The NBA is one of the most popular sports leagues around the world. Basketball is as much a universal game as soccer and there are a lot of NBA fans from North America to Australia, from Europe to Asia, and everywhere in between.
In order to place bets on the NBA, and other pro basketball leagues, you have to know what you are looking at and have an understanding of the terminology.
We’ll talk about the different types of betting odds on our ATS odds page and also highlight how to place your wagers.
Each sportsbook will have different options and odds for betting on the NBA. DraftKings, BetMGM, William Hill, PointsBet, and BetRivers are just some of the industry leaders that you can read about here at ATS.
Each state also has different sportsbooks up and running and we encourage you to check out the Sports Betting menu at the top of the page to see what is available in your state or the state closest to you.
Spread betting is the most popular way to bet the NBA and the default setting for our NBA Odds page. A handicap is placed on the “favorite” of an NBA game, which is represented by the minus (-) sign before the spread. The “underdog” is represented by a plus (+) sign before the spread.
If you see a line of -3.5, that means that the favorite is favored by 3.5 points. They will have to win by four or more points to cover the spread. An underdog of +3.5 points will have to lose by three or fewer points or win the game outright.
To figure out who covered the spread, all you have to do is add or subtract the spread, based on whether you bet the favorite or the underdog, and see which team won the game with the adjusted final score. If the adjusted score comes out to be a tie, the bet is graded a “push” and your wager amount is refunded.
Most spreads are going to be -110, which is called the “vigorish” or the “juice”. Without getting into deep detail, the vig makes up the house edge and is also a way for the bookmakers to balance risk on a game. The vig does not always have to be -110, but that is the industry standard.
Similarly, NBA totals have a standard vig of -110, but can vary based on the game and the betting action. With NBA totals, the goal is to bet over or under the total number of points that will be scored based on the final of the game.
For example, a game might have a total of 220. If you add together the total points scored by both teams and it is 221, the game went over the total. If you add together the total points scored by both teams and it is 219, the game went under the total.
If the game lands exactly on 220, the bet is a tie, also known as a “push” and your bet amount is refunded.
Money line betting simply means picking the winner of the game with no handicap. You don’t add or subtract points from the final score. You will, however, see increased vig on the favorite with money line betting and higher underdog odds.
In the above example, a -3.5 favorite might be -160 and the underdog might be +140. With all vig, you have to decide if you want to bet “To Win” or “To Risk”. We have a much more detailed write-up on betting to win and betting to risk, but you can bet something like “To Win $100”, which would be $160 to win $100 if betting the favorite. You can also bet “To Risk $100”, which would be $100 to win $62.50.
The bigger spread, the more the vigorish gets adjusted, so favorites would have a higher minus price and underdogs would have a bigger plus price.
Spread, total, and money line wagering is the most common with the NBA, but you can also bet on props and/or futures. Prop betting means betting on things like Over/Under Points for LeBron James or Over/Under Assists for Luka Doncic.
Futures betting means wagering on something to happen in the future, like the Los Angeles Lakers to win the Western Conference or the Milwaukee Bucks to win the NBA Championship or the Indiana Pacers to win the Central Division.
You can also bet on a combination of prop and futures wagers with things like winner of NBA MVP or the Rookie of the Year. These are technically futures, but some may consider those to be prop bets as well.
Because there are a lot of different outcomes with futures, these often have plus money odds ranging from maybe +125 to as high as +100000 or more. The more unlikely an outcome is to happen, the higher the plus money odds are going to be.