How to Bet on NBA

Alisa Barladyan
30 Mar 2021
How to bet on NBA games
NBA betting

The NBA is gradually winning bettors' hearts in America, growing in fame and acceptance. Regarding the interest in legal sportsbooks, the NBA comes behind the NFL, which is American's favorite. The NBA, which stands for National Basketball Association, is a high-scoring league with numerous diehard supporters. Each team plays 82 games in a regular NBA season amongst 30 teams and the addition of a two-month postseason break.

A total of 1,230 games are played in a regular NBA season from October through June, giving bettors opportunities to place bets on the league. Predicting the outcome of basketball matches might be difficult, just like any other sporting event; however, there are ways bettors can beat the bookies.

As NBA betting continues to grow, bettors are faced with the task of amassing enough information to be able to contend with the bookies. We will be discussing ways by which punters can consistently edge over the oddsmakers.

Bettors and punters are the players placing bets on different sporting events.

Sportsbook is an establishment that creates a betting platform and payout winnings to bettors.

How do you Bet on NBA Games

Bettors can attest to the difficulty in predicting the outcome of sporting events; the NBA is no different. The oddsmakers set their odds so that punters find it difficult to beat to maximize profit. Using betting strategies will allow punters to see bets from a guided lens rather than random guesses. Below are basketball betting strategies bettors must adopt to win consistently:

  • Use your head (Not your heart);
  • Know your NBA History;
  • Research on the current form of teams and injury of players;
  • Get familiar with the markets provided by the sportsbook;
  • Bet Early.
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Use your head (Not your heart)

There is a high chance that bettors would place bets based on their emotions rather than the teams' current form. For example, punters might pick their favorite team to win an event that they have a slight chance of winning on paper.

Some punters may go far as picking a rivalry team to lose just because a loss will favor their favorite team. The first step to becoming a successful punter is putting your emotions aside when placing your bets; forget about your boyhood fantasies and expectations.

As long as your sole purpose for gambling is to make money, not have fun, you have to shut your feelings out. Betting is a serious business done with the head, not the heart.

Know Your NBA History

Bettors should take time to look up how teams have fared in previous matchups and other factors before wagering their money on the sporting event. Several platforms and websites are known for their ability to track all-time statistics and head-to-head records of teams in the NBA, previous NBA standings, and induvial stats of players. However, punters also have to be careful when going back in time to check past teams' records as a team's form has dwindled with time.

For example, the Cavaliers had an upsurge performance in the 2014-2015 season, which was not a perfect reflection of their previous seasons in the NBA; this was hugely credited to the heroics of LeBron James, who joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason.

Some changes like signing new players or a new coach might immediately affect the team's performance, while others might take time to be apparent. It is the work of a punter to study sporting events to beat the bookies despite the inconsistencies of teams.

Research on the Current form of teams and injuries of Players

Bettors must know that injuries to key players on a team might affect their overall performance in sporting events regardless of their current form. Knowing the current form of a team isn't enough to guarantee a win on a sporting event; understanding the reason for a team's current form is essential for a positive outcome.

The certainty of injuries becomes evident throughout the 82-game season, and teams would have to cope with the absence of vital players. Big teams are known to pull through the storm of injuries by the depth in their squad; they have a variety of players for different positions who can serve as a perfect like-for-like replacement for an injured player. On the other hand, average teams suffer the most from besetting injuries due to known reasons.

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Get Familiar with the Markets Provided by the Sportsbooks

Several sportsbooks out there provide a complete fun experience for bettors worldwide. When learning about NBA betting, one of the first things is understanding the various options offered by sportsbooks. The NBA comes in different forms, just like other sporting events, so bettors must familiarize themselves with the different forms of the game.

Bet Early

One of the best ways to beat the bookies on NBA betting is by placing your bets as soon as the markets open. Bookmakers tend to adjust odds based on information received about a sporting event. Early bettors can take advantage of the better odds offered at the opening of markets. Bettors are not competing against the bookies; they compete against the thousands of bettors shaping the markets with their bets.

As the number of bettors who placed a bet on a particular market increases, the odds on that market decreases. For example, a game between LA Lakers and Sacramento Kings at lakers home ground, Staples. Lakers have big names like LeBron James, Anthony Davies, and a host of others; we will likely see the majority of the bettors wager on Lakers winning the tie causing the odds to reduce. Late bettors might see more value backing the underdog Sacramento Kings.

Although there are times when it is advantageous to place your bets late, imagine a bet between Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns at footprint center, home of the Suns. An injury to Warriors' star man Steph Curry and Kevin Durant could slimmer the hopes of a victory. An early bettor could have placed a bet on a victory for the warriors before the information of the injuries in their camp made rounds.

Going into bettors' minds can allow you to read the markets and know the right time to place bets.

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How to Pick NBA Games to Bet on

With over 1,200 games in a regular NBA season, bettors have lots of opportunities to maximize their profits. Beyond making random guesses on sporting events or looking out for enticing odds, here are a few more recommendations that can help you beat the bookies to their game.

Pay Attention to Grudge Matches

Grudge Matches are matches between teams with a track record of antipathy and hatred; elements of revenge fuel it. For example, a sacked coach playing against his former employee for the first time can bring about revenge and heat from both parties; such can be termed a grudge match. A player who recently left a club unhappily would want to prove his worth and pass a message in a matchup against his former team, and that might be enough to drive his team to victory. City, national and continental rivalries can also be termed as grudge matches.

NBA players are humans, not robots, so they are sometimes expected to play clouded by their emotions, which can sometimes be in their team's favor. A perfect example is DeMarcus Cousins, who Sacramento kings sold to the New Orleans Pelicans after, in 2017, he showed the displeasure of his sale in his first match against his former team by inspiring them to victory. Cousins scored 41 points, 23 rebounds, and 6 assists in a 114-106 win over the Kings.

Consider the NBA Fixtures

Tight schedules can have a toll on players' performances in the NBA. As a result, the NBA has tried to minimize the effect of fatigue amongst players due to the condensed fixtures by reducing the number of games played within a short period, eliminating a stretch of four games within five nights.

From the new reduction in back-to-back games, NBA teams will play 13.5 no rest games (second game of back-to-back games); this accounts for 17% of the total games this season. However, the tight schedule is still a topic of concern amongst players and coaches as it affects teams' performances on the court.

Teams like Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, and San Antonio Spurs will be playing eight games within 12 nights. Bettors should consider the congested fixtures in the NBA when placing their bets. Statistics have shown a drastic drop in teams' performances after back-to-back fixtures. Teams show signs of fatigue in both their attacking and defending prowess; the tired legs of players can be the difference between you winning a pile of money or losing it all.

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Consider Travel Distance

The away team's proximity to the match venue can affect their performance on the match day. Some NBA teams would have to travel hundreds of miles across different time zones to get to the venue of the match and still play that same night. The Golden State Warriors top the chart of the most travels in the NBA, closely followed by Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, and Boston Celtics. Indiana Pacers are bottom of the table of most travels in the NBA.

TeamsMiles Travelled
Golden State Warriors53575
Portland Trail Blazers52225
Minnesota Timberwolves51502
San Antonio Spurs50015
Boston Celtics49282
Houston Rockets48566
Sacramento Kings48329
Oklahoma City Thunder48232
Phoenix Suns47033
Los Angeles Clippers46062
Dallas Mavericks45387
Utah Jazz45270
Memphis Grizzlies44951
 Los Angeles Lakers44816
 Denver Nuggets42938

Players who have less distance to travel are spirited and energetic for the next match. A little more freshness in a team over their opponents can be the difference between a win and a loss.

Home Court Advantage

Sporting events favor the home side; it is surprising how much effect the home court has on games in the NBA. According to a survey conducted by ESPN, over 61% of NBA since 1975 have been won by the home side, relegating the away side to less than 40% victory. New studies suggest that the numbers are dropping in favor of the home side. The effect of the home arena on NBA matches cannot be overemphasized.

This fact doesn't mean bettors should go around betting on victory to every home side; 40% is relatively a high percentage to go against. However, the fact means bettors should exercise necessary caution when putting their money on traveling teams.

Live Betting

Live betting is fast becoming one of the most popular markets in sports betting; it gives bettors the chance to place a bet on games that have already begun. Bettors can follow games and place bets according to the game's flow. As a result, bettors can fully capitalize on the volatility and the frequent change in odds of the live match to win big.

Bettors can make use of the following tips in betting on live NBA games:

  • Bet during timeouts, breaks, or stoppages;
  • Capitalize on new information the bookies haven't inputted into their programs and algorithms;
  • Calculate the possessions for live totals;
  • Take advantage of pricing mistakes due to incomplete or wrong data.
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More Betting Advice

We will be discussing a few things that should be on your mind as you place your bets on NBA games.

Consider Coaching Tendencies

You can gain assurance on success on an NBA team by gathering enough facts from players' recent prolific form, but the unpredictability nature of sports can ruin your expectations. You need to consider the influence of the coaching staff and their approach to each game. Wrong tactics or strategies can make a studded team lose to an underdog. NBA coaches are a vital part of the winning equation of NBA teams.

Understand Scoring and Possession Factors

Before placing bets over/under on the total score of an NBA game, crucial statistics should be considered (Over/under betting will be discussed later). First, the estimate of possession a team has had in previous matches. Second, NBA tracks the pace factor of each team across the season.

Another statistic to consider is the team's scoring form. NBA tracks the number of points a team scores per quarter and per game; this includes regulation points and overtime points.

Understand the Story Behind the Numbers

A good form can be a good pointer in picking bets, but it can be misleading if you fail to find the reason behind the numbers. A team scoring over 100 points in their previous two games doesn't guarantee that they will score over 100 points in their next match. So bettors must be willing to go back to check the reason for teams' prolificity.  

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How to Read NBA Odds

The odds in basketball betting are pretty different from soccer and other sports. Although a newbie to basketball betting might find it challenging to understand the odds, spending time with the basic concepts will fill them in no time as it doesn't require complex mathematics. Good knowledge of NBA odds will stop punter's worries on How to bet on NBA finals, How to bet on NBA championships, and How to bet on NBA playoffs.

A minus sign (-) indicates a favorite team, and the decimal number right beside the minus sign represents the points by which that team is favored. A plus sign (+) indicates an underdog, and the number right next to it is the number of points given to it by the oddsmaker.

How to read NBA odds
NBA Odds

Moneyline Bets: Picking a Team to win

This bet is also known as a straight-up bet (SU). This is a simple term used in NBA betting; bettors wager on teams they think will win the game. The money line is an expression of odds widely used in sports betting events globally, but it comes in different names. Straight-up bets on underdogs are considered risky, so they are given bigger odds. Winning bets on such risky games will guarantee you more profit than winning a wager on the favorite side.

Let us consider the example below:

Denver Nuggets-180
Boston Celtics+160

The table above is a perfect example for a newbie who might want to know how to bet money on NBA games. For example, a bettor would need to stake $180 to win $100 when betting on Denver Nuggets. On the other hand, betting on Boston Celtics would give a bettor $160 on a $100 stake.

NBA Point Spread Betting

This is fast becoming one of the most popular betting markets in the NBA because basketball is a high-scoring game. It is a money line wager with an additional degree of difficulty. Rather than just predicting who would win or lose a game, bettors must also predict the point difference between both teams at the end of the game. The image below is a good example.

NBA Point Spread betting odds
Point Spread betting

Toronto is the favorite team to win in this scenario, while Indiana is the underdog. It simply means that a seven-point advantage has been given to Indiana before the commencement of the game. Toronto must win the game by at least 8 points for a bettor to win a bet on them. Sometimes, the spread will be in the form of a decimal, not a whole number like 8.5. You would approximate the spread to the nearest whole number. For example, a spread of 8.5 will mean that the favorite team would win the bet by a margin of 9 or more points.

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NBA Totals: Combined Score betting

On every listed basketball game, you would see a number called "total" right next to the teams' name. The number given by the bookies is a projected combined total score in the game. A bettor can wager on "over" or "under" based on what he thinks the combined score would be. Below is an example.

Combined Score betting Odds of the NBA
NBA Totals Betting

The over/under line is set at 222.5 points. For a bettor to win a bet of over on the match between LA Lakers and Toronto Raptors above, both teams must have a combined total point of at least 223 points. If both teams combine for a total point of less than 223, the under bet would be the right play.

Live Odds

Sportsbooks allow bettors to place bets on games that are already in progress. Bettors can take advantage of the game's volatility and new information unknown to the betting algorithms to wager on games. For example, you can wager on the next team to score or the next team to commit a foul. In-play options disappear quickly as the game progresses, so bettors must make their decisions fast.

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Prop Bets

Prop bets stand for proposition bets. These are bets based on the statistical performance of players and teams; it is not based on the game's outcome like the money line bets, point spread, and over/under bets. Instead, bettors wager is on if a certain occurrence will happen or not during a game. Prop bets can come in the form of the following:

  • How many assists will Chris Paul have?
  • How many rebounds will James Hyden have?
  • How many successful 3-points shots will Steph Curry have?
Prop betting odds for MVP of the season
Prop betting odds

NBA Futures Bet

Future betting in NBA is wagers placed on events that are yet to happen or in the future. A long term decides these events, and outcomes are known at the end of the season or competition—results rather than just after a single game. Oddsmakers release odds before the commencement of the season so that bettors can jump on them early.

Below are examples of Futures bets:

  • Which team will win the NBA league?
  • Who will win the Most Valuable Player of the season?
  • Who will be named rookie of the year?
  • Which two teams will play the final of the playoffs?

Parlays Bets

Parlays hold a special experience in sports betting; it gives bettors the chance to maximize their profit. It is simply the combination of multiple wagers into a single bet slip. Parlays allow you to select different markets of different games in a single ticket. For example, a bettor can combine a selection of money line bets for game A and select over/under bets in one single ticket.

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How to bet on the Money Line?
Money line betting in which you favor a team to win a game outrightly. Oddsmakers give the favorite team a negative number (e.g., 200) to win the game, which means that you have to wager that amount to win 100$.
How do NBA spreads work?
Rather than just picking a team to win or lose, bettors will need to place a bet on the point difference a particular team would win by. For example, if you bet on a team with a point spread of -5.5, it means they must win by at least six points.
Can NBA players bet on games?
NBA players are not permitted to bet on games, tip others to bet, and fix matches.
What are the best ways to bet on basketball?
A big key to winning bets on NBA games is understanding how the odds are made and understanding what they mean. The meaning of different betting markets is discussed in this article.
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