How to Bet on NBA Basketball

How to Bet on NBA Basketball

The NBA is one of the most popular sports to wager due to the large number of different betting opportunities, and the colorful personalities actually playing the game obviously do not hurt either. You can even argue that NBA players make a bigger impact on games than athletes in any other major professional team sports. From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Michael Jordan to LeBron James, the different faces of the NBA over the years have made it interesting, whether bettors decided to back or fade their teams. 

One can only imagine how much money Jordan supporters would have made on the Chicago Bulls when they were down 10 points in the final five minutes with in-game wagering. That is when Jordan was always playing his best, at closing time. The same cannot be said of James, who has been more well-known for his well-rounded game and instead shied away from taking big shots throughout his postseason career. Love them or hate them though, bettors have been intrigued by the NBA because of them.  

Players aside, NBA basketball is still a team game, and there are so many different things that can happen over the duration which can affect the final betting result. For example, taking more time on a possession can turn an over to an under on a total bet late in a game. A bad turnover by a reserve on the winning team in a double-digit game can lead to a cover by the underdog. Missed free throws can hurt the total – helping the under – and the point spread both ways, whether you have the favorite or the underdog. Late fouls can also turn an under into an over and help a team cover the spread. 

Again, there are so many factors that can turn the tide of a game for NBA basketball bettors, and those will be discussed in greater detail below in relation to the different wagering options. Referees can even play a vital role in determining how fast or slow a game is played. The number of fouls called can give teams opportunities to score points with the clock stopped in the form of free throws, and then it is just up to the players to make – or miss – them. Those makes or misses can oftentimes be the difference between winning or losing your bets, whether you are wagering on a side or total.

Betting NBA Basketball Point Spreads

Point spreads in NBA basketball can be tricky to bet, especially big favorites. As mentioned earlier, there are so many different things that can happen within a game to affect the spread. Turnovers and free throws are the two most common factors because they either result in additional possessions or potential points scored with the clock stopped, respectively. The last thing you want to see when you are wagering on an 8.5-point favorite that is up 10 points with less than a minute remaining in the game is a reserve player on your team committing a silly turnover or fouling the opposition. 

The bottom line with betting NBA point spreads is that these basketball games are full of many runs, and you want to be on the right side of the last one at the end to cash your bet. Whether you are a favorite or underdog player, you want to back a team that commits few turnovers and shoots a high percentage from the free-throw line. It’s not rocket science, if you like to wager on chalk, your best bet is to take games with smaller point spreads that can be covered more easily where the team will end up beating the number most of the time just by winning. Likewise, you want as many points as you can get with big dogs, who should be more motivated to avoid embarrassment at the end.

Betting NBA Basketball Moneylines

If you do not want to stress about whether your team needs to cover the spread at the end of a basketball game, betting NBA moneylines is a nice alternative instead if you do not mind paying a price on favorites. It is a running joke that all you have to do is watch the last few minutes of an NBA basketball game to find out what happens, and that is especially true from a betting perspective. Most events in a game prior to that tend to be irrelevant with regards to the point spread unless a team jumps out to a huge early lead. Then again, bettors have also seen that no lead is safe in the NBA. Just ask the Houston Rockets after they blew a 39-22 lead after the first quarter during a 115-86 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals.

In that particular case between the Rockets and Warriors, an in-game moneyline wager on the latter would have obviously paid off nicely, although sportsbooks were smart enough not to offer too much value on the eventual NBA champions. But any time you can get plus-money on a great team like the Warriors to simply win straight-up, a sharp handicapper would advise you to take it because it will not happen often. Similar to point spreads, there is always going to be more value on underdogs because of the return. If you were to back Golden State on the moneyline at -500 (bet $500 to win $100), a loss could prove much more costly than if you were to wager on the point spread at -110. And if you take an underdog you think can pull off the upset on the moneyline at +300 (bet $100 to win $300), then the payoff is greater obviously with a victory than a cover.

Betting NBA Basketball Totals

Totals in NBA basketball games are fascinating mainly because the pace and tempo throughout ultimately dictate whether they end up finishing over or under. The speed of the game can slow down dramatically due to injuries, fouls called or coaching moves among other factors. In fact, totals are where referees can affect games the most, as those who call a lot of fouls can help an over cash and those who do not aid an under.

Handicapping teams carefully is the key to winning NBA totals bets though. There are real trends worth betting when teams go hot and score over 100 points multiple games in a row and some when the opposite happens and they go cold. Hot teams likely lead to an over streak happening in their games while cold ones correspond more with the under. Regardless, riding out streaks like that or deciding to fade them when you think they will end can be very profitable. As in most trend betting, timing is everything. 

Betting NBA Basketball Futures

The most common futures bets in NBA basketball involve teams to take home the championship (league, conference and division) along with their respective win totals. But the main difference between team win totals and the other NBA futures is that you wager over or under a number of projected wins set by an oddsmaker similar to a total bet on an individual game with regards to points. Whereas, if you wager on a specific team to win the NBA title, you are essentially getting a ranked moneyline against others.

Very rarely will NBA teams be so good that you have to lay minus-money on them to win it all. The Warriors have come close to that type of number before to win the NBA championship but definitely fit the bill when it comes to the conference and division, where they have been much larger favorites compared to their competition. With win totals, motivation can be a bigger factor, as some teams such as Golden State pace themselves for a postseason run and do not worry as much about the regular season. Many bad teams have also been accused of “tanking” late in the season in order to increase their chances of winning the NBA Draft lottery. So being able to pinpoint which teams might be in that type of position around midseason can help cash under bets. 

Betting NBA Basketball Parlays and Teasers

The betting public loves wagering on parlays and teasers for one reason and one reason only – potentially big payouts. Welcomed by every sportsbook, parlays and teasers are multiple-leg bets involving more than one side and/or total that all need to win together in order to cash the ticket.

In NBA basketball, the wagers that make the most sense are moneyline parlays with big favorites where you can earn close to even money or better if they all win. Teasers with underdogs can be solid bets as well because you get extra points tagged on to the spread. There are also parlay and teaser cards with even better odds, and some where ties win. Whatever type of NBA game bet you decide to place from those mentioned here, just know the odds are stacked against you the most with parlays and teasers.