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.

Article Image

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.

Article Image

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.

Article Image

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.

Article Image

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. He is currently the Social Media Manager for RotoGrinders, ScoresAndOdds, and FantasyLabs. Follow Allan on Twitter – @AllanLemDFS