The NBA is extremely popular with sports betting fans as the action comes in thick and fast over the course of the season. Each team plays 82 games, and the playoffs rage on for several months, so there is a dizzying array of markets to choose from. Throw in futures options like who will win the NBA Championship and who will be named regular season MVP, and there is always something to bet on.
For these reasons, the new legal sportsbooks springing up across New Jersey have devoted a lot of time to ensuring they appeal to NBA fans. New Jersey is divided between New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers fans, with a few Brooklyn Nets supporters thrown in for good measure. These teams will attract a lot of the attention when it comes to sports betting across the Garden State, but residents are by no means confined to the local franchises. Betting on both conferences will be huge going forwards, and here are the main betting categories you need to familiarize yourself with:
Hoops fans love to debate who will win the NBA Finals, who will seize the Eastern Conference, who will be named Rookie of the Year and so on. Now they can put their money where their mouths are in a safe, authorized setting in the Garden State after legalized sports betting was rolled out. These bets, which are not necessarily decided by the outcome of a single game, are called futures bets.
The most popular market is betting on the NBA champion. Golden State has dominated in recent years, and its 4-0 clean sweep of Cleveland in the 2018 Finals cemented its status as the greatest team of the modern era, arguably of all time. Sportsbooks have released lines for the 2018/19 season, and the Warriors are once again the clear favorites for success. You can get around +125 (5/4 in fractional odds or 2.25 in decimal) with the sportsbooks on another Golden State win, while the Sixers and the Houston Rockets are next in the betting at +350 (7/2 or 4.50).
But you can expect those odds to shift dramatically over the course of the summer, and much depends on where LeBron James will go. He is -150 (2/3 or 1.67) to go to the LA Lakers, +450 (9/2 or 5.50) to move to the Sixers and +500 (5/1 or 6.0)to stay with the Cavs. If he moves to Philadelphia, you can expect the odds on the Sixers to win the Championship to plummet, but if he goes elsewhere the odds will drift.
Odds of +350 tell you what you will earn from a $100 stake. In this instance, you would make a $350 profit by laying down $100. But you are by no means obliged to wager that much. You could, for instance, bet $20 and that would make you a $70 profit at +350.
A moneyline bet is a straightforward wager on one team to beat another in a single game. It is common in sports like soccer, where you do not see many goals, or in motorsports, but less popular in a sport like basketball as it sees such high points scores. Here is an example of a moneyline wager:
In Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Finals, the Warriors were -750 (1/8 or 1.13) to beat the Cavs. When you see a minus symbol in a set of odds, that tells you how much you need to stake in order to win $100. So in this instance you would have to wager $750 just to make a $100 profit. A $100 stake would return you a profit of just $13, and that is too low for some fans to bother with. Cleveland had odds of +500 (5/1 or 6.0), but it was in dreadful form and that did not appeal to many bettors either. Some games are a lot closer than this when it comes to moneyline betting, but most NBA fans prefer spread betting as it levels the playing field.
The sportsbooks will set a point spread on a game, and this essentially gives one team a handicap. If we continue using that Dubs v Cavs game as an example, the books made Golden State the 11.5-point favorite. That means you could either back Golden State -11.5 or Cleveland +11.5, and the odds on each outcome were identical (between -110 (10/11 or 1.91) and -105 (19/20 or 1.95), depending on how much juice each book was taking). If you backed Golden State, it would need to win by 12 or more points for your bet to pay out. If you backed Cleveland, it could afford to lose by up to 11 points and your bet would still pay out. In the end, Golden State picked up a 23-point blowout victory. There are plenty of useful resources that tell you how well each team has performed against the spread over the course of the season, and this can also be helpful to examine the teams’ recent head-to-head record.
This is a very popular option, which sees the sportsbooks set a total points line for the game, and you simply have to guess whether it will go over or under that mark. A typical total points tally would be 206.5 points. You then have to decide whether both teams’ combined score will exceed that figure or end up lower than that figure. Once again, the odds on each outcome are typically identical and you will receive prices from -110 to -105 depending on how competitive the sportsbook’s lines are. Examining how strong each team is offensively and defensively and checking any injury concerns can help you out in this market.
Prop bets refer to special markets within a game that do not necessarily dictate the final result. A common player prop is on who will be the top points scorer in a game, and the likes of Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant have been popular choices in recent years. Basketball is one of the best sports for prop bets and you can find all manner of special options to keep things interesting, including how many dunks a game will see, who will score the first points, how many fouls there will be in a particular quarter and so on.
You can add multiple games to the same bet and rack up increasingly attractive odds as you do so. If you were to bet on four teams to cover the spread on the same weekend, you could rack up odds of close to +1200 (12/1 or 13.0). It is fiendishly difficult, as it only takes one selection letting you down to bust your bet, but your rewards can be seriously impressive if you are successful.