The NBA offers sports fans an excellent range of wagering options over the course of a long and action-packed season. Each team plays 82 regular season games and the playoffs rumble on for months, ensuring that bettors are rarely short of big games to bet on.
Sportsbooks across America have worked hard to cover the NBA in a comprehensive fashion, providing bettors with a number of exciting betting options on every single game. You can also check out futures markets, and many states now permit wagering on college basketball too, so hoops fans are extremely well catered to.
We are here to help you learn how to bet on NBA, so these are the main betting options available to you:
At the start of every season the oddsmakers will weigh up the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team before offering futures odds on it. You will be able to bet on it winning the NBA Championship, winning its conference, reaching the playoffs or winning a certain number of games.
These are known as futures markets. They are long-term wagers that are not necessarily dictated by the outcome of a particular game. The most popular futures wager is on who will win the NBA Championship.
The sportsbooks will analyze how well each team played during the previous season, the draft picks it has secured and the trades it has made, before offering odds on each team winning the NBA Championship. First you will see a favorite and the odds will continue increasing until you get to the rank outsider.
For example, ahead of the 2019-20 NBA season the LA Clippers were installed as the +300 favorite to win the NBA Championship after signing Kawhi Leonard. The LA Lakers were next in the betting at +400 after bringing in Anthony Davis, Danny Green and DeMarcus Cousins to play with LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers were the +50000 outsiders following a spectacular fall from grace.
When you see a plus symbol before a set of odds, it tells you the profit you stand to make by placing a $100 wager. You would make a $300 profit by betting $100 on the Clippers at +300, a $400 profit by betting $100 on the Lakers at +400 and a $50,000 profit by wagering $100 on the Cavs at +50000.
That tells you the sportsbooks though both LA teams had a great chance of success, whereas the Cavs were expected to struggle. You by no means have to bet $100, as that is just a guide. You could bet $15 or $20,000, depending on the size of your bankroll.
Other popular futures betting markets include predicting the winner of the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. You can also bet on the regular season MVP and Rookie of the Year.
The odds on these markets will change as the season wears on. If one team goes on a hot streak, its futures odds would grow smaller, whereas a struggling team’s odds would grow larger, and the same is true for players vying for individual honors.
Before each season, you can also bet on the number of wins each team will secure. You might, for instance, decide to bet on over 46.5 wins for the San Antonio Spurs and under 53.5 wins for the Utah Jazz. You can also bet on each team reaching the playoffs, and there are other interesting futures markets to check out too.
This is a straightforward wager on which team will win a particular game. The sportsbooks will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, taking into account recent results, head-to-heads, injuries, fatigue, motivation levels and so on before assigning odds to them.
You typically get a favorite and an underdog. You might see odds of -250 on the Philadelphia 76ers beating the Boston Celtics, and +188 on a win for the Celtics.
A minus symbol in front of a set of odds tells you how much you need to wager in order to earn a $100 profit. A $250 bet on the Sixers at odds of -250 in this instance would earn you $100 profit if they won the game.
A $20 bet on the 76ers at -250 would earn you an $8 profit, whereas a $20 bet on the Celtics at +188 would earn you a profit of $37.60 if they won. That tells you that the 76ers are the clear favorites.
If more money goes on one team, you will see the odds on it become less attractive, while the odds on the rival team will become more attractive. Sportsbooks try to spread their liability, and they like bettors to wager on both teams in a particular game.
This is the most popular form of NBA wagering. The sportsbooks will give the supposedly stronger team a handicap of a certain amount of points in order to level the playing field for betting purposes.
For instance, in that Philadelphia versus Boston example, you might see the spread line set at 6.5 points. You would then have two options: bet on the 76ers -6.5 or on the Celtics +6.5. You generally see odds of -110 on each outcome, or -105 if the sportsbook offers reduced juice.
If you bet on the 76ers -6.5, they would need to win by seven or more points for your bet to pay off. If Philadelphia won by five points, for example, your bet would be a loser. This makes it harder for you, but you are rewarded by a higher potential payout. At odds of -110, you would make an $18.20 profit from a $20 bet, as opposed to earning $8 by betting on the moneyline.
If you bet on Boston +6.5, it could either win the game or lose by up to six points and your bet would pay out. This makes it easier for you, but you have to accept a smaller potential payout than you would have received by betting on the Celtics on the moneyline.
This is a great option for NBA fans that are unsure which team will cover the spread in a particular game, but they feel like it will either be a high-scoring encounter or a drab, low-scoring contest. The odds compilers will analyze the total number of points typically seen in games featuring either of the teams, and look at their head-to-head records, offensive strengths and defensive capabilities, before setting a total points line.
A typical total points line would be 231.5. You would then generally find odds of -110 on over 231.5 points and -110 on under 231.5 points. You can bet on either outcome, and the cumulative points tally scored by both teams determines the result.
You will sometimes see alternate total points lines too, which skew the odds in different directions. In this example, you might be able to bet on under 221.5 points to earn higher odds, or over 221.5 points to make life easier for yourself in return for lower odds.
Prop bets hone in on a particular event with an NBA game, but they do not necessarily pertain to the result. For example, you can bet on which team will win the first quarter, which team will be the first to 10 points, whether the total points in the second quarter will be odd or even, the winning margin in the third quarter and many more options.
There are also player props, like how many points a particular player will score or how many three-pointers he will manage. There are also some weird and wonderful player props, such as betting on a player to air ball a free throw or a player to pick up a foul for hitting an opponent in the groin. These props can be great fun, but they can also help serious bettors make a profit if use sensibly.
NBA parlays allow hoops fans to combine multiple selections into a single wager in order to gain higher odds. You might bet on the Celtics to cover the spread against the 76ers, the Hornets to cover against the Bills, the Wizards to cover against the Mavericks, the Nuggets to cover against the Trail Blazers and the Nets to cover against the Timberwolves, all in one parlay.
All five selections would have to prove correct in order for your bet to pay off, but if successful you earn a large payout. It would be far higher than the profit you would earn by simply dividing your money into five and backing each outcome individually.
The more legs you add to a parlay, the greater the potential payout you stand to make. You do not have to stick to spreads: you can throw in total points, moneyline bets and props as you seek to compile the ultimate parlay. Check out NBA picks from the experts in order to gain inspiration when putting a parlay together.