The NBA Finals attract over 7 million viewers in the United States alone, making it one of the country’s most popular sports. Millions of dollars are wagered on every single game of the nail-biting NBA season, with fans, punters, and basketball aficionados lighting-up Las Vegas bookmakers during the 6+ months that span the regular season and the Finals.
If you want to join these bettors, you need to know about NBA odds, and that’s what we’ll look at here. We’re big fans of basketball here at BetzCenter and have no shortage of data and tips to help you make your selections, beginning with this guide.
NBA Betting Markets
A typical NBA game features an array of different betting markets. You can choose to play as few or as many of these as you want, with each market impacting different bets and/or areas of the game.
Some of the most common NBA betting markets include:
The Moneyline is one of the most common bets and it’s also the easiest to understand. When you wager on the Moneyline, you’re betting on the team that you think will win the game. This bet often includes Overtime and only pays if your chosen team wins the match.
The win/lose is all that matters with the Moneyline. There is no Point Spread, no Over/Under, and no Prop Bets getting in the way. If your chosen team wins then you will get the payout – simple as that!
The issue with Moneyline bets is that there is usually a runaway favorite. This is good if you’re betting on outsiders but not so great if you’re betting on favorites.
Take the following as an example:
- Team A -625 (1.16)
- Team B +450 (5.5)
A wager of $100 can win $450 if you bet on Team B, but the same wager on Team A would win just $16. The closer that the game is expected to be, the more likely you are to find balanced odds, but there is usually a clear favorite and it’s very rare to find a balanced Moneyline.
Often known simply as “the spread”, the Point Spread adds a hypothetical handicap to balance the odds. In the above example, for instance, the point spread would look like this:
- Team A -11 -111 (1.9)
- Team B +11 -111 (1.9)
In both cases, a bet of $100 would return a profit of $90.09.
For bet 1, Team A must win by 12 points or more. For bet 2, Team B must win the game or lose by 10 points or less. In the event of an 11 point win for Team A, the bet will “Push”, at which point all stakes are returned.
There is no consolation prize if you bet on the eventual winner but don’t cover the spread, and this is one of the most frustrating things about the Point Spread. If your team is up by 10 points with 20 seconds to go and there is an -11 spread, you’ll be pulling your hair out when they start running down the clock. But that’s how the game works and it’s something you’ll need to deal with quite often as an NBA gambler.
The Totals bet is one of the most popular bets for the neutrals and it’s also one of the easiest to follow. If you can’t decide which team has the edge and you’re not confident enough to bet on the Point Spread or Moneyline, this could be the betting market for you.
Every Over/Under market has a fixed handicap score and you need to bet on whether you think the actual score will be higher or lower. In a game between the Heat and the Raptors, the score might be fixed at 220, in which case it will be displayed as the following two options:
- Over 220.0
- Under 220.0
At the end of the game, the total points are tallied, and the winners are announced. If you bet on the Under and the score is 120 to 99 (219 total) then the bet settles as a win. If you bet on the Over, it’s a loss.
If the game ends at 120 to 100 for a total of 220 points, it ends as a Push and stakes are returned. The betting market will always take into account how free-scoring the two teams are. If the game involves two teams with great offenses, terrible defenses, and some of the game’s best 3-point shooters, the Totals baseline will be much higher than if you were wagering on teams with solid defenses and struggling offenses.
There are over 1,000 games in the NBA season. That’s a lot of action, and you can bet on every single tip-off and basket. But what happens if you’re only interested in the bigger picture—the team that will go all of the way and win everything?
That’s where NBA Futures come in. If you think that the Lakers are going to have another big year and claim the championship title, you can put your money where your mouth is. This is one of the best ways to find long-shot outcomes, and as there are lots of variables at play, even the market leaders have some big odds on their side.
At the time of writing, for instance, the favorites for the upcoming NBA season are priced at a tempting +260 while the team ranked fourth offer odds of nearly +700. It’s not just about teams, either. You can also bet on the player that you think will be voted the MVP at the end of the season, as well as the one that will secure the highest number of points, assists, rebounds, or wins.
A prop or “proposition” bet involves specific events that occur during the game. Many sportsbooks take money on which team wins the tip-off and others allow you to bet on player outcomes such as:
- Will Player X Score Over/Under [spread] Three Points?
- Will Team A/Team B Score First?
- Will Player X Get Over/Under [spread] Assists?
- Will Player X Record a Double-Double Yes/No?
As shown in the examples above, Prop bets have a basic outcome that usually revolves around a “Yes/No” or “Over/Under” outcome. The odds are usually balanced and, in many cases, as with the “Double-Double” example, there is no clear Push.
A parlay is a bet that combines one or more wagers, decreasing the likelihood of a successful outcome and increasing the odds at the same time.
A $100 four-wager parlay of +100, +150, +200, and +250 will return a payout of $5,150 if it is successful.
It’s a great way to turn a small wager into a big win but you won’t get a payout if any of the selections lose. For example, if three of the above bets win but the final one settles as a loss, the entire wager will be lost.
You can typically include any selection of bets in a Parlay but only if those bets are placed on separate games. This means that you can bet on Team A to beat Team B and Team C to beat Team D, but you can’t bet on Team A at -6, -7, and -8 on the Point Spread.
If any of your bets are settled as a “Push”, they will simply be removed from the Parlay and the outcome will be settled based on the remaining selections. It can be frustrating when this happens, but it means that you still benefit from your other selections.
NBA Odds FAQs
Still got some questions about NBA odds? Not sure how certain bets work, need a little more information on Terms and Conditions? Take a look at these FAQs, as we answer the questions that players like you want to know.
Which Bets Should I Place?
It’s entirely up to you! If you need a push in the right direction and are not sure which bets to make, take a look at our Picks.
Many bettors prefer to choose the wagers that appeal to them the most, whether because they want to increase the entertainment factor and gain an added incentive to watch, or because they have a good feeling about things.
Futures are usually a good shout, especially if you’ve been watching the sport for a long-time and have a good idea of how the season will progress, but you’ll need to wait much longer for these bets to settle.
Most US bookmakers offer odds on the NBA, and these span all games and most of the markets outlined above. Take a look at our list of bookmakers to find the best options for betting on the NBA.
Some of the things to consider when choosing a sportsbook include whether it is regulated/legitimate, how many betting markets it offers, and what kind of odds you can get. No two sportsbooks are the same, so pay attention and choose wisely!
How Do I Read American NBA Odds?
NBA odds are listed in the same format as all other odds and are surprisingly easy to understand. Everything has a baseline of $100, and this is where you should start when calculating the return. It doesn’t mean you need to bet $100 or in multiples of $100, it just makes it easy to understand how these odds work.
When you see a “+” (plus) sign, the number shown is the amount that you can win with a $100 bet. If a “-“ (minus) sign is used, it shows the amount you need to stake to win $100.
Take the following as an example:
- Team A -135 (1.74)
- Team B +350 (4.5)
A successful $135 bet on Team A returns a profit of $100; a successful $100 bet on Team B returns a profit of $350.
Outside of the US, this system is often known as American Odds or US Odds. Inside the country, they are known as Moneyline Odds or Vegas Odds.
What Happens if the Line-up Changes?
Imagine the scenario: You’ve made a big bet on the Over Points Total knowing that the league’s best scorer will be lining up and continuing his fine run of form. But just a few hours before the game begins, he twists his ankle during the warm-up and is forced to sit out the game.
What happens now?
Unfortunately, while you might feel like your bet has been voided, it will remain active, you can’t cancel/void it, and there’s very little that you can do about it. You may feel like it’s a little unfair, but the sportsbook is often backed by its extensive Terms and Conditions.
There are exceptions, however. If you bet on a specific player scoring a certain number of points, rebounds, or assists, your bet will be invalidated, and your stake will be returned. If they are injured after the game begins, it’s a different story and you will lose your stake. The same is true for wagers on NBA Futures that are rendered useless due to a long-term injury.
The easiest way to remember all of this is to assume that all bets are final as soon as they are placed, and stakes are only returned at the sportsbook’s discretion.
Conclusion: NBA Odds and Betting
Basketball is a pretty big business. Its richest teams are worth over $4 billion and it generates over $8 billion in total revenue. The bulk of this money comes from ticket sales, TV rights, merchandise, and sponsorships, but it also drives indirect revenue through NBA betting markets.
Huge sums of money are gambled on NBA games every day and it has become a popular pastime everywhere from the US and Canada to the UK and Australia. The ability to bet on these games is a massive driving force between the NBA’s global success and will ensure this game continues to soar in the future.
Now that you know all about NBA odds and betting markets, you can join American and international punters and place a few bets on upcoming NBA games.