How to Bet on the NBA

How to Bet on the NBA

NBA betting is one of the fastest growing forms of sports betting. Betting on the NBA has become much more accessible to the average person as more states legalize gambling and more internet sites offer NBA betting odds. However, the NBA betting universe might feel overwhelming to a novice that can not yet distinguish between a parlay and a futures bet, or know what to calculate NBA betting odds. So, consider this NBA betting guide an explainer for a beginner to NBA betting but it can also be a good resource for experienced NBA bettors.

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?

The most important way to become a successful NBA bettor is to do your research. Before placing a single NBA bet you need to learn everything you possibly can about every team in the sport you are betting on. It is crucial to learn everything you possibly can when it comes to the NBA and then take that knowledge and utilize it when placing bets on the NBA. This means potential bettors would be wise to read up on important basketball metrics such as true shooting percentage, offensive/defensive efficiency, player efficiency ratings, true shooting percentage, and more. You should also use Twitter to track beat writers for all 30 NBA teams plus some of the most prominent national NBA reporters, so you can always keep track of the major NBA headlines and news stories.

What Are the Different Ways to Bet on the NBA?

By a wide margin, the most common NBA bet is the bet on the spread of a specific game. Another popular method is futures betting, which involves wagering on something that will happen in the future, like betting on a team to win the championship in the pre-season. Another NBA betting method is the parlay bet, where you merge two or more different bets together. Prop bets have also become very popular in the world of NBA betting, where you bet on different outcomes within an NBA game, such as: Will Kevin Durant score more or less than 28.5 points and Who will be the leading scorer of the Nets-Cavaliers game?

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, but with the NBA virtually every team has at least one player whose status for the upcoming ranges from probable to doubtful. 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.

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, which makes it harder for a team flying in for a single game to adjust to.

Analyzing a Team’s Schedule

When looking at both team’s records, 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, while their 15-21 Western Conference opponent has played a much tougher schedule. A close loss to a very good team could be a better result than a close win over a poor team, so it is 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, or 50-50 to play, and their status is not known until game time. While the NBA betting odds account for injured players, it often means that a bettor needs to wait until close to tip-off to learn if a certain star player is going to play. 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

One important factor in betting on the NBA is to know which teams are well-rested and which teams are playing the second end of a back-to-back, or are playing their third game in four nights. Teams historically play worse when they play on consecutive nights and often a team will rest an older star player or a player who has recently returned from injury, on the second night when they are playing back-to-back games.

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.

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:
Will Lebron James score more than 24.5 points in his next game?
Will Luke Doncic have more than 9.5 assists against the Rockets?
Will the Spurs score more or less than 54.5 points in the first half?
Who will have more blocks: Myles Turner or Rudy Gobert?
Which player will score the most points during the Clippers-Lakers game?

So, for 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, if George is ultimately the game’s high scorer, you would win $35 in profit, and a total of $45.

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” in NBA betting parlance, 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 different bets, 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 game you bet, or the bet is a loser. Going 11-1 in a twelve team 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.

For example, a person might decide to wager on the San Antonio Spurs to defeat the Phoenix Suns, in a game where the Spurs are -140 favorites AND the person also might decide to bet on the New York Knicks to defeat the Charlotte Hornets as -125 favorites. The way a parlay works is that you can choose not to wager on those two games separately, but rather you can parlay them by placing the bet on both games together. If you bet those two hypothetical games as a parlay, you are increasing the potential amount of money you would earn if both picks are winners. Making two separate $50 bets would earn you $175.71, assuming both teams you bet on won. However, if you combined both games by parlaying them, the amount of money you would win if both of your bets win would be $208.57, a double digit percentage difference in winnings.

NBA Futures and How to Bet Them

For people who want to bet on the NBA twelve months a year, futures bets have become more and more commonplace. By a wide margin the most common of NBA futures bet is for people to bet on the next NBA champion. If you wanted to, the day after one NBA season ends, you could bet on any of the 30 NBA teams to be the winner of the next NBA Finals, or their respective conference or division. You can also place futures bets on award winners, such as betting on who next year’s Rookie of the Year or Defensive Player of the Year would be.

Suppose the Indiana Pacers have +5000 odds of winning the NBA Finals. That means that a one dollar bet on the Pacers winning the NBA Finals would earn you fifty dollars if the Pacers did win the championship. Often, the team most likely to win the next NBA title might have a futures line of about +250 while whichever team is least likely to win the NBA title might have odds of approximately +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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