How to Bet on the NBA

How to Bet on the NBA

NBA betting is becoming increasingly popular in the sports betting world. Betting on the NBA is now much more accessible as more states legalize sports betting and more online sportsbooks become operational. However, NBA betting might be overwhelming to a beginner who doesn’t know which bets to make. Consider this NBA betting guide a road map for beginners with valuable information for seasoned bettors as well.

NBA Betting Basics

Not everyone is an experienced sports bettor. That’s what this guide is for. Here you’ll get an overview of the fundamentals involved in betting on the NBA including important factors to know, types of bets, and information regarding odds.

What Do You Need to Know Before Betting on the NBA?

  1. Do your research. Before placing a single NBA bet you need to learn all you can about the teams or players involved in the bet you’re making.
  1. Brush up on important metrics and stats. Potential bettors would be wise to go deeper than basic stats, such as true shooting percentage, offensive/defensive efficiency, player efficiency ratings, and more.
  1. Twitter is your best friend. Through Twitter you can follow NBA beat writers and popular sports bettors so you can always be informed of news and betting trends from around the league. Is a team hot? Is a player hot? What happened last time these teams played each other?

The Best Time to Bet

The best time to bet on an NBA game is usually a few hours before tip-off. In other sports it makes sense to bet on games early in the week. Not so much with the NBA. Every team has at least one player whose status for the is in question, and you need to know exactly who’ll be on the court. In a sport where one star player can impact a line far greater than any other sport, it pays to wait until a few hours before the game to place your bets.

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Home Teams vs. Away Teams

In recent years, home court advantage in the NBA seems to be less relevant than it was in prior eras. The winning percentage for home teams even dipped under 50% during the COVID-19 era of fan-less games. There are a few teams however, that still have a legitimate home court advantage. For example, the Utah Jazz famously have loud fans and the Denver Nuggets play at a higher altitude. Both of these factors make it harder on teams flying in for a single game.

Analyzing a Team’s Schedule

Records aren’t everything. It’s important to know that a team with an 8-4 record is not necessarily better than a 6-6 team. There are plenty of times that a team with an inferior record will be favored over a team ahead of that team in the standings. Perhaps the Eastern Conference team you favor has a 20-16 record but has feasted against other losing teams. Their 15-21 Western Conference opponent could have played much tougher schedule. A close loss to a very good team could be a better result than a close win over a poor team. It’s crucial to analyze each team’s schedule, and see who they have beat and which teams they have lost to.

Tracking Injuries

In the NBA, star players are often questionable, and their status is not known until game time. While the NBA betting odds account for injured players, it means that a bettor needs to wait until close to tip-off to see who’s playing. The fastest way to find out whether a player is sitting out or not is to follow reporters of every team you are considering betting on, in addition to following the national NBA reporters.

Playing Back-To-Backs in the NBA

It’s also important to know how much rest a team has had. Teams occasionally play back-to-back games, but could also have anywhere between one and four days of rest. Teams historically play worse when they play on the second night of a back-to-back. They like to use that time to rest older players or maybe a player who’s recently returned from injury.

Types of NBA Bets

Before you begin wagering on NBA games, it’s crucial to be able to differentiate between the plethora of bets you can make on basketball games every night. What’s the difference between a prop and a parlay? How do you calculate how much money you are set to win if your bet is successful? Let’s go over the six most popular methods of NBA bets.

NBA Spread Betting Explainer

By a wide margin, the most common form of NBA wagers is the bet against the spread. Every NBA game’s spread, or line, is set by various sportsbooks and oddsmakers across the country.. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks are favored by 10 points over the Atlanta Hawks. The line might look like Bucks -10, or Hawks +10. The minus (-) sign refers to the favorite, the plus (+) sign is in reference to the underdog.

So, if you want to place a spread bet on the Bucks, what you are doing is wagering that the Bucks will beat the Hawks by 10 points or more. If the Bucks are victorious, but by less than 10 points, that would be a losing bet. If the Bucks end up beating the Hawks by exactly ten points, that bet is now a push, or a tie, and you would receive your money back.

The spread is essentially stating that the Bucks are 10 points better than the Hawks. Most of the time, a wager against the spread on the favorite or on the underdog will return an identical amount of money. If both the favorite and underdog have identical -110 odds, a $55 wager on either side means that a winning bet stands to earn you $50.

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Betting the Moneyline in the NBA

Another common NBA betting form is the moneyline bet. If you bet the moneyline, you are picking which team will win the game. How much a team wins by or how many total points are scored play no factor in this bet

Let’s make up a hypothetical game, where the Milwaukee Bucks would be favored by 10 points over the Atlanta Hawks. In a game with a 10 point spread, the moneyline odds could have the Bucks as -500 favorites, while the Hawks would be +400 underdogs. What does that mean? If you chose to bet on the Bucks, you would be betting $5 for every $1 you could potentially win.

Because the Bucks are favored by a large margin to win the game, you would only make a modest sum on your initial wager if the Bucks win. For the underdog, the Hawks +400 line means that for every dollar that is bet, a winning bet would earn you four dollars in profit. A primary feature of a moneyline wager is that it can be much more lucrative to bet on underdogs. Simply using the spread, a person would be hoping to win slightly less than 100% profit if the underdog wins. But, with a bet on the moneyline, you could potentially see a return as high as 400 or 500 percent, if the underdog has especially long odds.

What are NBA Prop Bets?

Prop, or proposition, bets are wagers where you bet on events or statistics surrounding a game, but not on the winners or losers or total number of points scored.

On an average NBA night, some prop bets might be:

  1. Lebron James to score more than 24.5 points
  1. Luka Doncic to have more than 9.5 assists
  1. The Spurs to score more or less than 54.5 points in the first half
  1. Who will have more blocks: Myles Turner or Rudy Gobert?
  1. Which player will score the most points during the Clippers-Lakers game?

Here’s a hypothetical prop bet involving the highest scorer in a Lakers-Clippers game. If you bet $10 on Paul George of the Clippers to score the most points in the game at +350 odds and he does, you would win $35 in profit, and a total of $45.

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How Does NBA Over/Under Betting Work?

Over/under betting is another popular type of NBA betting. An over/under bet, which is also frequently called the “total”, asks you to bet on the total number of points that will be scored in one game. So, if the total for a game between the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder game is 220.5 points, a person would wager on the over if they thought 221 or more points would be scored, or they would bet the under if they predicted that there would be a combined total of 220 or fewer total points scored in the game.

The betting odds for NBA over/unders are generally -110, which means that you would be wagering one dollar and ten cents for every dollar that you are trying to win. Occasionally you will see a number other than -110, but the odds generally will not move a great deal in either direction.

If you were wagering on a hypothetical Nuggets-Thunder game, you would be choosing between identical -110 odds for both the over and the under. However, occasionally if enough money has been bet on the over of 220.5 points, the oddsmakers could adjust the over odds to -112, and lower the under odds to -108, with the goal of pushing more bettors to take the under, in order to have a nearly 50-50 split of bets on each number.

Making NBA Parlay Bets

Parlays are wagers that combine at least two, but frequently more than two different bets. There is no limit to the amount of bets that can be parlayed into one large wager. It is important to know, however, that in a parlay you need to win every individual bet you make, or the whole slip is a loser. Going 11-1 in a twelve leg parlay would earn you zero dollars. For example, you could parlay the moneylines of all eight favorites playing on a given NBA night, and while your odds of winning that bet would be long, your potential winnings would be very large, and significantly greater than if you bet all eight games individually. If only one of those teams lost though, you’d lose the whole bet

You can also parlay player props. If the Cavs are playing the 76ers, Donovan Mitchell may have a prop of 25.5 points while Joel Embiid’s could be 30.5. If you think it will a high scoring game and both of them will go over that amount, you can parlay those two bets to win more money. Individually, the Mitchell over could have -110 odds and the Embiid over could be at -120. You’d have to bet $110 and $120 respectively to win $100 on those bets. If you parlayed them though, the odds of both bets winning is +250, meaning you’d get $250 for every $100 you bet.

NBA Futures and How to Bet Them

For people who want to bet on the NBA twelve months a year, futures bets are the answer. The most common of NBA futures bet is betting who will win the Finals. If you wanted to, the day after one NBA season ends, you could start placing future bets. You can bet on any of the 30 NBA teams to win the next NBA Finals, their respective conference or division, or how many games they will win. You can also place individual futures bets on award winners like MVP or Defensive Player of the Year.

Suppose the Indiana Pacers have +5000 odds of winning the NBA Finals. That means that a $100 bet on the Pacers winning the Finals would earn you $5000 if the Pacers won. The team most likely to win the next NBA title usually has a line around +250. The least likely team to win may be set at +50000 or higher.

One major reason why futures betting has increased in popularity is that it presents opportunities to win far larger amounts than a traditional spread or moneyline bet. A wager on the spread of a random Tuesday night NBA game gives you limited earnings potential. Even the largest underdogs of the season may only return about six dollars for every dollar you bet. With futures betting, even some of the leading favorites would provide a larger return than that.

NBA Betting FAQs

Some of the most popular NBA bets include spread bets, futures bets, parlays, prop bets, over/unders, and betting on the moneyline.

These days the most prudent time to bet on an NBA game is a few hours before tip-off so you can have a better idea of which players on the injury report are sitting out and which are playing.

There are nineteen states where you can legally bet on an NBA game. There are four more states, plus Washington D.C., that have legalized NBA betting but do not yet have operational NBA betting yet (those states are North Carolina, the state of Washington, Virginia, and Oklahoma.) 24 more states are on the path to legalization, while only three states have seen no movement towards legal NBA betting. Click here for the full list of states where NBA betting is legal.

When betting on NBA underdogs, taking the moneyline isn’t the best policy to pursue if you want to win. Instead, take advantage of home underdogs and be sure to bet the spread for a better chance of hitting.

Betting on the NBA playoffs is similar to the regular season, only the importance of home court advantage in a best-of-seven series becomes more important. Stick to betting the spread or explore player props.

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