levels the opening week, and the new plasma pop bumpers are spinning out of control as scoring erupts. The first 46 games of the season had 10,162 points scored for an average of 220.9 points per game. Take out the two overtime games on Monday, Oct. 22 and scoring is still averaging 219.7 PPG in regulation.
The record scoring has resulted in 29 OVERS and 17 UNDERS, as the OVER is hitting at a 63% rate thus far.
According to BetLabs and its proprietary sports betting information and database, OVERS in the month of October have been profitable only four times in the past 11 years.
Last season, there were 13 times when a team scored at least 140 points in a game. In the first week of the 2018-19 NBA season, two teams have scored at least 140 points as the Mavericks scored 140 on the Timberwolves and the Pelicans poured in 149 points against Sacramento. The Kings had the lowest season win total of all NBA teams at 25.5, but Sacramento has come out scoring and its defense is dreadful through three games, as the total in the Kings games has gone over in all three games by an average of 36 points per game. Dallas, Minnesota and Utah games are also going over by an average of 30 points per game.
From 2005 through 2015, NBA scoring averaged 99 points per game (PPG). The 2016-17 season saw scoring average 103 PPG and last season scoring averaged 106 PPG, which was the highest since the early 1990s. It appears scoring records will be shattered this season.
The bookmakers are usually quick to adjust to totals, but it still been a struggle trying to figure out the pace, shooting and scoring. Of the 29 games that have gone over the total, 20 of them eclipsed the total by at least 10 points. And 11 of those games went over the total by at least 20 points. On Oct. 22, seven of the nine games had posted totals of at least 224 points. Four of them still went over the total. So even with the adjustment upward on the totals, scoring is still sailing over the adjusted totals and the players are beating the bookmakers early this season when betting overs.
Why the scoring increase?
Rule changes with a point of education and emphasis on buckling down on perimeter contact and less clutch, grab and bumping in the half court are designed to allow more freedom of movement. There has also been more whistles and fouls called inside. New rule changes include:
- The shot clock reset to 14 seconds in offensive rebounding situations, as opposed to 24 seconds in seasons past.
- Simplification of the Clear Path Foul Rule – personal foul against any offensive player during his team’s transition scoring opportunity.
Pace of play is up to an average of more than 105 possessions per game, up from 102 possessions per game the opening week of last season. All of last season saw possessions per game average 100 per game. No team last season averaged more than 105 possessions per game, but this season 18 teams are averaging at least 105 possessions per game.
The Hawks, Kings and Lakers are all averaging at least 110 possessions per game.
Last season, only the Houston Rockets produced more than 36% of its points from 3-pointers. This season, the Bucks and Rockets are scoring more than 40% of its points from long range, and Hawks, Hornets, Jazz and Suns are all greater than 36% scoring from 3-point range.
Through one full week and 46 games, a total of 2,219 fouls have been called for an average of 48.2 fouls per game, up from 39.8 fouls per game last season.
Free throws are averaging more than 51 per game, up from 43.4 last year. And 11 teams are making at least 20 free throws per game, while just one team made at least 20 per game last season.
Five teams, including the world champion Warriors, are shooting at least 49% field goals this early season, and only Golden State hit better than 49% shooting each of the last two seasons.
Will scoring continue at record pace?
There will always be a correction in the market, and bookmakers will adjust and post higher totals. Coaches and teams will make adjustments as well and defensive improvement and efficiency numbers will be something to monitor moving forward. Across the league, 10 of 30 teams are giving up at least 120 points per game. Through the end of play on the first Sunday last season, just two teams were giving up 120 on average. The Denver Nuggets are 3-0 SU/ATS and the only team to allow less than 100 points in all three contests including Sunday’s 100-98 win over Golden State.
Rule changes including shot clot reset are impacting play, pace and tighter calls are resulting in more fouls and free throws. More freedom of movement and increased scoring is what the NBA wants in hopes of providing a more entertaining brand of basketball. Perhaps it’s being overdone in the early season, but scoring is surging and record scoring is inevitable.
You can bet on it.
“Fifty-six and a half is a number a lot of the fans are thinking about right now…” – Al Michaels on Sunday Night Football.
He did it again.
Al Michaels has a long and storied history of acknowledging point spreads and over/unders. He’s even discussed it on Bill Simmons’ podcast. On Sunday night, he struck again.
With just over four minutes remaining in the Chiefs vs. Bengals slaughter, Kansas City elected to go for it on 4th and 4 inside the 10-yard line. They were already up 45-10. If they converted the first or scored a touchdown, the over hits. If they just decided to take the easy points and kick a field goal, the over hits.
Instead, they failed to convert, and every gambler who bet the 56.5 over failed to cash a winner.
Michaels knew this, and as he’s so expert at doing, found a way to work it into the broadcast so there was at least some level of suspense in a game that was decided before halftime.
Al Michaels with the subtle, not so subtle reference to the over/under at 56.5, sorry for those who had the over. pic.twitter.com/xWobM57KQv
— Nelson Rodriguez 🐻 (@NelsonRodrigez) October 22, 2018
Why wouldn’t you talk spreads?
Michaels is almost alone on an island as far as NFL broadcasters who actually understand the gambling component of games.
As we wrote earlier this year, CBS went so far as to ban talk of gambling on their broadcasts (Michaels calls NBC home). This could’ve been, in part, to save their broadcast team the social media ire of flubbing gambling lexicon and general understanding.
However, just because you don’t understand something today doesn’t mean you shouldn’t improve on something for tomorrow.
Michaels obviously understands what he’s talking about and has found ways to weave gambling discussion into broadcasts often when there’s nothing interesting left to cover (Sunday night being a prime example).
We know sports betting in the U.S. is only going to grow and spread over the next decade. Media companies should be embracing gambling talk and education, not running away from it.
Always follow the money
As gambling proliferates state-by-state, gambling advertising will too. From jersey sponsorship, to in-stadia ads, to traditional television spots, viewers are going to very quickly get familiarized with gambling whether they like it or not.
Being able to intelligently discuss odds and lines will be a must.
It goes further than that though.
As cord cutting becomes more prevalent, traditional television advertising becomes less of a revenue stream. Integrating advertising into broadcasts is an obvious natural progression, and sports betting (and to a lesser degree, daily fantasy) are front-runners for monetization.
This stretches past programming and reporting, as we’ve written about previously.
This is about integrating live betting into actual broadcasts where viewers can place a wager in a click or two. There’s a future, probably not that far in the distance, where Michaels not only slyly notes the over-under implications of a decision on the field, but prods the audience to interact with their viewing device to make a bet.
This is a direction horse betting and broadcasting company TVG started exploring almost a decade ago (after being acquired by Betfair). I was part of a team that pitched a number of concepts around this interactive concept.
It behooves sports betting companies to structure their market spends around this sort of interactivity. It can’t just be a blanket branding play anymore. It shouldn’t be. There are significantly more effective means for sports betting entities to spend their advertising dollars.
Take this coming week’s Packers vs. Rams game.
As will be reported ad nauseam, Aaron Rodgers is the biggest regular season underdog of his career against the Rams this Sunday.
This type of story perfectly fits the content distribution model deployed by ESPN, Fox Sports, and others—and would be ideal for activating gamblers.
Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman do their hot take thing, and while live there’s a call-to-action on the TV to wager and direct link to a sponsoring betting site.
That clip is embedded in the ESPN app and website, again with direct links to the sponsoring betting site.
Later, there’s a follow-up story on what the public actually bet. It feeds the news cycle, provides compelling new content, and generates revenue for both the media entity and gambling site.
We all win.
Except for whoever bets against Aaron Rodgers. The chip on that guy’s shoulder…