NBA Betting is Outlined
There are three main ways to bet on NBA basketball games. The most popular way is by wagering on the point spread. For better odds, handicappers can also bet on the money line, or on the over/under (total). For more information on how to bet on NBA basketball games, please scroll down this page.
* For current odds, visit our NBA Lines page.
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The main advantage of betting on NBA basketball is the ability to compare odds so easily. In a matter of minutes, you can check the lines at several sportsbooks on the web. For this reason, serious handicappers should have accounts at all of the best books.
Point Spread Wagering
The most popular way to bet on NBA games is on the point spread. These are bets on individual games where points are given or taken from the teams involved, in order to encourage even betting on each side.
For example, if the Los Angeles Lakers were playing at home against the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers would be huge favorites. Without a point spread, everyone would bet on the Lakers to win. If the Lakers lost the game, the sportsbook would stand to lose a huge amount of money. So, to encourage bettors to wager on the Kings, people who bet on them are given points as a handicap. So, the game might have a point spread of 8.5, meaning the Lakers would have to win by 9 or more for bets on the Lakers to win. If the Kings lose by 8 or less (or win outright), bets on the Kings would win.
Sportsbooks are looking to make their money on the juice, not the results of the game. Juice, also called vig or vigorish, is the % a sportsbook takes on every bet. For NBA basketball betting, most online sportsbooks take 5-10% as their commission for taking the bet.
Handicappers can also bet on the ‘money line’ where point spreads are not used. Instead, bettors get a much wider range of odds based on how evenly matched the teams are.
For example, if the Washington Wizards were playing the Celtics in Boston, the Celtics would be a huge favorite. Instead of getting -110 odds on either team, you might get -420 on the Celtics, and +380 on the Wizards.
Money line bets are based on the $100 figure, but negative and positive money lines work a bit differently. Bear with me, this is simpler than it sounds.
Negative Money Lines
Negative money lines (-) indicate the favored team. The number after the – is showing the amount of money needed to wager in order to win $100 in profit. As in the example above, with the Celtics at -420, you would need to wager $420 to win $100 in profit, for a total return of $520.
Positive Money Lines
Positive money lines (+) indicate the underdog. The number after the + is showing the amount of money that would be won from a $100 wager. In the example above, the Wizards are +380. So, a $100 wager would give you a $380 profit, and total return of $480.
When betting on the money lines most sportsbooks take a larger cut. Instead of 10% juice, you’re likely to pay 15-20%. The simple explanation for this is because the sportsbooks are protecting themselves in case a large % of the betting is on one team. If 75% of the money is put on one team, and that team wins, the sportsbook has to pay out a lot of winnings. To help cover this, they take a larger %. To be perfectly honest, the percentage you’ll pay at a lot of sportsbooks is bullshit. For that reason, it’s usually smarter to bet the spread and get -105 or -110.
Total (Over/Under) Bets
A total bet, also called over/under, is a wager where you’re betting on the total number of points both teams will score, combined. For example, a total for a Miami Heat vs LA Lakers game might be 202.5. If you bet the ‘over’, you would need the teams to score 203 total points, or more. If you bet the ‘under’, you would need the total combined score to be 202 or less. Most sportsbooks offer -110 odds for total bets, some go as low as -105.
A lot of sportbooks will allow you to bet on team props and player props throughout the NBA season. These types of bets range from how many points, assists or rebounds a player will have in a game to how many rebounds an entire team will collect throughout a game. If you can find mismatches between teams or players then you’ll be able to find value in certain prop bets.
Some sites will allow you to bet on single quarters and halves as well. I like to bet on the second half in the NBA because it gives me a chance to watch the teams before wagering on them. Live betting (during the game) is also available at Bovada.lv on several NBA games every week.
Future are wagers that take an entire season to complete. An example of an NBA futures bet would be what team is going to win this years NBA Championship, Eastern or Western Conferences.
Futures bets offer huge odds before the season starts, and tighten up as the season progresses. Of course, as the season gets longer, the better teams rise to the top of the standings, making these easier to predict.
When making NBA futures bets, always look at a teams roster for injury prone players. A player may be healthy going into the season, but if he’s a great player who seems to be injured for 30 games a season, that’s going to effect the team.
Since futures offer such huge odds before the season starts, it’s not a bad idea to select 2-3 teams for the NBA Championship. For simple explanation, lets assume you’re getting 6:1 on each of three teams, and you bet $20 per team for a total investment of $60. If any of the teams win, you’ll collect $120 in profit on that bet, plus the $20 wager. This is an $80 overall profit.
Parlay betting on NBA basketball games is very popular with casual and professional bettors alike. With so many games every day, a lot of good parlay bets can be put together. Most online sportsbooks accept parlay bets of up to 8-12 teams, and some go up to 20 teams.
Parlay bets (also called accumulator bets) are wagers where multiple teams are selected to win, and combined onto a single ticket. To win an NBA parlay bet, every team on the ticket must win. The benefit of this type of bet is that handicappers can get much greater odds than they can on multiple, single bets. However, they’re also much harder to win.
We recommend that punters keep their parlays under 6 teams, and preferably under four. While they don’t as much as bigger parlays, you’ll win the smaller parlays more often, keeping the bankroll healthy. Also, as more teams are added to a parlay, the more juice a sportsbook will typically take. For more information about parlay odds, and tips for winning them, check out our parlay page.
General NBA Basketball Information
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a professional sport that is primarily played in the United States. There is one team that plays in Canada (Toronto Raptors), but for the most part every game is played in the USA. Every NBA team plays a total of 82 regular season games. Teams are split up into six divisions within two conferences. The NBA conferences are called the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. There are 15 teams in each conference.
NBA Eastern Conference – Divisions & Teams
- Boston Celtics
- New York Knicks
- Philadelphia 76ers
- New Jersey Nets
- Toronto Raptors
- Chicago Bulls
- Indiana Pacers
- Detroit Pistons
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Orlando Magic
- Miami Heat
- Atlanta Hawks
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Washington Wizards
NBA Western Conference – Divisions & Teams
- Utah Jazz
- Denver Nuggets
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Phoenix Suns
- Golden State Warriors
- Sacramento Kings
- Los Angeles Clippers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Dallas Mavericks
- New Orleans Hornets
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Houston Rockets
To clinch a playoff spot in the NBA, teams need to finish in the top 8 in their conference. The top 3 teams from each conference are the teams that finished first in their division. The remaining 5 teams from each conference are the teams with the best records.
The past several years have seen the same few teams make deep runs into the playoffs. However, in this year’s NBA basketball season there should be some new teams coming up. This is due to a lot of players that have recently switched teams.
Regular Season Betting
In the NBA, there are games played every day of the season. This means a lot of betting opportunities. On days where you can’t find any value, take the day off. Don’t bet just because you want to bet. Only bet when you find games where the line looks good to you, offering you attractive odds.
It’s also a good idea to stay away from heavy favorites in the NBA because they often don’t cover the point spread. Part of the reason for this is because sportsbooks often shade the line, adding points to the favored team. They do this because casual handicappers tend to bet more on favorites, regardless of the spread. To even out the betting, they shade the line to make it more attractive for betting on the underdog. Obviously this makes it harder for them to cover the spread. A lot of bettors who will take a team at -10 will also take that team at -11.5.
This can be a great situation for betting on the dogs though, since the line has moved in their favor. Instead of getting 10 points, the dog is now getting 11.5, making it easier for them to cover the spread. Look for betting opportunities like this.