While relatively new in the scope of basketball analytics, the term “pace” is now commonplace in the vernacular of basketball writers, fans, and bettors. Pace is simply a measurement of how fast or slow a team plays in a game. It is most often measured in terms of possessions per 48 minutes.
Teams like Sacramento, Golden State, Boston, and Washington all like to run fast and lead the league this year in pace. Conversely, teams like Utah, Miami, Cleveland, and Memphis are more deliberate and wind up with fewer possessions per game than most other teams.
We just added pace filters to the Bet Labs software so we’ll be exploring the topic in detail in the days and weeks to come. While testing out the new feature, I quickly found a trend for this season that caught my eye. Teams with a slow pace were covering at a high rate against teams with a fast pace.
In this instance I used a pace of 98.0 as the cutoff which is right around average for the league this season. What the image tells you is that betting on teams with an average pace below 98 have covered 58% of their games against teams with a pace of 98 or higher this season. That has produced a profit of $4,896 for a $100 bettor and a 13.5% return on investment.
Let’s take it to a team level and look at the Golden State Warriors. Here is the Warriors’ against the spread results based on the opposing team’s pace:
You’ll notice as the opponent’s pace increases (from left to right) there is a lot more green on the chart and wins against the spread for Golden State. The Warriors are 11-14 ATS against teams with a pace of 97.7 or less and are 19-5 ATS against all other teams.
Now before you get super excited and start throwing your bankroll at this system, let’s take a look at previous seasons’ results as well:
This is the first winning season since 2010-11 which barely eked out a profit of just over one unit in a lockout-shortened season. This clearly looks like an anomaly at first glance. Perhaps there is something more to it than that (The intentional fouling? The stark contrast between team styles now? Teams having more access to tracking data?) but for now, it’s just an interesting trend worth monitoring going forward at this point.
Current Bet Labs members have access to this pace data immediately for spread and moneyline systems for full game, 1st half, and 2nd half systems. If you are interested in creating your own systems with these pace filters, you can try out Bet Labs for 6 days.