Small-Market Teams Dominant ATS In First Quarter Of NBA Season

Jordan Sharp

Thursday, November 29, 2018 7:15 PM UTC

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 7:15 PM UTC

We hear a lot in NBA betting circles about fading big-market and big-money teams. However, does that mean small-market clubs such as Charlotte and Memphis are better bets ATS? The answer this season has been yes.

Small Markets, Big Winnings

There is always a lot of discussion about the small vs. big market trends in the NBA. Do players leave small markets for big markets more often? Are small markets doomed to irrelevance because big-name players won’t sign there? It’s been going on for decades.

However, if you escape from your fandom for a second, there is money to be made on small-market teams this season. It’s been happening more over the last two seasons, and so far this year, small-market teams have been covering spreads at a pretty high clip, especially at home.

Part of the reason is that casual NBA fans or bettors see teams such as the Kings or Hornets and automatically think they are bad. This couldn’t be further from the truth this season.

SB Nation's All That Amar put together a great table a few years back showing median ticket prices over market size ranks for all 30 teams. In 2016 when the article was written, the Magic ranked just inside the top 20 TV markets. They have since risen to 18th behind Denver and just ahead of Cleveland.

If you isolate Orlando and all the markets below it, there are a total of 12 truly small-market cities in the NBA. You could make the argument anything outside of the top 15 is a small market, but that would means cities such as Miami, Denver, and Minneapolis would need to be included, and these are cities that have much bigger metropolitan TV households, and that have been growing at very high rates over the last two years.

As of November 29, which is just past the quarter mark of the season for most teams, these 12 small-market teams were combined 135-113-3 (54.4%) ATS. If you were to bet these 12 teams exclusively, you would have made money this year.

It goes even further when betting them at home. These 12 teams are 71-52-2 (57.6%) ATS when playing at home. The Kings, Hornets, Grizzlies, and Bucks are the main reasons for that this year. Small markets being undervalued plays a role, but it’s also the sportsbooks and general public underestimating them as well. Those four aforementioned teams are 29-12-1 (70.2%) ATS when playing at home this year.

As you probably guessed, the small markets are also close to a lock so far in 2018-19 when playing as home underdogs. The Bucks, Jazz, Pacers, Thunder, Hornets, and Blazers are undefeated ATS when playing as a home dog this season at 9-0, while the Kings are 6-2-1 ATS as a home dog. Overall the 12 small markets are 24-13-1 (64.5%) ATS as home dogs.

[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "

True but it’s different. Small market teams can compete, financially, in the NBA. It’s the players that are shaping the NBA competitive balance, not the financial piece.

— Joe B (@JoeB_inCLE) November 19, 2018
\n\n"}[/]

Taking Advantage

It has not been all roses for small markets this year ATS. Just take a look at the start the Spurs, Jazz, and Cavaliers have had to endure SU and ATS. However, since 2017, three of these 12 small markets have been profitable ATS, and the Kings are almost about to join them if they keep covering the spread this season.

I am much more of a process handicapper than I am a results guy, and while the trend doesn’t have a ton of data, it would not surprise me to see some of these small markets to continue to cash ATS more often than not, especially at home.

That is, unless their hot starts fade and some of them revert to tanking after the All Star break. I’ll follow up on this toward the end of the season to check on our small-market system, to see whether or not these franchises can keep making money for their ATS backers.

comment here