In terms of basketball, the NBA is the top professional league in the United States. It has held its prominence through the decades with massive stars like John Stockton, Magic Johnson and of course Michael Jordan. Popular with fans, the sport has also become a preferred choice for bettors with 82 leagues games plus playoffs every season. Without exception, USA sportsbooks will feature betting lines for all competitions in the NBA.
Betting on the NBA can be done confidently in tune with the league’s current characteristics. The NBA as a league today can be defined by high-scoring games, division mismatches and the so-called “super” teams or players. In this guide, we will come to better understand the basics of betting on the NBA, and what to expect when wagering.
Just like many games in the top professional leagues, main betting types in the NBA can be narrowed down to three selections. These are the moneyline, the over/under and bets with the spread. While not the only available types the three listed here are by far the most popular, simple and common bets to make for each game. Therefore, it is important for us to first understand how each of these work.
We begin with totals bets, also called the over/under. Unlike other sports, the over/under on total points is often the main betting line on sportsbooks, not the moneyline. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as the most exciting feature of NBA games is the scoring. The NBA has steadily transitioned away from defensive basketball into a league which most highly values a team’s offensive prowess.
Over/under bets can be placed on the combined total of each team’s final score, or on just one individual teams final score. The former is the most common. Sportsbooks will generate a number for each game which is around what they believe the total will be. There are two options for betting, whether the actual total number of points will be higher (over) or lower (under) than the sportsbook’s number.
We have another simple bet to continue with here. The moneyline bet, a main staple in nearly every competition, is just a bet on which team will win the game. In the NBA, there are no games that finish in a draw, so if we can correctly choose the winning team we will have made a successful wager.
Important to note here: while it does not happen often, there is the possibility of overtime in the NBA if both teams are tied at the end of four quarters. Most sportsbooks will include overtime in the moneyline, but it is necessary to make absolutely sure before betting. If overtime is not included, then there will be three possible outcomes instead of two, making successful bets more difficult.
The point spread rounds out our main three betting lines for NBA games. This is essentially a moneyline bet with one distinct difference. The spread is the number of points that signifies the difference in quality between two teams.
The higher the spread is, the more of a mismatch in quality the two teams are. In order to successfully win a bet on the favorite, the team will need to win the game by a margin higher than the spread number. For the underdog, this team can either lose the game by less than the spread, or win the game outright to cash the bet.
Everything has aligned perfectly with this betting line to turn it into a wildly popular option for US bettors. The wager is simple, if we correctly choose which player will score the first points of the game, it’s a win. This is an exciting, fast-paced betting option that is settled usually within the first minute of an NBA game. Bettors enjoy this line for its high odds, and for at the very least a one in 10 chance to hit.
Futures bets are a long-term investment that come with high odds and a lot of variability. Included in this category are betting lines such as who will win the NBA Championship or which player will be awarded the MVP. Futures are available and can be placed at any time throughout the year, not just during NBA season. The odds for each future bet selection will fluctuate constantly as time goes on with new performances, injuries, trades and plenty of other variables happening over the course of the year.
Today’s NBA can be characterized by a few key factors. Perhaps the most game-changing is the fairly recent introduction of super teams. The NBA is not nearly as competitive as other leagues such as the NFL or NHL. Instead, there will often be a few teams that dominate the league based on its high-profile signings and superstar players.
Today’s game is also more offensively focused than in previous years. Two NBA teams playing each other will average around 220 combined points for each game. Three-point shot specialists and breakaway offensive styles are valuable elements to the NBA of today. When betting on the NBA, being aware of the league’s main characteristics is an important base asset to have.
With only five players on the court at a time for NBA teams, one incredible draft pick or superstar signing can have a major impact on a team’s quality. However, the best teams of the league tend to be consistently at the top throughout each season. In just the last ten years, both the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat have made it to the NBA Finals five times each, with Cleveland also making it four times.
This alone rivals any other league in terms of sheer dominance and means that futures bets will usually have only a few real contenders each season, with much higher odds on the rest of league’s teams. Each division in the NBA has five teams, with a large disparity in records between the top and bottom. Division rivalries comprise of 16 games each season and will often comprise of a clear favorite and underdog, with rare upsets despite the higher motivation for both teams to win.
The NBA has continually set records for its high average game scores in recent years. Offensive power is the most valuable asset for NBA teams with most games being glorified shootouts. It’s not uncommon for both sides in a game to surpass 100 points. Therefore, sportsbooks often set the over/under number in the range of 215-220 points. As a general rule, one high-scoring offensive team can be enough to surpass this number alone.
Even the worst teams in the NBA will manage to hit 100 points a game the majority of the time. Therefore, when betting the over, the pregame focus should be on the favored team, making sure that the proper conditions are set for it to score from 120-135 points. In the event of an overtime, the chance of a bet on the over being successful is close to a guarantee at around a 90% chance.