bestodds logo

NBA First Basket Case Study


Thomas Snodgrass

Updated: Apr 16, 2024

  • DraftKings logo
    Claim Bet $5 Get $200 Instantly
    Claim Now21+ to wager. Please Gamble Responsibly. Gambling problem? Call 800-GAMBLER, 877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY (467369) (NY), 800-327-5050 (MA), 800-NEXT-STEP (AZ), 800-522-4700 (KS, NV), 800-BETS-OFF (IA), 800-270-7117(MI), 877-718-5543 (NC).

The following article is a first basket betting case study using the data and information available from BestOdds EDGE.

All of the first basket data in this study was collected over the course of 168 NBA games, dating from March 25th through April 14th.

In the development of a potential first basket betting system, first basket bettors must consider two separate yet equally important factors: the NBA players, who make the first baskets; and the sportsbooks, who set the players’ odds.

This is what I found.

Cue the Law & Order sound.

To truly understand the future of first basket betting, I must first look to the past.

First Basket Background

The odds applied to first field goal scorers in the NBA are naturally enticing, with odds ranging from roughly +400 to +1500.

If you were to strip away the odds for all of the 10 NBA players that are on the floor at opening tip, there would be a one-in-10 chance for each player to score the first bucket; a one-in-10 chance would equal out to odds of +900.

Those are some lofty odds, and many bettors might stray away from the opportunity to take a first basket scorer simply because the odds are too great.

As a bettor myself, I would occasionally take a swing on some of these first basket bets with high expected value, usually making selections through some blind intuition or gut feeling.

That turned out to be a bad first basket betting process.

It doesn’t matter if Kawhi Leonard is smiling and sinking three-pointers in the shootaround. That doesn’t make him a great first basket betting option.

I had become a terrible first basket bettor, blindly throwing darts on NBA superstars just to watch my first bucket wager go down in flames when a mid-tier small forward from the opposing team sinks the first shot.

If I wanted to start hitting first basket bets, I had to start ignoring my gut and intuitions and turn to the ruthlessly calculated and unbiased observations of science.

NBA First Basket Betting With BestOdds EDGE

The greatest piece of scientific data available for first basket betting is none other than BestOdds EDGE.

Before I continue, I’ll just say that I was NOT a big fan of first basket betting.

To me, the enticingly high odds felt like Fool’s Gold, even though I would occasionally chase it.

Just as an odds comparison, in Week 7 of the NCAA football season, the Syracuse Orange were +800 to defeat the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles, the Purdue Boilermakers were +650 to defeat the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Arkansas Razorbacks were +800 to defeat the No. 11 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Should any bettor have just thrown a few shekels on those underdogs in hopes of seeing an upset with a lofty return? Considering that all three underdogs lost, that would have been ill-advised.

Odds for NBA players to score the first basket are similar to heavy underdogs and will vary wildly across sportsbooks.

So, why bet on first basket scorers either?

Finding the players who can actually overcome those odds and make the first basket can be difficult, but it’s important to know that some NBA teams and players develop early in-game patterns.

BestOdds EDGE showed me these patterns and more.

From which teams were more likely to win the opening tip, to which players were more likely to take the first shot, to which position on the floor is more likely to score the first basket against a certain team, etc.

With BestOdds EDGE showing me outcomes that were more likely to occur, I was now more likely to win first basket bets.

The days of me looking at first basket betting odds and taking LeBron James to score the first bucket at +700 and yelling “LEBRON JAMES” were over.

I would now develop a strategy using the information from BestOdds EDGE, because betting first baskets actually works when wagers are placed with proper insights and data.

Sifting through BestOdds EDGE’s data on certain contests, I would usually attack games with a lopsided opening tip matchup.

Teams that won the opening tip would score the first basket in about 65% of games, so that seemed like a great place to start.

Something like DeAndre Ayton vs. Domantas Sabonis:

Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings has been awful at the opening tip, so I’ll back the Portland Trail Blazers to gain the first possession.

Then, I would look to see which position on the floor has been typically scoring against the team that is expected to lose the opening tip.

It was clear that whenever Sacramento allowed the first basket, it was most likely to come from a shooting guard (32% of Kings’ opposing first baskets).

The starting shooting guard for Portland in this specific game was Rayan Rupert, whose best odds to score the first basket were a very long +1250 at BetMGM.

Also, BestOdds EDGE showed that Rayan Rupert had taken a few early shots of late, and that his +1250 odds may be worth the wager.

Ultimately, Kings’ forward Harrison Barnes (+850) made the first basket.

Much like any other bet though, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

After pinpointing seemingly fortuitous opening tip matchups and surfing through player data to find the player that I believed would take the first shot, I’d place my wager.

For weeks, I was piecemealing the data and looking for the best possible matchups and coming away with positive, albeit, mixed results. Although, the results were much better than my previous strategy of blindly betting superstar-caliber players.

I noticed that I was still avoiding first basket options that EDGE presented as likely simply because my gut kept telling me things like “Andrew Nembhard isn’t that great”, or “Josh Giddey is no Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the scoring department”.

EDGE helps first basket bettors visualize the variance in first basket betting and see past the superstar names.

BestOdds EDGE pointed me in the direction of selecting San Antonio Spurs’ forward Julian Champagnie at +1400 for the first field goal, and my gut said ‘no’.

But, I backed the data on EDGE and it worked in my favor.

After hitting a bet on Champagnie, I was now up 14 units on just one bet, and it got me thinking: What if I were to place a $10 first basket bet on every contest for the rest of the NBA season using the data found at BestOdds EDGE?

So, I did.

Starting March 25th, I placed a $10 first field goal wager on each NBA contest through the end of the regular season.

On the very first day of this first-basket-betting trial, I placed 11 bets and finished the day 4-5-2.

Here were the first 11 first basket selections and results.

First Basket Picks (March 25th)OddsFirst Basket?Results
Jarrett Allen (CLE)+460Yes+4.6 units
Kristaps Porzingis (BOS)+500Yes+5 units
Donte DiVincenzo (NYK)+750No-1 unit
Nic Claxton (BKN)+550No-1 unit
Bradley Beal (PHX)+800No-1 unit
DeAndre Ayton (POR)+550Void (did not play)N/A
Corey Kispert (WAS)+750Yes+7.5 units
Jaren Jackson Jr. (MEM)+600No-1 unit
Daniel Gafford (DAL)+750No-1 unit
Kelly Oubre (PHI)+700Void (did not play)N/A
Myles Turner (IND)+600Yes+6 units

At the end of day one, I finished up 18.1 units on first basket bets using info I found at BestOdds EDGE.

In total, 168 bets were placed on first basket scorers in this trial, and the final results were interesting.

NBA First Basket Trial Final Results

At the end of my first basket trial, I finished up 9.85 units.

As the graph below illustrates, it was a bumpy ride.

Still, only winning 21 of 168 first basket bets placed and finishing with a positive return on investment is incredible!

Because each first basket wager is essentially a 10-sided bet with long odds, I believed that if I were to place a wager on a large number of contests, I would only need to hit a few and still profit.

Ultimately, this is true.

On March 29th, I only hit one of 12 first basket bets and still profited, with Champagnie of the Spurs sinking the first bucket with +1400 odds.

Thanks again, Champagnie.

With a 14 unit profit from Champagnie, and only 12 total units risked, it was a guaranteed profit regardless of how the other first basket bets fell.

Unfortunately, all of the other 11 bets missed.

The most interesting finding that I took away from this entire NBA first basket betting trial is that whenever the slate of games had 10 or more contests, I could profit much easier by buying into the variance of first basket betting.

From March 25th through the end of the NBA regular season, there were nine days of 10 or more games in the NBA, and here were the first basket betting results for those dates.

DateFirst Basket RecordResults
March 25th4-5-2+18.1 units
March 27th2-10+6.5 units
March 29th1-11+4 units
March 31st0-9-1-9 units
April 5th1-11-4.5 units
April 7th3-10+11 units
April 9th0-14-14 units
April 12th5-8-2+28.25 units
April 14th3-11+7.5 units

In NBA game days with 10 or more matches, using data from BestOdds EDGE, I finished up a whopping 47.85 units on first basket betting!

Interestingly, my win rate on these larger slates was only 10.6%, lower than the 13% win rate of the whole trial, but the winning results were much higher.

Over those nine dates with a larger number of contests, I tallied an average profit of 5.32 units per day.

In the 2023-24 NBA season, there were 45 dates of 10 or more games on the schedule, and theoretically, if I were to place a first basket bet on each one of those contests, I would have won somewhere in the neighborhood of 239.4 units.

This success and new betting strategy doesn’t exist without BestOdds EDGE.


About the author

A fan of both the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, which is rare! Thomas provides sports betting content with the intent to educate and enter...

[Read full bio]