NBA Betting

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2020 NBA Championship Odds Preview

They haven’t even played the All-Star Game yet, but as far as the NBA betting lines are concerned, there are only three teams with a realistic chance of winning the title this year. While that seems a bit harsh, quality teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets have seen their odds take a tumble over the past month. Bettors don’t seem particularly impressed with what either club accomplished ahead of the February 6 trade deadline, either.

At least they’re finally coming around to the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s no longer just a battle between the two Los Angeles teams for NBA Vegas odds supremacy. The Bucks are now right there with the Lakers and Celtics, as they continue to pull away from Philadelphia, Houston and the rest of the pack at Bovada Sportsbook.



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NBA Odds Breakdown

Things have gotten so bad for the Sixers, who have fallen from +850 to +1800 since early January, you won’t even find them on our list of the top five title favorites (including ties) on the NBA lines at Bovada.


1. Los Angeles Lakers: +225 NBA Odds

Although they didn’t make any moves at the deadline, the Lakers (39-12 SU, 26-24-1 ATS at press time) have seen their title odds improve from +275 to +225. They apparently won’t be luring point guard Darren Collison out of retirement, either. Collison reportedly told potential suitors on Sunday that he would stay on the sidelines this year. Can the Lakers sign some other veterans off the street to fill out their bench for the playoffs


2. Milwaukee Bucks: +260 NBA Odds

Given what happened last year, it’s understandable if people were slow to embrace Milwaukee (45-7 SU, 30-22 ATS) and their continued regular-season success. But here they are in second place on the NBA futures market after moving up from +375. And again, that’s without making any trades at the deadline. Depth at every position and good health will give you that luxury. Their one rotation player on the injured list is George Hill (hamstring), and the Bucks are 4-1 SU and ATS since he went on the shelf.


3. Los Angeles Clippers: +300 NBA Odds

It’s a bit odd to see the Clippers (37-16 SU, 29-24 ATS) slip into third place behind Milwaukee, even if they’re holding steady at +300. That’s what happens when you play in the long shadow of LeBron James. Nevertheless, the Clips may have won the trade deadline by acquiring Marcus Morris from the New York Knicks in a three-way deal, sending Maurice Harkless to New York and Jerome Robinson to the Washington Wizards.


4. Houston Rockets: +1400 NBA Odds

It looks like bettors have realized how average Russell Westbrook has been for the Rockets (33-20 SU, 25-28 ATS) this year, even if he was named to the All-Star roster. Houston’s title odds have plummeted from +900, but they hope to turn things around with their new “small ball” approach, which was punctuated when the Rockets sent Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in a four-team trade. Getting Robert Covington from the Minnesota Timberwolves should help Houston’s defense and 3-point shooting, even if he’ll often be the tallest player in the lineup at 6-foot-7.


5. Denver Nuggets: +1600 NBA Odds

The Nuggets (37-16 SU, 25-24-4 ATS) were also part of that mega-deal. They shipped Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez and Jarred Vanderbilt to Minnesota in return for Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier and Noah Vonleh, and also received Gerald Green and a first-round pick in 2020 from Houston – although Green is injured and was summarily put on waivers. Napier was then flipped to Washington in exchange for Jordan McRae. Given their depth, these moves shouldn’t affect Denver’s title chase much, although Vonleh and McRae could give them some useful minutes off the bench.


6. Utah Jazz: +1600 NBA Odds

No changes for the Jazz (34-18 SU, 26-25-1 ATS), but they did make the interesting decision to put Mike Conley back in the starting lineup at point guard. Conley and Donovan Mitchell have not gelled together in Utah’s backcourt; the Jazz had more success after Conley was put on the injured list, and seemed in better shape when Conley was used off the bench when he returned in mid-January. Utah went 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS in their first three games after making the switch.


*Odds as of February 16, 2020


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How to Bet on the NBA

The NBA has made incredible strides over the past 50 years. After struggling to gain a foothold in the North American sports market, the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry captured the world’s attention in the early 1980s. Then Michael Jordan came along to solidify things. Now basketball is second only to football when it comes to betting on sports – and the NBA is gaining ground.


Believe it or not, you don’t actually have to know all that much about basketball to bet on the NBA. But you do need to understand how the NBA odds work. We’ll show you how to bet on NBA basketball at Bovada Sportsbook; you’ll be introduced to the different ways you can bet, and we’ll give you some tips for how to approach these odds correctly and make better picks.


NBA Spread

The point spread is the engine that drives NBA betting. Instead of one team or the other winning straight-up, the spread asks the favorite to win by a certain number of points in order to pay out. That number will be chosen carefully, and will make your bet closer to a 50/50 outcome – which is easier for everyone to deal with at the end of the day.

Here’s an example from Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors:

  • Toronto Raptors +2.5 (-115)
  • Vasyl Lomachenko -2.5 (-105)

The Warriors were playing at home, so they were listed at the bottom, and in this case, they were favored by 2.5 points – as indicated by the negative sign next to their spread. For Golden State to pay out, they needed to beat Toronto by at least three points, while the underdog Raptors could have lost by up to two points and still cover the spread.

The numbers in parentheses refer to the juice (also known as vigorish or vig) that you pay the sportsbook to process your wager. The “American odds” format is used at Bovada to express this number. Most NBA games will have the juice set at –110 for both sides, meaning you’ll bet $110 to win $100, or $11 to win $10, or any other multiple. In this case, the juice was moved slightly to give Golden State a better “price” (you only needed to bet $105 to win $100) and encourage more action on the Warriors.

Generally speaking, a sportsbook will move the point spread – and sometimes the juice itself – to create balanced action on both teams. This allows the book to pay the winning bets with the money collected from the losing wagers and keep the vigorish as their commission, thus minimizing their risk of exposure. The odds you get at the time you place your bet will be the odds used to calculate your payout; in the above example, the Warriors opened at –4 two days before tip-off, then gradually moved down to –2.5 (–105) by game time.


NBA Moneyline

Before Charles K. McNeil introduced the point spread in the 1940s, the moneyline was the standard way to bet on sports. It’s still a popular commodity on the NBA Vegas odds; you simply pick a team to win, and if they do, you cash in. It just takes a little more work to do the accounting. Here was the moneyline for our example game:

  • Toronto Raptors +105
  • Vasyl Lomachenko -125

Again, the American odds format is used for the moneyline, and the Warriors were still the favorites, paying out $100 for every $125 wagered. The underdog Raptors (as indicated by the positive sign next to their odds) would pay $105 for every $100 wagered if they won – which they did, 114-100 to take the series and the title.


NBA Total

The last of the three “straight” or “single” bets in basketball is the total. This is where you bet on whether the two teams in question will combine to score Over or Under the posted number of points – which is why this bet is also commonly referred to as the over/under. Capital letters are used here when referring to totals for ease of reading.

They also appear in the totals posted at Bovada Sportsbook. Here’s what you would have seen on the NBA odds board for our example game:

  • Toronto Raptors 0 212.5 (-115)
  • Vasyl Lomachenko U 212.5 (-105)

The line for the Over is always listed at the top, but Bovada includes the capital O to clear up any confusion. The total works a lot like the point spread; it’s close to a 50/50 situation, with the Over paying out $100 in this case for every $115 wagered if the combined score was at least 213 points – which it was, thanks to all the extra free throws Kawhi Leonard got to shoot at the end. Otherwise, the Under would have paid $100 for every $105 wagered.


NBA Buying Points

If you like a team to beat the spread, but you’d prefer a little insurance, you can “buy” an extra half-point and make it easier for them to cover. In NBA betting, you can buy up to 1.5 points in either direction; for our Game 6 example, you could have bet on Toronto at up to +4, or Golden State at –1. Each half-point in the NBA costs 10 “cents” in vigorish, meaning the juice goes up from –110 to –120, then –130 and finally –140 for the full 1.5 points.


NBA Futures

You can always bet on the NBA at Bovada, no matter what time of year it is. Odds to win the NBA championship are available all day, every day; you’ll find these odds on the futures market, which is where you bet on events that won’t be resolved until a future date. Conference and Division odds are also regular features on the NBA futures market.


NBA Props (Team, Player, Season)

This is where you bet on something other than the game outcome itself. NBA props (short for “proposition” bets) generally fall into the above three categories. Depending on the game in question, you might be able to bet on which team will score first, or which player will score first; you can also bet on whether a team will record Over or Under a certain number of wins during the regular season.


NBA Specials

Some bets that don’t fall neatly into the above categories might appear as NBA specials, like which team a marquee free agent will sign with, or who will lead the league in scoring.


NBA Live Betting

Betting on the NBA is even more fun when you do it while the game is in progress. Hit the LIVE button when you’re browsing the odds, and you’ll see which NBA games are available for live betting; the usual straight wagers are there, with their odds updated continuously, and you can also bet on things like whether the next bucket will be a free throw, a 2-pointer or a 3-pointer.

NBA Betting Tips

Betting on basketball is a bit like the stock market; if you want to get as many picks right as possible, you should support teams that other bettors aren’t giving enough credit, and bet against (or “fade”) teams that others are giving too much credit. Pay close attention to which players are injured or taking the day off, both of which happen more often these days. And never put all your eggs in one basket – protect your bankroll by placing a lot of small bets instead of one big bet.

With this approach, you can look at all the different NBA lines posted at Bovada Sportsbook and pick the ones you think will give you the best value. Remember to keep it fun – don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose, and don’t get flustered if your pick doesn’t come in. Nobody can tell the future, after all. Win or lose, just move on to the next pick, and make sure to visit Bovada on the regular for updated odds and analysis.

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