How the lack of fans will impact NBA betting

LeBron James (23) is defended by LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2)
Photo of Matt Wiesenfeld

Matt Wiesenfeld


Show Bio

I have been an active handicapper and content provider covering sports betting for more than a decade. I hail from Canada but am definitely no puck head, preferring to build my bankroll with the NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAAs. Always looking for the underdogs that win outright. They are way more fun to root for too. For Matt Wiesenfeld media enquiries, please email

We are living in unprecedented times. By now I hate reading that and hate writing that even more but when it comes to sports that is probably the most accurate way to describe things. Things are happening now in a way that they have never happened before, it’s that simple.

This article is starting with no fans being at the game but it essentially is about the playing environment. I have tried to list all of the things that are going to be different in the arena and let’s see if we can break them down and find some edges.

No fans – Maybe in a week, or a month this will seem more normal but as I have been watching other sports the only way to describe it is…weird. I think this aspect is going to have the greatest impact on NBA games where fan support can definitely be a factor, especially in the playoffs.  The energy in an arena is palpable and can have simple impacts, like missing free throws, and huge impacts like spurring a home team on a run.

In terms of betting, I think no fans will influence in-game wagering more than the standard pre-game wagering.  Sometimes people are doing in-game wagering algorithmically but there is also an opportunity to read the situation and play accordingly.  For me, a home team with good fans that was down early might have been an easy one to jump on but without that emotional support, I am not expecting those situations to present themselves. Especially in the playoffs.

No home court – This is a bit of an extension of the above but also there will be no comfort advantage for teams, underdogs or favorites, so you can throw out all that stuff about sleeping in your own bed etc. Those things might have been overrated to begin with but they are part of the equation for playing on neutral courts and in a bubble no less.

For betting purposes, the thing to remember is to model your pre-game handicapping appropriately. Hopefully, you can figure out the talent piece but so much of handicapping is situational and home court and travel is definitely a part of that.  To play this factor you might want to focus in on a team or two whose home court is being overrated, or underrated.

No familiarity – Similar to the above there is a connection between these first three factors.  Whenever there is a college hoops game not on campus they like to reference that there can be an adjustment period for the rims, shooting backgrounds, even where the coaches stand.  I think there is going to be a similar effect here.  Sure it is going to be somewhat even for both teams but there has to be something.  More importantly, I am not sure which teams are going to be best prepared to adjust. Will it be the ones with “better coaches”?  The ones with more experienced players? Or will lack of experience be of benefit as it is not far from the gym feel to some of these AAU games.

For college hoops, it is usually recommended to bet first half under as teams adjust to their surroundings over the course of the game.  With pro players obviously being more talented and better equipped they should adjust more quickly but there is still something to be mined there.

New Players – By new players, I am putting it out there that there is going to be playing time distributed to some players who otherwise would not be seeing much action.  Some of that could be due to the virus, players that basically said they are done with the season, some teams having not much to play for, and expanded rosters.  It is really difficult to know what players are going to be on the court and what we can expect from them the way we might under more normal conditions.

The impact of this might be looking more at first-half numbers instead of the whole game and or checking rotation patterns early to see if there is anything that can be gleaned. My general instinct for this one is that scoring is going to take a hit as a result. The best players were already in the league and giving a chance to some new guys is not going to help much.

These are just a few factors to consider as the NBA gets ready to roll again. Someone is going to win some money so it might as well be you. I hope this helps.

Want more expert NBA picks throughout the 2020 season? Make sure to check out our NBA picks page for breakdowns and picks for every regular season game.

Virginia Bonuses

See All
FanDuel Sportsbook
Bet $5+ on Lions vs. Packers and Receive $200 in Bonus Bets!

Sign up for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account

Bet $5 on any sporting event

Receive $200 in Bonus Bets

Must be 21+. First online real money wager only. $10 first deposit required. Bonus issued as non-withdrawable free bets that expire 14 days after receipt. See full terms at Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. 21+
Bet $1 and Get $365 in Bonus Bets!

Register for a new bet365 account

Place qualifying bets of $1 or more

Get $365 in bonus bets - no matter if your bet wins or loses

Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. 21+. Physically present in OH, CO, NJ, VA, IA. Eligibility restrictions apply. Subject to regulatory licensing requirements. Opt-in req. Valid 1 per customer.
Bet $5 on Lions vs. Packers, Get $200 in Bonus Bets Instantly + Up to $150 in No Sweat Bets!

Sign up for a new account with DraftKings Sportsbook and make your first deposit

Bet $5+ on any sports market and get $200 in bonus bets instantly

Plus up to $150 back in bonus bets if your team loses!

Gambling Problem? Call 877-8-HOPENY/text HOPENY (467369) (NY), If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (CO/IL/IN/LA/MD/MI/NJ/PA/TN/WV/WY), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (KS), 888-789-7777/visit (CT), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), or 1-888-532-3500 (VA). 21+ (18+ WY). Physically present in AZ/CO/CT/IL/IN/IA/KS/LA(select parishes)/MD/MI/NJ/NY/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Void in OH/ONT. Eligibility restrictions apply. Valid 1 per new customer. Min. $5 deposit. Min. $5 bet. $200 issued as bonus bets that expire 7 days (168 hours) after being awarded. See terms at
Caesars Sportsbook
$1,000 First Bet on Caesars for Lions vs. Packers!

Sign up for a new Caesars Sportsbook account and Place your 1st wager of $10 or more

Place your first wager of $50 or more and get $50 bonus bet upon settlement of your first wager

You will receive an additional $50 bonus bet each subsequent Monday

21+. New users and first wager only. Must register with eligible promo code. Bet amount of qualifying wager returned only if wager is settled as a loss. Min. bet $50; must be used within 14 days of receipt. See for full terms. Void where prohibited. Know When To Stop Before You Start.® Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER
Get $1,500 Paid Back in Bonus Bets if you Don't Win Your First Bet on Lions vs. Packers!

Register for a new BetMGM account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,500!

Get refunded up to $1,500 in bonus bets if you don't win

Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER CO, IL, IN, LA, MD, MS, NJ, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY, MA 21+ to wager. Please Gamble Responsibly. Call 1-800-NEXT-STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (KS, NV), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA), 1-800-270-7117 for confidential help (MI). Visit for Terms & Conditions. US promotional offers not available in DC, Nevada, New York or Ontario
Bet $50, Get $111 in Fred Bets + Up To $1,000 Back!

Sign up for a new account with Betfred Sports and make your first deposit

Place a $50 wager on any sport

Get $111 in Fred Bets + Up To $1,000 Back in Losses over 5 Week!

Must be 21+. T&Cs apply. Wagers only accepted in CO, AZ, IA, OH, VA, MD. Full terms available from Betfred Sports.
Get Up To $1,000 in Second Chance Bets!

Sign up for a new PointsBet account

If any of your first 10 cash bets lose (first bet per day for 10 days)

You will receive Bonus Bet(s) in the amount of the losing wager(s), up to $100 each.

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. 21+. Physically present in. Eligibility restrictions apply. Subject to regulatory licensing requirements. Opt-in req. Valid 1 per customer.
Get up to $500 Back in Bonus Bets if your First Bet Doesn't Win

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code SPORTS

Make your first deposit & and bet up to $500

If your first bet loses, get up to $500 back in bonus bets

Must be 21+. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF
Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus

Create a new DraftKings Sportsbook account and make your first deposit (min $5)

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.
Underdog Fantasy
First deposit is 100% matched up to $500 with Underdog Fantasy!

Sign up for a new account with Underdog Fantasy

Make your first deposit

Every dollar (up to $500) will be matched! Deposit $25, get $50; deposit $100, get $200, etc

Must be 21+ to play. Terms & conditions apply
By signing up you agree to our terms and privacy policy