Banking On Overtime

Every NBA DFS player has said it or thought it: “If I stack this game and it goes into Overtime, I will make all the money.” And more often than not, the game does not go into Overtime (OT). That led me to ask the following questions:

1. How often does NBA OT actually happen?
2. How many more points are scored in OT games?

I gathered data from the past 3 seasons (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16). My findings are all below, with the most important findings bolded for those who are lazy and just want to skim through. One thing worth mentioning – when I use the term “OT” below, it refers to any game beyond regulation (i.e. OT, 2OT, 3OT, etc.). If you’re curious, only 17% of OT games went beyond a single OT. Let’s dive in!

How often does NBA OT actually happen?

Each season, there are 1,230 NBA games played. I expected the number of OT games to vary widely by season, as OT feels like something you can’t predict. However, if you take a look at the chart below, OT has occurred between 6.2% to 6.4% of NBA games each of the past 3 seasons. In other words, when you stack a game and hope for OT, you’re really hoping for an event that happens about 6.3% of the time.

I was curious how our current 2016-17 NBA season compared. As of 1/31/2017, there have been 44 OT games out of the 729 games played. If you project that out to the full season, it’s roughly 74 OT games out of the 1,230, which is 6.0% (right around the 6.3% average over the past 3 seasons). This is a sample of 4,400+ games we’re using here over 3.5 seasons, so it’s a decent sized sample we’re working with.

How many more points are scored in OT games?

This next question is important to me because if we are going to stack games, I want to quantify the benefits of the extra 5 (or more) minutes. So what I did was calculate the average total score of the OT games, calculate the average total score of the non-OT games, and find the difference. By total score, what I mean is if a game finished with a score of 100-98, the total score is 198.

What we find is in the past 3 seasons, the average OT game had a total score of 221.0 points, while the average non-OT game had a total score of 201.2 points, a difference of 19.8 points. This makes sense – games with an extra 5 or more minutes tend to have higher total scores given that players have more opportunities to make baskets.

So to summarize, we tend to see OT happen around 6% of the time, allowing the game to have about 20 more total points. That’s a huge advantage for DFS players if you’re lucky enough to have stacked an OT game.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@ AllanLemDFS) or leave me a Comment below with any thoughts. I hope this was helpful. Thanks for reading.

About the Author

  • Allan Lem (fathalpert)

  • Allan Lem (aka “fathalpert”) began playing fantasy sports in high school and transitioned to DFS in 2015. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Economics and lives in California with his wife and two kids. Allan got his break in the industry covering Preseason NBA content and has since helped with NBA, Summer League, MLB, and Preseason NFL content as well as overseeing the RotoGrinders blog program. He dreams of winning a big tournament so he can try cashing one of those giant cardboard checks at his local bank. You can follow Allan on Twitter @allanlemdfs.

  • AndyBowsers

    • Blogger of the Month

    A cool follow-up to this would be to investigate what the spreads were in those games. You would think that close spreads would indicate a better chance of a game going to OT, but I bet the numbers would show more randomness than we would want to admit is possible.

  • thunderdan63

    • Blogger of the Month

    I was thinking the same thing as Andy – how often do we stack a game with a spread less than 3 points hoping for OT, and then the damn game with the 11 point spread is the one with the extra period. How often does Vegas miss that badly? Idea for your next article!

  • zeeman21

    Spreads -3 to +3 overtime Jumps up to 8%, this site is a pretty cool gambling site for stats

  • sochoice

    • 2017 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

    • 2017 FanDuel WFFC Champion

    I am totally going to stack games 6% of the time now….. Great article and good insight.

  • EarlJunior56

    I have never bet games before, so I’m not sure what others’ experiences have been, but I have to say I rarely see Vegas get it right this season…it’s like last night’s slate had 4 games, all of which were supposed to be blowouts, and all 4 ended up still being within enough at the end to warrant starters playing til the end…I find that basing my decisions on the spread rarely works out for me, unlike something like pace

    Another curiosity I’ve had about OT and game stacking in general is the optimum amount of players from a game…for instance, is a stack of 6-7 players better, or is more success found when limiting it to 4-5 players from one game…rarely do I see 4 players on one team correlate positively with each other at once

  • fathalpert

    • Moderator

    • Blogger of the Month

    Thanks everyone for reading and the comments. I’m currently working with some data on spreads and blowouts, so that will likely be my next article.

    I’d also like to do more work on stacking if I can gather the right data. Keep the ideas coming if you have topics you’d like to see addressed more in the DFS community.

  • Yeoman

    One thing maybe worth adding is that the these aren’t just five random minutes, they’re prime real estate and minutes/usage goes to the players you’d be likely to have on your roster in the first place. (Not to mention the benefit to stackers that regulation also had no garbage time if the game went OT.)

    Something I’d love to know but don’t know how to find out: how common is stacking? It only makes sense to do this if it’s underdone.


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