How to Bet on the NBA: The Best Tips

Did you know that Shaquille O’Neal made only one three-point shot in his career? If you’re an NBA historian, you probably already knew this fun fact.

Instead of keeping your knowledge to yourself, use it to your advantage to win some money! When you learn to bet on the NBA, you can reap big profits while watching your favorite teams.

Keep reading to learn how to bet on the NBA and some of the best betting tips.

NBA Betting Explained

NBA odds are much like odds in other sports. The odds are represented by a positive or negative sign associated with a number. Odds with negative signs are favored and those with positive signs are the underdog.

Bookies and markets will deem who they think is likelier to win the game as the favorite. The bet that is unlikely to win is the greater risk.

To bet on the NBA, you’ll need a complete understanding of the different types of bets you can make.

Spread Bets

Since some teams hold obvious superiority over their opponents, oddsmakers will create spread bets to prevent everyone from betting on the favorite.

Spread bets are the odds of a winning or losing team doing so by a specific margin. Let’s look at an example:

  • Houston Rockets: +9.5 (-110)
  • Atlanta Hawks: -9.5 (-110)

The Hawks are favored to win which is why their spread is associated with a negative number. For the Hawks to cover the spread and the bet to win, they will have to beat the Rockets by 10 points or more.

If you bet the Rockets spread, the bet wins if the Rockets lose by less than 10 points, or if they win the game outright.

The -110 number associated with the spread is the ‘juice’ or vig, we’ll get more into that later.

Spread bets allow you to bet on the underdog in hopes that they have an inspired performance. Even if the team loses, the margin of loss is under the spread.

The same goes for the victor, as long as they win by the margin of victory that covers the spread.

Moneyline Bets

Moneyline bets are one of the most popular bet types because they are easy to understand. Moneylines are universal in all sports betting.

Placing a moneyline bet means picking a winner out of two competitors. Unlike spreads, moneylines are directly related to the final outcome of the game.

Here’s what a moneyline bet would look like on a sportsbook:

  • Los Angeles Lakers: +210
  • Golden State Warriors: -255

In this example, the Warriors are heavy favorites to beat the Lakers. Betting on the underdog would provide you with a better payout if the Lakers were to upset the Warriors.

Although there is usually a clear favorite, some teams are closer in skill than others. You might see two teams with a negative number associated with their moneyline.

In this case, the lower number is the underdog and the higher number is the favorite to win.

Given the simplicity and popularity of moneyline bets, they aren’t the best way to make a profit.


Over/unders, sometimes called totals, are bet types that don’t require you to predict the winner of a basketball game. You will, however, predict how many points the teams will score combined.

Much like a moneyline bet, an over/under bet is fairly simple. Like spread bets, these bets will have two numbers associated with the bet.

The first number is the total points and the number underneath is the odds of winning that bet. Here is an example of what an over/under might look like on a sportsbook:

  • O 213.5 (-110)
  • U 213.5 (-110)

In this example, the odds are the same at -110. This means no matter which wager you decide to bet on, the fee is the same. Although this is common, it’s not always the case.

If you choose the over, the teams will need a combined 214 points for the bet to hit. If you choose the under, the teams will need to score less than 214 points combined for the bet to be a winner.

Prop Bets

There are a lot of events that happen during an NBA game that don’t have to do with the outcome of the game. You can make money on these events by placing a prop bet, aka a proposition bet.

The possibilities for prop bets are endless, which is why you’ll likely see hundreds for one game. Although these bets are fun to make, they are still calculated.

A lot of prop bets are yes or no questions, but some are more specific. Here are a few examples of prop bets you might see in professional basketball betting:

  • Will LeBron James score over 35 points in a certain game?
  • Will Rudy Gobert get more than two blocks in a certain game?
  • Will Luka Doncic have more than 9 assists in a certain game?

Since these all have to do with players, they are called player prop bets. Prop bets may also involve other topics, such as:

  • Will the Western Conference Finals go to seven games?
  • Will there be over five dunks in a certain game?
  • Will the Dallas Mavericks lead wire-to-wire?*

*Wire-to-wire refers to the team that maintains the lead during the entire game.

There are also prop bets that are more specific than no yes or no questions like:

  • Which team will score first?
  • Which player will score the first basket?
  • How many fouls will there be in the first quarter?
  • Who will win rookie of the year?

Prop bets provide more entertainment, flexibility, and money-making potential for bettors.


Futures are different than other bet types because they don’t refer to a specific game. Instead, they focus on an entire conference or the NBA championship.

You can place futures bets way ahead of time, hence the name. The day after the NBA finals winner is crowned, you can make your bets on the winner for the following year.

The odds will change as time goes on, especially for those betting on futures during the regular season.

Futures are similar to moneyline bets because you pick the team you think will win. If you want to bet on the NBA finals right now, futures are a good betting option.

Currently, the Boston Celtics are the early favorite to win the 2023 NBA Championship. Here’s what the current odds look like:

  • Boston Celtics: +500
  • Milwaukee Bucks: +650
  • Brooklyn Nets: +700
  • Los Angeles Clippers: +700
  • Golden State Warriors: +700
  • Phoenix Suns: +1000

Once the regular season begins on October 18, 2022, the odds are bound to change.


Parlays allow you to combine multiple wagers to make higher profits. Parlays can significantly increase your return, but they are harder to win.

When placing a parlay, you can select different bets for one bet slip. These can be spreads, moneylines, over/unders, prop bets, or a combination of them. You can also bet on multiple different games in a parlay.

There are some restrictions depending on the sportsbook you use. For example, you can’t usually combine a spread bet and a moneyline for the same game.

Some sportsbooks will limit how many bets you can combine while others let you include however many you’d like.

Parlays are harder to win because each individual wager must win for the parlay to payout. Let’s say you have a six-bet parlay and all but one bet is successful. You wouldn’t receive anything because the one wager lost.

Round-Robin Bet

If you want to have a better chance of winning a parlay, you can round-robin your options. In a round-robin bet, you are betting multiple smaller combinations instead of one all-must-win wager.

Round robins save you if one of your individual wagers loses but the rest of your wagers in the parlay hit. However, you’ll have to spend more to make a round-robin bet.

How to Read Basketball Betting Lines

When betting on basketball, it’s just as important to understand the betting lines as it is to understand the different types of bets.

In the United States, the American odds format is used, but you can switch to fractional or decimal odds if your sportsbook allows it.

Remember when we talked about ‘juice’ and vig? These terms refer to the cut or amount charged by a sportsbook for taking a bet.

The ‘juice’ dictates the chance of the bet hitting and how much you’ll spend to win a certain amount. Let’s use a moneyline bet as an example:

  • New York Knicks: +250
  • Memphis Grizzlies: -310

Because the Grizzlies are heavily favored, you’ll have to spend more to win more. To win $100, you’ll have to bet $310 on the Grizzlies moneyline. This means the payout, if the bet hits, would be $410.

If you bet $100 on the Knicks moneyline, you would win $250. This would result in a payout of $350.

See the pattern here?

Now, let’s look at a spread bet where the odds are the same:

  • Oklahoma City Thunder: +10.5 (-110)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: -10.5 (-110)

Since the odds are the same, neither team is favored to cover the spread. The Timberwolves have an equal chance of winning by over 11 points as the Thunder does of losing by less than 11 points.

To win $100 on either bet you place, you have to bet $110. The payout would be $210 for the winning bet.

NBA Betting Tips

Now that you know how to bet on the NBA, you can utilize some of the most important betting tips.

When gambling on sports, it’s necessary to speak the betting lingo and know how to read betting lines. You’ll also want to follow these strategies:

Keep an Eye on the Schedule

Each NBA team has 82 games on its schedule. These games are grueling for players, especially for the stars that play upwards of 40 minutes or more each game.

The schedule can have a big impact on the outcome of games. For example, if a team plays back to back, they haven’t had a lot of rest.

Star players might sit out for games where the competition is weak. This is so that they can rest while ensuring their standings stay intact.

Additionally, home-court advantage is a big deal for teams. Don’t blindly pick the home team to win, but factor it into your decision-making.

Find Picks and Free Bets

Sports gambling newbies might turn to professional handicappers for picks and predictions while still learning the ropes of NBA betting.

Free bets can also help you make the most of your money and mitigate your risk. Most sportsbooks offer free bets to new signups so be sure to take advantage of these offers.

Heritage Sports, for one, offers a 50% cash bonus for new registrations. You can learn more about this sportsbook by reading the review at this link: https://www.bookmakersreview.com/sportsbooks/heritage-sports/.

Compare Odds

Go line shopping! Line shopping allows you to compare odds to find the best bang for your buck.

Most sportsbooks have similar odds, but they aren’t all equal. Something as little as half a point makes a big difference in sports betting.

When you place a bet with the best odds, you’ll have a better chance of hitting the bet.

How to Bet on the NBA: Explained

To learn how to bet on the NBA, it’s important to know the different types of bets you can make. Spreads, moneylines, and totals are the most basic bet types, but you can also bet on props, futures, and create parlays.

Once you understand each bet type, you can start making NBA bets using the tips in this guide. Compare odds, do your research, and utilize free bets!

For more informative articles like this, check out the other posts on our website.

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