How to Bet on NBA

How to Read NBA Moneylines:

A moneyline bet involves you picking a team to win the game outright.

This method is the classic standard for entry-level sports wagers, remaining popular for its simplicity in analysis and understanding.

For example, consider a game between the NBA’s most enduring rivalry:

In this scenario, Boston is the favorite (meaning oddsmakers expect the pick to win), while Los Angeles is the underdog. Sportsbooks universally denote the favorites with a minus sign (-) and underdogs with the plus sign (+).

What do the numbers behind the signs mean? Profiting $100 off the Celtics necessitates a $200 bet. A correct bettor wagering $100 on the Celtics earns a payout of $150. The original money is returned in full, in addition to a profit of $50.

Betting on the underdog always pays bette, because the bettor trades a higher chance of losing with a higher return if the less-likely bet pays. In this case, a $100 wager on the Lakers earns  $270 — the $100 returns alongside $170 welcomed with open arms and wallets. 

How to Read NBA Point Spreads

Point spreads offer the ability to bet on a margin of victory, rather than which team will obtain it. Converting our Celtics-Lakers example to a point spread format might see the Celtics at -10. This translates to the Celtics being favored to win the game by 10 points.

Those who bet on the Celtics need the team to win by at least 11 points to win the wager (when a favorite wins by more than the point spread, this is commonly called “covering the spread”).

Conversely, bettors wagering on the Lakers enjoy victory if Los Angeles wins or loses by fewer than 10 points. The results force a push if the Celtics win by 10 points, meaning bettors don’t profit or suffer losses.

These odds attract by typically featuring less juice/vig, which is essentially the cut the sportsbook gets for making a bet and collects on lost wagers. They will often be the same or close to even, barring significant movement.

How to Read NBA Over/Unders or Totals

Scoring became the name of the game when James Naismith hung the first peach basket and will be when the last NBA Championship banner hangs.

Over/under and totals betting keeps the scoring spirit alive. The total, or over/under, is a bet on the combined total score of an NBA game.

For example, oddsmakers set the Lakers/Celtics at 200 points. This means that if the final score exceeds 200 points, the over bet wins. If the final score underperforms the 200-point benchmark, the under wins.

Modern basketball breeds high scores, thanks in part to an increased emphasis on distance shooting at a higher success rate than previous generations, softer defensive rules and a fast pace of play. As such, total odds usually sit at -110 for both options.

A wager of $110 pays $100 in these situations. Speculators anticipating a defensive game typically benefit from betting the under, while shootout hopefuls select the over.

How NBA Prop Bets Work

Star players dominate the NBA landscape where just 10 athletes take the court at any given time and one player can decide the entire possession. The individualistic nature makes prop bets a particularly popular NBA betting option. OddsJam is here to help with our NBA Prop Betting Guide, everything you need to know in one place.

Player props behave similarly to total bets. Prop bet participants wager whether or not a certain player’s statistic of choice is over or under a certain number. Prop bets entice NBA watchers who may not care about either team’s success but enjoy the style of a particular star.

The typical wagers follow the five major statistical categories of points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

A basketball player scores points when a basket is made, a goaltend/defensive interference is called or a free throw is made.

A player secures a rebound when they grabs the ball on a missed shot attempt before anyone else clears it. The NBA considers an assist credited to a player tossing the last pass leading directly to a field goal, only if the player scoring the goal responds by demonstrating immediate reaction to the basket, which is generally about two steps before a shot attempt.

A block happens when a defensive player legally swats a shot attempt without a foul or goaltend being called. A steal occurs when a defensive player legally takes possession of the ball before a shot attempt during an offensive possession. 

Point guards traditionally garner the most assists, while power forwards and centers leverage their superior size to dominate rebound and block categories. That said, modern basketball strays from the rigidness of traditional position roles.

In fact, numerous teams prefer guards or quick forwards to grab rebounds to initiate a speed advantage on fast breaks. Scoring prowess varies, largely depending on player usage, team structure, and coaching systems.

Due to the NBA’s rapid flight toward position-less basketball, many sportsbooks combine statistics into one prop bet. For instance, one might see a line of combined points and assists for LeBron James at 35.

This means James needs his combined points and assists to exceed 35 for someone betting the over to win. He certainly doesn’t need to hit this mark in both categories (he could theoretically have 36 points and zero assists, or 25 assists and just 11 points).

How NBA Futures Bets Work

Futures” represents the operative word for futures bets. Futures bettors need their crystal ball to figure out who will ball well enough to make the season-long bet pay off.

These bets carry tremendous risk due to injuries, trades and other unforeseen circumstances derailing an individual or team’s season (season-long slumps are less rare in the NBA than in other major leagues).

Moreover, anyone playing for the 30 NBA teams who overtakes the player wagered on sinks the bet (the same holds true for team bets). Future bets make up for stability in fun speculation throughout an entire season while providing strong return values, due to the unlikely nature of paying off. 

Examples of NBA futures bets include on a team to win the NBA Finals, or a division or conference. Individual player options include  MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year. Futures bets extend to statistical leaders — such as wagering on who wins the scoring title — as well. 

OddsJam NBA Betting Guidelines and Resources

Expert Picks

We equip our readers for enduring success with free predictions and analyses for daily NBA games throughout the whole NBA season. We deliver profitable advice that a mother or anyone else could love, even on Mother’s Day!

We assist long-term bettors as well with futures forecasts that are more accurate than the consensus, as exemplified by our correct warning about the Lakers being fool’s gold at the start of the season, despite being one of the top preseason favorites.

OddsJam’s seasoned staff enjoys years of sustained success navigating the tricky world of sports gambling. 

Public Betting

Public money is the amount of money the majority of people are placing on one side of a bet.

Reverting to the Celtics-Lakers example, if 80% of all bets placed are on the Celtics -10, the public money is on the Celtics. 

The average bettor is not the best one and is often wrong — or else Las Vegas would resemble a ghost town, instead of a glitzy extravaganza.

The bet percentage differs from the overall money percentage. In the above example, maybe 20% of the overall money being wagered might be on the Celtics.

In other words, there are bigger bets placed on the Lakers. The most common betting range online is between $10 and $25. The other most-common wager is simply less than $10. 

Sharps (a term for professional bettors) look for line advantages. Results often stray from where public money is going, making following the herd a bad idea, especially if public money on one side accounts for more than 80%. “Fading the public” refers to betting against the crowd in these scenarios.

Our article covers sharps in more depth. 

OddsJam Projections

Implied probability is a percentage derived by converting the given betting odds that represent the likelihood of that outcome occurring. For a complete look at implied profitability, view our detailed explanation here.

This percentage factors in the bookmaker’s profit margin as well (consider the juice/vig). The three formats that odds are packaged in are American, Decimal and Fractional.

OddsJam has an odds converter calculator that calculates all three major odds formats, including the implied probability of those odds, all within an instant. OddsJam Perfect Line odds are available to our Industry Plan subscribers for a monthly fee that is covered quickly by the 3% daily profits we generate while placing sports bets.

OddsJam’s Reporting Repertoire

  • We provide the most comprehensive and updated odds from the most sportsbooks out there. If you want to place a specific bet, you can use OddsJam’s game pages to find the sportsbook offering you the best odds.
  • OddsJams offers odd breakdowns for all different types of bets you want to make from moneylines and point spreads to player props and alternative markets — make sure you’re using OddsJam to find the sportsbook offering you the best odds on your bet.
  • We’ve thoroughly reviewed nearly every major sportsbook to provide you a complete snapshot of which one offers you the best starting and continuous value as a customer for your specific sports interests and betting needs! 
  • Not in the action, but wondering if you can join? Our sports betting legalization tracker updates viewers on the status of the ever-changing and growing world of legal sports gambling.

Betting Calculators: 

  • Our free play calculator, also known as a free bet conversion calculator, determines the rate at which you can turn a free bet into cash. 
  • Our no vig fair odds calculator is used to back out “fair” odds from a market (meaning no juice). This tool can be used to compare markets and odds, as well as find the implied win percentages for a given team.
  • Our odds converter calculator calculates all three major odds formats, including the implied probability of those odds, all within an instant. 
  • Our parlay calculator determines the final odds, or total payout, of your bet simply by entering each leg of your parlay. Keep in mind that all legs of a parlay must succeed for the bet to pay off. If just one fails, the entire wager loses. 
  • Our vig calculator will show you how much the sportsbook is charging to accept wagers in that market. Odds should be entered in American format. Simply enter the odds for both sides of a wager to determine the juice or “vig” of a given sportsbook. 

Betting Tools:

  • Expected value (or EV) is a statistical calculation that results in the anticipated value of a bet at some point. It does this by taking the probability of a win, times the amount you win, and subtracting the probability you lose times the amount you’ll lose. Our live positive EV betting tool shows positive expected value betting opportunities across all sports sorted by the highest expected profit margin of each bet. It uses the OddsJam Perfect Line as a point of comparison to identify the “fair” or “no-vig” odds and identifies profitable mismatches at other sportsbooks.
  • Sportsbooks all offer many different promotions resulting in free bets and site credits in the form of deposit bonuses. Using OddsJam’s Free Bet Conversion Tool you can convert these free bets and credits directly into cash. To learn more about how exactly this works, read this blog post on free bet conversions. The tool displays betting opportunities for all sports sorted by the percentage of your free bet you can convert to cash.
  • OddsJam also has a Low Hold betting tool that allows you to find bets with low vig. The hold is a measure of the house edge, or vig, on each bet. Bettors can use these bets to bet through minimums on deposit bonuses or matches without having to pay too much in vig. Our live low hold opportunities calculator assists you in taking full advantage.
  • OddsJam also offers live, in-game odds that refresh every single second so you never miss a good betting opportunity, even during live games. OddsJam’s Live Odds Pass gives you positive EV, and middle bets during games to give you more profitable betting opportunities than anywhere else.
  • OddsJam’s Bet Tracker makes it incredibly easy to track your bets as you place them – just click the + button to the left of each betting opportunity and enter your stake and it’s as easy as that.
  • OddsJam’s Bet Tracking tool also automatically tracks the closing line value (or CLV) from the sharpest sportsbook in the world. This will give you an idea of how profitable your bet is by seeing if you beat the closing line (i.e. got better odds). Profitable bettors should aim to beat the closing line more than 50% of the time.

How do I Read NBA Odds?

Sportsbooks universally denote the favorites with a minus sign (-) and underdogs with the plus sign (+). Dollar amounts always refer to how much money needs to be wagered to profit $100 from a favorite, or how much money one wins from betting $100 on an underdog.

Prop bets vary depending on what is being wagered, ranging from bets on statistical category totals for an individual player (i.e., an over/under on Steph Curry’s points) or a team statistic. These can be for a quarter, half or entire game. Futures bets potentially span the entire season.

Where can I Bet on NBA Games?

Professional basketball arguably ranks behind soccer/futbol as the world’s second-most popular global sport. As such, all major sportsbooks accept NBA bets.

What are the most popular NBA teams and who are the most popular NBA players?

The Los Angeles Lakers captivate the public’s attention, due to the team’s major market, enduring success (the Lakers tie the Celtics for most NBA Championships and have appeared in the Finals the most by a wide margin) and consistent star creation for generations.

Lakers’ home games have a long-held status as a star-studded Hollywood hangout frequented by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Snoop Dogg and Adam Sandler.  

Lakers leader LeBron James upholds his durable distinction as the face of the league, frequently leading the NBA in jersey sales and drawing the most social media followers of any American athlete.

Frequently Asked Questions

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