Of the four major sports in the United States, the NBA feels like it has the least amount of parity. The same players and teams seem to go to the NBA Finals every year, so it’s the best sport to throw some money on. Before you jump headfirst into that, you should know how the odds and betting lines work in the NBA.
It’s All About the Game
With 30 teams playing 82 games in a season, there is no shortage of opportunities to add extra incentive to watching a basketball game. Like most leagues, the NBA has five or six elite teams and five or six teams tanking to draft Victor Wembanyama, so there are nights when the results seem obvious. However, anything can happen on any night, especially for a cellar dweller to cover the spread.
The two lines on every sports book’s front page are the spread and the moneyline. The team with a minus (-5.5) is the favorite, while the team with a plus (+5.5) is the underdog. The spread allows bettors to make nearly 1:1 on the money.
What can be infuriating about the spread is that you will lose the bet if the favorites win by only five points. Backdoor covers give gamblers gray hair by the time they reach 40. On the other hand, you just need your pick to win the game when you’re on the moneyline. Without the spread affecting the odds, the moneyline for a -5.5 favorite might be around -200. For every dollar you bet, you’ll win 50 cents back.
Those odds aren’t that enticing as a single bet, so some bettors opt for stacking three-plus massive favorites as a parlay to improve your return. Or you could lay a single stake on the Charlotte Hornets (+300) to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks and win 3:1 on your money from one game.
What Are the Points?
The other figure on the front page of any sportsbook is the point total and whether you feel the final totals between the two teams will be over or under that number. The tricky thing about betting over/under in the NBA is that the total is so high that it can be daunting to figure out the math.
A total of 210 points seems like a lot, but it’s relatively low for a regular-season NBA game. If you don’t have any rooting interest between the two teams playing, wagering on an over/under is a nice way to go. You’re either rooting for nonstop buckets or want to watch two squads build a brick house.
The odds on an over/under is akin to the game’s spread, with it being nearly 1:1 on your money. Although, you can peruse for alternate over/under lines for a bigger payday. For example, going under on an alternate 202-point total on that 210-point line could get you up to 2:1 on your money. So, if you think it’s going to be a defensive struggle, that is one way to go.
Hate the Game, Not the Player
For those who enjoy fantasy sports, player props are the bet for you. The same concept of the game’s total points over/under applies, but this time it’s for individual players. The beauty of basketball is that there are more counting statistics than in other sports. You can bet on several players’ points, rebounds, assists, three-pointers, double-doubles, triple-doubles, and so on.
Player props might be the most predictable of all the bets you can place in an NBA game. A mountain of information available can point you in the right direction. Our NBA sports betting tips will key you in on favorable matchups in every game, highlighting which props have the best probability of cashing. While game results may be random, player performances are reasonably obvious based on the matchup.
Unlock the Combination
One way to place a wager with player props is combinations. Combination bets are ideal for players with a good matchup, but you are unsure if they will meet their expectations in one category. Rather than betting only on LeBron James’ 23.5-point total, you can bet on James’ line of 37.5 points, rebounds, and assists combined. Most sportsbooks offer several combinations, giving you plenty of options if you think a player will go off that night.
You can try other combinations involving the game, including picking a winner and nailing the over/under. Those odds are always lofty and plus-money, so it’s an avenue worth taking if you feel strongly about a game. There might also be game specials with a player’s point totals and a team to win for plus-odds.
Ahh, parlays. The sportsbook’s favorite weapon. We briefly touched on parlays when referencing the moneyline favorites, but let’s delve a little deeper into what they mean and if you should use them. Parlays are an excellent way to improve a payday by stacking multiple results together, assuming the sportsbook allows you to do so.
The catch is that the more you add to your parlay to make it a bigger payday, the less likely you are to win. There’s a reason those odds shoot up dramatically when you put four bets together compared to one, and that’s because it’s difficult to be right about every outcome.
As enticing as it is to see a $10 wager turn into a possible $400 winning ticket, sportsbooks are begging you to bet parlays. The books clean up because parlay bettors whiff and turn their money into mush. Small-stakes bettors can have fun with their parlays and hope to strike gold once to have a bankroll, but you’re betting off steering clear if you’re wagering big bucks.
Look Into Your Magic 8-Ball
The last thing to consider for betting on the NBA is futures. Conference winners, NBA champions, and player awards are good places to place a “set it and forget it” bet. Every line should have plus odds at this time of year, so it could be financially rewarding to sprinkle a little bit of your bankroll on a Jayson Tatum MVP award or Bucks v. Suns NBA Finals. Furthermore, a future bet is fun because it’s something you can track all season; it’s not for those looking for instant gratification.
Hopefully, this guide on how odds and betting lines work in the NBA provides some clarity for betting on the beautiful game of basketball. Pregame is here to help home in on the best bets every day for the rest of the NBA season. Our team of experts will have you feeling like James Naismith with all the winners we will give.