NBA Betting

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2020 NBA Championship Odds Preview

October has arrived, which means we’re at the nexus of North American sports: All four major professional leagues are in action – five, if you include Major League Soccer. The first preseason NBA game was September 30; the Houston Rockets welcomed the Shanghai Sharks to town and beat them 140-71. But this game doesn’t count in the standings, and it didn’t even pop up on the NBA betting lines at Bovada Sportsbook.

There may be some preseason odds between now and Tuesday, October 22, when the 2019-20 regular season tips off with two big games on TNT: The defending champion Toronto Raptors will host the New Orleans Pelicans at 8 PM ET, then the Los Angeles Clippers will “host” the Los Angeles Lakers at 10:30 PM ET. The NBA lines for those games are already on the board, with Toronto favored by 5.5 and the Clippers laying a single point.



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NBA Odds Breakdown


The Clippers may be slight favorites in their season opener, but it’s a different story on the NBA futures market. Here are the top five title contenders at Bovada as we go to press:

1. Los Angeles Lakers: +300 NBA Odds

The Lakers have been holding steady at +300 throughout the summer, buoyed by the trade that brought Anthony Davis over from the Pelicans. According to LeBron James, the offense will flow through Davis anytime he’s on the floor; head coach Frank Vogel has also been preaching hard-nosed defence during their early practices. However, the Lakers may have to start the regular season without Kyle Kuzma, who’s recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot. One of his potential replacements, Jared Dudley, missed the first two practices in LA with a sore knee, but he’s expected to be fine for the regular season.


2. Los Angeles Clippers: +350 NBA Odds

The NBA Vegas odds have been slightly less bullish on the Clippers, moving them down from +325 to +350 over the past month. Paul George, one of their two big summer acquisitions next to Kawhi Leonard, will reportedly not play until November after having surgery on both of his ailing shoulders. That means he’ll miss at least the first six games of the regular season. Leonard, meanwhile, has been eased into practice; rumor has it the Clippers won’t be as aggressive with “load management” as the Raptors were last year, but for now, Rodney McGruder is getting a lot of practice reps in Leonard’s place.


3. Milwaukee Bucks: +600 NBA Odds

It’s another small step back for the Bucks, who have seen their title odds dip from +500 to +550, and now to +600. They have one fewer obstacle in the Eastern Conference now that Leonard has left the Raptors (+3300), but after what he did to limit Giannis Antetokounmpo during the Eastern finals, every other team in the league is going to try the same thing this year. The reigning league MVP hopes the arrival of 3-point specialist Kyle Korver will help take some of the pressure off. In the meantime, Milwaukee fans are nervous about Antetokounmpo failing to sign a max extension with the Bucks. Is he going to sign with Toronto in 2021?


4. Philadelphia 76ers: +750 NBA Odds

These are the big movers and shakers on the NBA odds board. The Sixers have made the leap over the Rockets into fourth place, shortening their title chances from +850 over the past month. There’s a lot of buzz around Joel Embiid, who came into camp looking about 20 pounds lighter; that should help Embiid stay relatively healthy, after he missed nearly 20 games in each of his two All-Star campaigns. He’ll also be motivated to get Philly into the NBA Finals after Leonard blocked their path last spring.


5. Houston Rockets: +850 NBA Odds

The Rockets are still available at +850, but it might be a while before Harden and Russell Westbrook find the chemistry they’ll need to get past the Los Angeles teams in the Western Conference. Westbrook planned to sit out Houston’s first two preseason games after having his right knee scoped during the offseason. He could be available October 8 when the Rockets play the first of two games against the Raptors in Tokyo; until then, Westbrook is practicing on a limited basis and should be fine for their regular-season opener against the Bucks on October 24 (8 PM ET, TNT).

*Odds as of October 11th, 2019






How to Bet on NBA Basketball: NBA Betting Explained

Basketball just might be the most important sport in the world today. It’s the No. 2 sport in the United States behind football, for now, and it’s turned into a global phenomenon, with hundreds of millions of people playing, watching – and betting. Basketball is very much a growth industry; handle has been increasing steadily by about 6% every year. Naturally, NBA betting represents the largest slice of that pie. The National Basketball Association is the world’s premier basketball league, and as their ratings climb, more and more people are learning how to bet on the NBA.


Now’s your chance to join in. This comprehensive guide will show you how to bet on NBA basketball, from the basic wagers to the more complex lines on the NBA odds board. By following this guide, you’ll be ready to place your basketball bets with confidence at Bovada Sportsbook. Let’s start with the most popular form of NBA basketball betting: the point spread.



NBA Spread Betting – What is a Point Spread?

When people first started betting on sports, it was common to bet on which team would win a game straight-up. But in the 1940s, Charles K. McNeil, a former math teacher in Connecticut, came up with spread betting. By asking the favored team in a game to win by a certain number of points, the bet became closer to a 50/50 coin-flip. This made wagering easier for both bettors and bookmakers – and McNeil would go on to achieve great success at both pursuits.


How do NBA point spreads work?

NBA spread betting has changed very little since McNeil’s time. When you look at the NBA odds board at Bovada Sportsbook, you’ll find betting lines for that day’s scheduled games, with the home team always listed at the bottom. Here’s the line from one of the most famous games in basketball history, Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals:

San Antonio Spurs   +6.5 (–110)
Miami Heat   –6.5 (–110)

LeBron James and the Heat were down 3-2 to San Antonio in their best-of-seven series, but they were still expected to win at home; the negative sign in front of their NBA odds indicates that Miami was the favorite, by 6.5 points in this case. That means they needed to win by more than 6.5 points to beat the spread. The number in parentheses help you determine how much you’d get paid. This game featured the usual –110 for NBA spread betting, so you would have bet $110 to win $100 – smaller and larger bets are allowed. In the end, Miami prevailed 103-100 in overtime after Ray Allen’s clutch game-tying 3 near the end of regulation, but it was the Spurs who covered the spread as 6.5-point underdogs.

If a favorite happens to win by exactly the point spread in an NBA game, the wager is considered a push, and the money that you bet is returned to you. This can only happen when the spread is a “flat” number, meaning a whole number without a “.5” on the end. On rare occasions, when two teams are evenly matched (after considering home-court advantage and other factors), the spread for their game will be zero points. This is called a pick ‘em, and you’ll see “PK” used in place of a number. Whichever team wins this game straight-up will also beat the spread and pay out according to the odds attached. Spreads of 0.5 points are never used in NBA betting.

How does “buying points” work?

If you think the spread is just a little too big, you have the option of lowering it by a half-point – provided the new spread is a flat number. For example, in that epic Game 6, you could have gotten Miami at –6 instead of –6.5. In exchange, you would have bet $120 to win $100. If the Heat had won by exactly six points instead of three, the bet would have resulted in a push instead of a loss, and you would have saved your original wager. Buying points like this can be a good way to hedge your bets, lowering both your risk and your potential reward at the same time.




NBA Moneyline Betting – What is a Moneyline Bet?

While the point spread is the most common way to bet on basketball, betting on the NBA moneyline still does big business. At Bovada, NBA moneyline odds are expressed using the “American odds” format, which looks exactly the same as the odds you see when you bet NBA spreads. Here’s the moneyline for that Spurs-Heat matchup:


San Antonio Spurs   +235
Miami Heat   –275


Once again, the Heat were the home favorites, with the negative sign in front of their odds. Since there was no spread to overcome, a $275 bet on Miami would have paid out $100 after they won straight-up in overtime. The Spurs were the underdogs, and would have paid $235 for every $100 wagered had Ray Allen missed that 3-pointer. As long as you don’t mind a little math, NBA moneyline betting can be both fun and profitable – and Bovada will calculate the payouts for you automatically when you fill out your Bet Slip.

Bettors like to use the term cents when dealing with moneylines. The odds you see above are an example of a 40-cent line (275 minus 235); in games with smaller favorites, you might see a 20-cent line, with one team priced at –125 and the other at +105. At Bovada, you’ll only find the moneyline offered in NBA games where the spread is 15 points or lower.

NBA Totals (Over/Under) Betting – What is a Total Bet?

Instead of betting on which team will win, you can bet on whether the two teams will combine to score Over or Under a certain number of points, known as the total. Betting on NBA totals is becoming more and more popular; the Over tends to draw more action, since people like to see high-scoring games and tend to bet on the outcomes they want to happen. This was the total for Game 6 between San Antonio and Miami:

San Antonio Spurs   191.5 (–110)o
Miami Heat   191.5 (–110)u

It’s standard procedure in NBA total betting for the Over to be listed on the top; at Bovada, we provide the lowercase “o” next to our NBA totals, as well as the lowercase “u” for the Under. The total is always the same on the top and the bottom, but occasionally, there might be more juice on one side than the other – you can see the odds listed next to the total, which was 191.5 points for this game. They needed overtime to do it, but the Spurs and Heat went Over the posted total by scoring a combined 203 points, including 13 in the extra frame.

As with point spreads, if the two teams combine to score exactly the number of points in the posted total, the bet is a push and all monies are returned. Pushes against the total are rare events in the NBA, since each team will score around 100 points per game in increments of one, two and three.

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NBA Futures Betting – What is a Futures Bet?

The three NBA wagers we’ve mentioned thus far – point spread, moneyline and total – all fall under game lines. Now, we'll discuss the other bet types, starting with the very popular futures bet. This is when you bet on the outcome of an event that will be decided sometime in the future, like who will win the NBA championship. You can also bet on who will win the Eastern and Western Conferences (i.e., which two teams will reach the NBA Finals), and who will win each of the league’s six divisions.


You’ll find NBA futures odds throughout the year at Bovada Sportsbook, giving you the opportunity to bet on basketball anytime you like. Betting on NBA futures is done using American odds, with every team given at least some chance heading into the regular season. The odds will adjust depending on how the teams perform; once a team is eliminated from contention, it will be taken off the futures market. The Miami Heat were the defending champions in 2012-13, and during the preseason, they were available at +185 to retain their title, while the Spurs were further down the NBA futures list at +1550.



NBA Prop Betting – What is a Prop Bet?

Proposition bets have been around since ancient times. If you bet someone $100 that they can’t drink a gallon of milk in one sitting, that’s a prop bet. When it comes to sports betting, you’ll wager on whether or not something will happen during the course of a game – or a season. These props became common in sports betting during the early days of professional baseball, and are now incredibly popular across all sports, including the NBA. You’ll find NBA prop bets under several possible categories at Bovada:


NBA Game Props

These props cover potential outcomes regarding the game itself, like whether or not it will go into overtime, what the winning margin will be, or which of the two teams will be the first to reach 10 points.


NBA Player Props

This is where you bet on player-specific outcomes, like whether LeBron James will score Over or Under a certain number of points during a game.


NBA Team Props

Will the San Antonio Spurs go Over or Under 20 made 3-pointers? What pick will the Sacramento Kings end up with at the NBA Draft Lottery? If a prop bet involves an outcome for a specific team, you’ll find it here. The most popular NBA team props are the regular-season win totals for each club, which are posted every year before the preseason gets underway.


NBA Season Props

With NBA season props, you’re betting on outcomes specific to the season in question, like who will win that year’s NBA Most Valuable Player award, or who will be named NBA Rookie of the Year.


NBA Specials

Any NBA prop bet that doesn’t fit neatly into the above categories can end up here. These specials are common during the NBA Draft, where you can bet on which player will be selected first overall, or which draft position a certain player will land at.



NBA Parlay Betting – What is a Parlay Bet?

If you’re making multiple NBA bets at once, instead of treating them as separate wagers, you can “let it ride” by putting all those bets in a parlay, and get paid exponentially bigger if you get all your picks right. NBA parlays are like winning the lottery (but much easier); if you put 12 “teams” (these can be totals as well as teams; some props and futures can also be used) in a parlay and they all hit, you’ll win over 2,300 times your original bet – up to a maximum of $100,000. But if you get even a single pick wrong, you’ll lose the wager. It’s the ultimate risk/reward bet at Bovada Sportsbook.


How Do NBA Parlays Work?

After adding between two and 12 NBA lines to your Bet Slip, select “Parlay” to combine your bets. If you wish to buy points on any of your lines, you can do so; then enter the amount of your wager. Your potential payout will be calculated for you. If you wish to remove any teams from your parlay, click or tap on the “X” beside that selection. Click or tap “Review Bets” to view your parlay. If you still want to make changes, hit “Edit” to do so, otherwise hit “Place Bets” to receive confirmation.



NBA Teaser Betting – What is a Teaser Bet?

Instead of buying half a point to change the spread on an NBA betting line, what if you could buy up to six points? And what if you could do that for every line in your parlay? That’s what NBA teasers are all about. Your potential payout will be lower, and you’re limited to a maximum of 10 teams instead of 12, using only point spreads and/or totals. In exchange, your bet will be much more likely to pay out.


NBA Teaser Betting Explained

With standard NBA teasers, you can move the lines by four, 4.5, five or six points each. The more points you tease by, the lower your potential payout. For example, let’s say you wanted to bet the following 2-team parlay for Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals:

Miami Heat –6.5
Over 191.5

By placing a 2-team teaser instead, and moving the lines by four points, you would have ended up with the following combo bet:

Miami Heat –2.5
Over 187.5

Unlike the original parlay, this NBA teaser would have paid out after Miami won by three points. And it would have paid out at even money instead of the standard 2.645-to-1 for a 2-team parlay. If you want to move the lines even more, you can place sweetheart teasers instead. NBA sweetheart teasers must contain at least three teams, and you can tease by any flat number of points between seven and 13. However, as the points go up, so does the number of teams you must include in your teaser. You can view all the rules, parameters and payouts by visiting the Help section at Bovada.

NBA Live Betting – How to Bet Live on NBA Basketball

Last, but by no means least, we come to the most exciting way to bet: live betting on the NBA, where you can bet on the game while it's in progress. Point spread, moneyline and total odds are updated in real time, and other bets will be offered, like whether the next shot will be made or missed. This feature has only been around a short time, but it’s already taking over sports betting – especially when you use your mobile device and bet live from anywhere you happen to be, even while you’re at the arena watching the game in person.

All this and more is waiting for you at Bovada Sportsbook. With this guide, you are now up to speed on all the different ways you can bet on the NBA, from game lines (point spread, moneyline and total) to the more complex wagers like NBA team props and teasers. If you haven’t done so already, create an account at Bovada and get in on the action; you can check out our Sports FAQ and Help sections for more information, and Customer Service is available for you 24/7. See you on the court.

Bet on the NBA Finals at Bovada.