Thoughts on Advantage Bball Totals

Over the past two nights, we have had two unders survive OT. That is a true sign of being on the correct side. Unfortunately, the Austin Peay/Morehead State game could not survive double OT, but Houston/Golden State still went under by a significant margin despite OT tonight.

Tonight’s total on Houston/Golden State was a whopping 212, indicative of two high-powered offenses that run at a fast pace. I mean, these two offenses are sick, right? Not so fast.

It is a common misconception that Golden State is a high-powered offense. They’re fast, they’re flashy, and the splash bros rain threes, but the team as a whole is actually very middle of the pack when it comes to offense. Pace Factor is defined as “the number of possessions a team uses per game.” At 98.8 this year, Golden State certainly plays fast. But that doesn’t always lead to scoring. Offensive Efficiency is defined as “the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions.” In this metric, Golden State actually ranks middle of the pack, 12th, at 104.2. To best illustrate the example of how pace doesn’t always lead to offense, we can look at the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite ranking 1st in the league by a long shot in pace at 102.5, they rank DEAD LAST in offensive efficiency, at 96.2.

Of course, it’s not as if the Warriors somehow magically became a lot worse at offense from last year with virtually the same team. Their pace last season of 96.8 ranked 4th in the league, and their offensive efficiency was an identical 104.2, good for 10th. And yet somehow, last year if you blindly bet overs on Golden State, you would have gone 46-34-2 for a 12.6% ROI. If you had done the same so far this year, you would be 23-31 for a -18.7% ROI. So what’s changed?

For one, as we see, it’s a complete illusion that Golden State is an offensive juggernaut. They have all the classic qualities of a team that the public loves– fun players, fast pace, west coast– but frankly they are just slightly above average at offense despite going over a ton last year. With the general public inclined to bet over on Golden State totals, Vegas has adjusted the totals upward to attract more even action. This means that there are handful of points of value on the Golden State under on most given nights. Secondly, the addition of Andre Iguodala, one of the very best defenders in the league, has actually made Golden State a TREMENDOUS defensive team. That’s right, the Warriors are far better at DEFENSE than they are at offense! Who knew?

Last season, Golden State had a mediocre defensive efficiency of 102.6, 13th in the NBA. This year, they have improved to 99.4, good for 4th in the league. Once stats are updated following tonight’s game, they will likely jump Oklahoma City for 3rd.

All of this serves to illustrate just how fickle the public can be when attempting to handicap games, and how perception can differ from reality. Remember: Vegas isn’t out there to take sides. They’re out there to set lines for equal action and pocket the juice. If the public thinks Golden State is 5 points better on offense than they really are, that’s getting built into the total… to our advantage. All of these factors have led to Golden State being the 5th most profitable team in all of the NBA to bet unders on this season.

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