NBA Betting

NBA betting can be both exciting and profitable as long as you have the best framework to guide you. Whether you’re an experienced sports bettor or just a beginner, we will help you establish a disciplined approach to betting.  

The guiding principles for betting on the NBA include strategy basics along with a limited focus on select NBA teams. It is important to be open-minded and flexible, without trying to analyze the full slate of NBA games offered. Sportsbooks put up lines on every NBA game, but bettors can focus and wait for the best opportunities. Patience is key as the NBA season is long.

With practice, you will be able to spot an edge in recent scoring trends and perform a comparative analysis of the key scoring and rebound stats. Over the course of the long season, you will learn to spot the most reliable NBA betting opportunities.

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Types of Basketball Bets 

New Jersey sportsbooks offer the full range of NBA bet types including: 

  • point spread bets
  • money line odds
  • parlays
  • teasers
  • point totals

There is something for every NBA betting opportunity as well as an odds/payout result to consider. We’ll take a look at the types of bets and focus on the risk and reward considerations for each bet type.

Placing wagers on the NBA games could involve betting for fun as well as betting with a long-term profit motive. Those that have a hunch on today’s basketball match-up could throw in a bet for fun. However, those that have done the objective analysis and are confident they have a betting edge are more likely to win back a profit in the long run. 

Every bettor can utilize the various wager types to meet their objectives of either fun or profit - and ideally, both!

Bet Categories

Sportsbooks offer both single event and multiple event type bets. These are the basic bet categories for the NBA. 

A single event bet is a wager on the outcome of a single game - either the game-winner or a point total bet. The winning payout is determined by the odds of a single event.

With multiple event bets, the bettor can select more than one event. This comes with added risk, therefore, there is a significant increase in the payout. 

It is common practice for the sportsbooks to allow as many as 10 events on multiple bet types. However, with multiple bets, any loss means the entire wager is a loss. 

A bettor can pick 4 winners out of 5 on a multiple game ticket and end up with nothing to show for an 80% win rate. However when the day comes for 5 out of 5 win-rate, there is a huge payout.

Specific Bet Types

The betting categories are single event (team or total) and multiple event bets, where two or more events are combined into a summary bet. 

Wagers on game events can be made with several different bet types offered by the sportsbook. The common bet types include: point spreads, totals, and the money line.

The various types can also be combined on a multiple team bet, meaning you can create a bet comprised of team selections, and point totals. 

For example, you have a good analysis that a team has a strong defensive advantage. This may create a betting edge situation, where you see value in betting the team to win and the combined points total to go “under” on a parlay bet.

Point Spread 

The most common bet type in basketball is the point spread bet. The point spread is a form of a handicap placed on the favorite to even the odds. 

Sportsbooks need balanced action to maintain its operating profit. Balanced action for the sportsbooks means an equal amount is bet on both sides.

With a point spread line, some bettors will see an opportunity in “laying” the points, confident the favorite will cover the spread. While another group of bettors look at the same basketball game and see the possibility that “taking” the points provides a betting edge. 

The sportsbooks are not in the business of picking winners, but they are successful by putting up spread bets that create even, two-way action with bettors. The point spread bet is one way to achieve balanced action.

Here is a typical NBA point spread example. College point spread games follow the same format:

Teams   Point Spread          Odds                   
NY Knicks    -4.5 -110
Boston Celtics      +4.5   -110

Point spread betting for basketball usually lists the payout odds at “sportsbook even” payout of -110. This means a bet of $110, returns a profit of $100, plus the original bet amount of $110, for a total of $210. An amount of $220 would be a true even money payout; the difference is the “vig”, or the sports books commission.

Point Totals

A point total bet is a wager on the combined score of both teams in a single game. This is also referred to as an Over/Under bet and is a common bet type in all sports. Point totals are especially popular with basketball betting. 

The over-under line put up by the sportsbooks is a single target total. Again, the sportsbook does its best to develop a total that will generate balanced action. 

There will be a group of bettors that expect more offense and scoring results, taking the “over” side. 

Others see a defensive battle with an expectation of a lower points total. 

This is a bet on the combined score, not the game’s winner, and is the result of comparative analysis of the relative offense versus defense factors.

Here is a typical NBA point totals example. College point spread games follow the same format:

Teams       Over/Under Odds          
NY Knicks 208  -110
Boston Celtics 208 -110

College point spread games follow the same format.

Point totals usually list the payout odds at a “sportsbook even” payout of -110. Both teams are listed with the same points total, since the game’s winner is irrelevant. It is the combined points scored by both teams that determine a winning bet.

The Money Line

As with all betting lines, the sportsbook needs to attract wagers on both sides of an NBA bet. With a money line there is no point spread to balance the action, instead, the payout amount is aligned with the odds of the favorite team winning the bet. 

Listed below is a typical example of a typical NBA, “money line” offer, with the wagering odds for a game:

Teams  Odds          
NY Knicks  -140
Boston Celtics +120

In this “money line” example, the NY Knicks are the favorite to win the game. A winning bet of $140 on the Knicks, returns a total payout amount of $240. The total payout includes $100 in winnings, plus the $100 initial bet amount. 

A money line bet has no point spread to even the action. Instead, the payout is determined by the odds of the favorite team winning by any point margin.

In this money line example, the NY Knicks are expected to be the game’s winner by the sportsbook. Given this likely outcome for the Knicks, a bettor receives less than “even money”, with a NY win. 

The negative number in the listed pair is the payout for the favorite. 

The plus number is the odds/payout for the game’s “underdog”. 

Odds/payout alignment means the more likely the favorite will win the basketball game, the lower the return, and the opposite holds for the underdog.

Again, the sportsbook is in the business of achieving two-way action, and collecting a commission on the winning bets, paid by an equal amount of losing bets. This explains why the plus and minus lines do not cancel out in the above example.

The concept of the sportsbook’s need to balance the action is important as we discuss strategy. The sportsbooks goals are a bit different from our own goals. This must always be considered in your basketball betting strategy. 

Multiple Bet Wagers

The bet format examples listed above can be applied to both a single bet on a game event or used in a multiple bet wager. 

A multiple bet means 2 or more bets are combined to form a single wager. The combined outcome of separate bets shifts the odds/payout factors significantly. As the probability of winning multiple bets decreases, the payouts should increase accordingly.

Multiple bets include parlay and teaser bets, and sportsbooks offer these types for both NBA and college basketball. 

You can usually mix NBA games with college matches along with mixing team selections with point total bets, as well. Multiple bet wagers offer some exciting opportunities, but it is important to understand the odds/payout factors as one develops a long-term basketball betting strategy.

It is important when considering a multiple bet such as a parlay or teaser to understand the overall odds/payout potential. A full win on a multiple bet requires a win on each of the individual bets in the combined wager. The probability of winning multiple bets is determined by the combined probability of each bet.

Multiple Bet Odds vs Payouts

This simple example will help you understand the win probability for a combined bet. Let’s assume the sportsbook will put up a line on the flip of two coins. If you flip the coin 1000 times, you would expect that each side would win roughly 500 times. This means the win probability is 50% (500/1000). 

The sportsbook would put up this line for two separate coin flip events below, that we will combine on a parlay bet.

Event Teams Odds
Event 1 Heads -110
  Tails -110
Event 2 Heads -110
  Tails -110

Let’s assume our 2-team parlay is Event 1-Heads and Event 2 -Tails.

The odds of either heads or tails winning the flip is 50% and the payout is even money (less the sportsbook’s commission).

A single bet of $110 on either heads or tails will return winnings of $100, or $210 in total. 

A two-event parlay pays 2.5 to 1. 

Three events on a parlay bet the payout increases to 6 to 1. Four events 10 to 1. As more events are added to bet, the probability of winning all bets decreases while the payouts increase significantly. However, the payouts do not compensate for the basic odds of winning all bets.

In this simple 2-event parlay example, the joint probability of winning both events = 50% times 50% or 25%. 

Over time we would expect a win rate on this type of bet to be 1 out of 4, but the payout is not 4 to 1. The payout is only 2.5 to 1. 

This odds/payout disconnect continues as you add more events to a parlay bet.

From this simple example, we can take away the following as we plan our basketball betting strategy.

  1. A 2-team parlay only requires a cash layout of $84 to collect $210.
    To collect this same amount on a single event bet would require a layout of $110.
    Money management is an important aspect of any sports betting strategy, but is less wagered here really to our long-term advantage?
  2. While we only need to part with $84 to collect $210 for our coin flip parlay, a win happens only 1 in 4 tries - or 25% of the time.
    Our expected win value for this coin flip parlay is 25% times $210, or $21.
    Our expected loss value for this coin flip parlay is 75% times $84, or -$63.
    With 4 bets of this type an overall loss of $42. Not a good betting strategy! 
  3. Since our odds single event assessment is a win rate of 50%, a single bet of $110 returns 50% times $210, or $105.
    Regardless of how many times we make this single bet our expected return is an overall loss of $5 for each bet placed. This is sportsbook even money since the loss amount is the sportsbook commission.


NBA Betting Types Notes:

  • Multiple bet wagers do not return payouts consistent with known odds. With parlay bets, there needs to be a high win probability in relation to the payout odds to be profitable. 


  • A realistic strategy recognizes outcomes are rarely highly probable and there will be losing bets. A system that uses a series of single bets that mixes a higher percentage of winners versus losers will have a better long-term profit result.


  • Teasers are a type of a multiple bet that comes with a built-in edge since the sportsbooks allow you to adjust the spread in your favor by 4 or 5 points. However, the payout rates are significantly reduced as compared to parlays. The payout on a 2-team teaser is the same as a single event, where you bet $110 to win $100.


  • The long-term strategy will require mostly single event wagers, where the odds are in line with payout levels and a win rate% of around 52% is needed to break even, given the sportsbook commission.


  • Actual basketball game odds are determined through analysis and not easily determined as was our colin flip example. 


  • Parlays and teasers can be exciting bets, but those planning to bet on basketball for long-term profit need to develop a strategy and apply a disciplined money management approach.


Basic NBA Betting Strategies

A winning NBA betting strategy means setting goals and developing a systematic process to reach those goals. 

A systematic process is one that can objectively analyze matchups and monitor that process over time. The process steps require tracking long-term trends and several team performance indicators. 

Basketball season for the NBA and college games spans several months, and bankroll management is a key component in this sports betting strategy. 

Spread Performance

The most common type of basketball bet is the point spread bet. 

Basic analysis for basketball betting should always be focused on the data that can lead to an edge and that starts with a team’s performance against the spread. This key metric is often abbreviated as simply “ATS.” A team’s ATS performance will adjust over time since the betting public and the sportsbook’s analysts also carefully monitor spread performance. 

NBA and college basketball leagues have multiple games per week over long seasons. This provides a great deal of stats data and the potential for solid trend analysis. 

For example, a basketball team that consistently beats the spread over several weeks will eventually see that spread start to narrow. The sportsbooks put out spread lines to balance the betting action, and at times, public expectations can force overvalue situations. These trends will reverse over time. Underdog basketball teams that were given too many points may see that advantage shrink as bettors and the sportsbooks adjust. 

Monitor ATS performance while placing more emphasis on the recent trend. A high ATS win percentage is noteworthy, but ask yourself the following questions. 

  • What do recent events indicate and how are the sportsbooks adjusting to ensure 2-way action? 
  • Is the spread about right, or are the big public favorites getting too many points?

Key Stats Analysis

The ATS analysis described above is a technique that looks at betting performance against the spread for value opportunities. 

It is a form of technical analysis apart from the actual basketball game statistics used to spot trends in data. There may be variations such as home vs away results. The technique measures a team’s performance against an assessment which is determined by the betting public’s perception of relative strength. 

A team with a recent trend of beating the spread, indicates an undervalue situation the sportsbooks will soon correct in the form of a higher point spread on the next game. 

Sportsbooks effectively create basketball power rankings by the spread lines offered. 

A team’s actual game performance can be considered a more fundamental analysis method. Actual game performance stats include player scoring, field goal percentage, and rebounds as examples. This data is readily available from box scores in the newspaper and online stats feeds. Key stats data for game performance would include field goal percentages for 2-point and 3-point attempts, rebounds, foul shooting, and turnovers. Analysis of actual basketball game performance against common opponents is a fundamental method of match-up analysis that can spot a betting advantage. 

A sound basketball betting strategy requires using both methods: spread analysis and detailed performance to develop a reliable betting system.

Long term profitability with any basketball betting system needs a betting edge. An edge is the result of the analysis that indicates the probability of an event outcome varied by some margin or edge versus the odds offered. This edge concept leads to a consistent approach in finding value in slight variations in the odds versus payout.

Money Management

An important element of any sports betting strategy is bankroll management. This is especially true in basketball since there are multiple games per week throughout a long season. 

Money management is essential to maintaining the necessary betting resources when an opportunity develops. There will be many basketball betting opportunities available during the long NBA season. College basketball season presents many betting opportunities as well, including the NCAA tournament in March. 

A business approach is essential to a successful basketball betting strategy and this requires patience and bankroll discipline. There are times to vary bet size, given the right opportunity, but there must be wagering capital available when opportunities come along. Treat your bankroll as business capital.

NBA Schedule

The regular NBA season consists of 82 games over a period of approximately 6 months. This is a demanding schedule for the players. and 3 or 4 games a week is not uncommon in the pro ranks. 

This schedule pace can drive variations in game-day performance. Back to back games can result in more “bench players’ taking the court. 

The five “starting players” drive game results and when a key player needs bench time for rest or foul trouble, you will see variations in scoring and team defense. 

The schedule matchups can also create an “overlooked” and overvalued situation. A team may face a relatively weaker opponent a day or two before a tough game against an equal opponent. The energy and player minutes can be a factor that often leads to an underdog cover in this situation. 

With all NBA betting analysis, there are multiple comparative factors in selecting winning teams and totals, but the schedule is always a key factor in NBA analysis.

Home and Away Factors

Betting analysis for the NBA begins with spread performance trends and it is important to analyze how well a team performs ATS, over a demanding schedule stretch. 

Home and away games are definite schedule situations that drive a team’s performance. The demanding schedule can also create significant differences in spread results for a team’s home versus away games. 

In a relatively even-strength basketball match, you can expect the sportsbooks to give a spread advantage in the 2-5 point range to an NBA home team. 

A common analysis technique is to look at a team that has a big home win, along with a road game, along with another road game the next night - against an average strength opponent. You will often see a significant drop off in spread results for a team in this situation. 

The NBA schedule can create spots for reliable bets but you must look at several factors for a betting edge to include scoring trends, comparative analysis of the key scoring and rebound stats.

NBA Betting Tips for Beginners

Start Smart

Long term profitability with any basketball betting strategy requires a betting edge. 

An edge results from the analysis of both spread results and key basketball performance stats. This approach to finding odds versus payout value can take some time, and will certainly take some effort. 

For those beginning to develop a basketball betting process, focus on steady progress towards objective analysis. Make betting decisions based on numbers and not on your “gut sense”. 

Focus on the basics described above with a limited focus on a few NBA teams and college conferences. 

Avoid trying to analyze the full board of basketball bets offered on a daily basis. Sportsbooks have to put up lines on just about every basketball game scheduled to stay competitive and profitable. Bettors can limit their focus and wait for the best opportunities for profitable wagering.

Practice First

The best strategy for beginners is to define a limited betting range of a few teams and apply the basic strategy concepts discussed above. 

Any live betting on basketball should start with bets on single-game events - either spread bets or on teams or totals.  

While multiple event payouts may appear very rewarding, the likelihood of winning every event on a multiple bet ticket has more downside risk than payout value. Beginners will soon discover that picking a single game winner can have its ups and downs.

A good beginner’s technique is to practice on past results. Start with a very focused list of a few basketball teams, then test your bet selection process on actual game results. Practice with an entire season or two before putting real money at risk. 

Have an objective look at the numbers. 

  • What are the recent ATS trends? 
  • What do the point spreads indicate from the betting public’s view?  
  • What past game statistics indicate a team can stay close and cover the spread? 

Retrieve the Data 

An essential tool for basketball betting is a stats feed to start the objective number analysis. Basketball is a “stats rich’ sport and there is a lot of data that piles up with an 82-game NBA season. You can find a wide variety of published basketball statistics, both in print and online. These stats sources are basketball fundamentals that drive game day performance and the process of making winning bets. 

New Jersey sportsbooks are a great source of research for finding spread performance (ATS) data. 

Making informed selections based on available trend information is the key to objective analysis. Current news information is also very important and can be vital in fine-tuning your basketball trend analysis. 

There are only 5 players on the starting team and usually only 12 or so players that suit up on game day. If there is an injury to a top-scoring guard or forward that leads the team in rebounds, the recent on-court performance may be misleading. 

Remember a limited focus is important in getting started, and a news feed for your selected pro teams or college conference is essential.

Money and Banking

When starting out and betting with real money, it is important to maintain a budget and take control of your bankroll. It is imperative that sports bettors set a budget for a specific timeframe. Set aside funds for betting weekly, monthly or for the entire basketball season. 

Funds planning needs to include the March tournaments and NBA playoffs. 

The best starting approach for those new to basketball betting is to use a fixed bet approach. A fixed bet wager of around 1-2% of your budget for the basketball season is a good “rule of thumb” approach when getting started.

Stick with It

You will quickly recognize that there is a lot of information to absorb. Achieving some quality practice on paper and carefully managing your live bets will get you started in the right direction. 

Long-term profitability is achieved by applying objective analysis and recognizing that there will be a fair amount of losses over time.

Profitability with any basketball betting strategy requires a commitment to sticking with the selection process that you know will bring in a profit edge over time. If you have put in the analysis and practice effort, stick with the system and do not get swayed by early losses. 

If you need to make adjustments to your selection process, and often you will, practice and analyze on paper first. Plan for the long-term and manage your bankroll over that period.

Strategies for Betting on Live Basketball

Live basketball betting means it is now possible to make bets on a basketball game once the game has started. This is a relatively recent addition to the many types of wagers today’s mobile sportsbooks now offer! 

Live or in-game betting allows you to manage your existing positions on a game or take advantage of a new opportunity. You now can place a bet as the game is underway and this brings in new opportunities and, of course, some new risks.

You can adjust your wagers, as well as, effectively cancel bets during live betting. 

Here is our typical NBA point totals example we introduced in the bet type section above. 

Teams   Over/Under  Odds           
NY Knicks  208 -110
Boston Celtics  208 -110

Let’s assume our analysis and totals bet selection system indicated a high probability that this game would surpass a combined score of 208 points. 

To reach this high probability conclusion, we would have looked at 

  • the comparative numbers for both teams
  • the recent spread trends for over bets on these teams
  • any current player availability issues
  • home and away scoring performance

We are reasonably confident this game would go “over” 6 out of 10 times - a 60% probability. We know we need a probability that exceeds 52.4% to cover the sportsbooks commission. 

Therefore, we make a $110 wager on the “over” of 208 points in this basketball game.

In-Play Scenarios 

With our “over '' 208 total points bet in hand, the game begins. 

Scenario 1

It appears early on that the game is going in the other direction. The scoring is not at the expected level. There are too many turnovers and bad shots taken by both teams. 

If this trend continues, we would expect a combined final score of around 190 points. The sportsbook’s analysis recognizes this situation and will put up revised totals.

With live betting, we have an opportunity to cover our bet, meaning we can bet $110 on the under. This is a hedge bet or a way to mitigate a risk that we recognize now.

Scenario 2

The betting public overreacts to the bad start and the line drops to point total of 195 points over/under. We stick with our bet, because we know teams often have bad starts and there are three periods of basketball to be played. We may even decide to place additional over bet, depending on our pre-game analysis. 

Scenario 3

We had a strong play on the “over” of 208 points but held off on betting until we had a look at the start of the game. 

When the slow scoring moved the line down to 195, we then placed our bet. 

This is a “wait and see” type play that can develop, but again is the result of the objective pre-game analysis.


In-play betting takes a great deal of pre-game analysis to recognize specific betting opportunities. It is very important to limit your focus on a few teams and be prepared for advantageous in-game situations. 

This type of betting requires quick decisions as in-game line moves can occur frequently over the course of the basketball game. 

In-play betting also requires strict money management principles. Beginners should watch and practice in-game wagering until they feel comfortable with the pace and format.

NBA Betting Sites

Sports betting is now legal in New Jersey and basketball fans have already joined in on the fun. NBA and college basketball betting lines are available through the many online sportsbook applications.

It is now legal, and convenient to place bets on sports with the assurance of secure banking services. This means you can relax and wager safely on NBA games!

Mobile sportsbook apps can make just about every transaction faster while providing convenient access to a massive amount of information. The betting sites available today provide the security of your banking and other personal information along with absolute convenience. 


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8 January 2020
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