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NBA Odds: How To Read NBA Betting Odds

Basketball, especially the NBA, has been an appealing sport to watch and place bets on. The fast-paced, back and forth action provides bettors many opportunities. But before you can take advantage of any of those opportunities, you have to know how to read NBA odds.

There are several different ways in which you can make money from NBA events. From the NBA opening night, all the way to NBA Finals, there is an entire season to profit from if you have the right strategy. 

NBA Moneyline Bets

This bet is one that is widely understood by bettors, whether or not they recognize the actual moneylines term. In this market, you are simply deciding which of the two teams will win. 

When an event is announced, sportsbooks will determine their odds according to how they think the game will go. They will take a variety of factors into account, including past form, player matchups, injuries, and more. Having determined their odds, the sportsbook will then publish its moneyline market for the game.

Here's an example of what it might look like:

Los Angeles Lakers-300
Miami Heat+280
NBA Odds: Moneyline Example

The Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites here, as indicated by the minus sign in front of their odds. For betting, this means you would have to wager $300 in order to receive a profit of $100 if the Lakers win. 

Miami Heat are the underdogs, as indicated by the plus sign in front of their odds. This means that if you place a $100 wager, you would make a profit of $280 if they manage to defy their underdog status. 

Sometimes you might not see a minus sign in a moneyline bet. For instance, if both teams are evenly matched in a series such as the Finals, then the NBA Finals odds might have both teams as positive numbers.

NBA Futures Betting

Futures betting involves making a prediction about an event that is due to take place at some point beyond the next game. For example, you might be offered odds to name who will be selected as the Most Valuable Player, or MVP. You might also see NBA Playoff odds offered in the Futures category, especially early in the season.

These markets are more volatile than many others because the odds will naturally change as the season progresses.

For example, the Lakers might be favorites at the beginning of the season to win the NBA Finals at +300, whereas the Minnesota Timberwolves might +25000 with a losing record. 

However, these odds can significantly change if the Timberwolves get lucky during the season. If they were to make some blockbuster trades and get to the playoffs, that +25000 would drop dramatically over the course of the seaon. 

NBA Point Spreads

Point spreads are another popular betting opportunity that you will find at sportsbooks. The odds makers will consider the matchup and try to put a handicap on the better team, making the odds interesting for both sides. 

Using the same example teams as earlier, let us look at a possible point spread now:

LA Lakers-5.5
Miami Heat+5.5
NBA Odds Point Spread Example

Bearing in mind the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers are the projected favorites, the odds here say just that. A handicap of -5.5 points has been set, so if you bet on the Lakers they must win the game by at least six or more points for your bet to pay.

Miami Heat are the underdogs, and have been quoted at +5.5 to give them an advantage. This means that if you bet on the team, your bet will win if they win the game outright or even if they lose the game by no more than 5 points.

The .5 is usually added so that there are no 'pushes' or ties. Instead, you either win or lose, according to your prediction and the outcome of the game.

NBA Totals Betting

One of the simpler bets to understand is the totals bet. This market is focused on the total number of points that will be scored in the game by both teams combined, regardless of who the winner is.

The sportsbook will set its own predicted total for the game, and your task is to predict whether the actual total will be Over or Under the figure quoted.

For example, if the total quoted is 214.5, and you were to bet Over, both teams would need to score a combined total of 215 points or more for the bet to win. 

If you were to bet Under, both teams would need to score a combined total of 214 points or less for the bet to win.

Because you need to bet Over or Under the quoted total, this market is also referred to as the Over/Under market.

NBA Prop Bets

Prop bets are usually less serious in nature than others, and can be a good way to inject some lightheartedness into your betting. They don't concern the outcome of the game, but are usually focused on independent related events, and are often quite humorous.

Some example prop bets that you might see are:

  • Which player will have the most rebounds.
  • Which team will win the tip-off.
  • First team to 20 points.
  • First bucket.
  • Will there be overtime?
  • Who will win the 3rd quarter?

As you can see, there are some reasoning skills you could use here to make a reasoned prediction for these markets. However, that isn't always the case, and in those cases you'll just have to trust your gut.

Because prop bets tend to me more humorous than any of the others that we've mentioned, they shouldn't be taken too seriously. Keep stakes to a modest level to avoid disappointment!


How do I know what good NBA odds are?

This is a tricky question, and relative to your bankroll and your expectations. Some bettors view ‘good’ odds as those that give them the chance to make a decent profit. Others are only looking for a certain return on their investment.

Remember that you do not have to wager a full $100 if you do not want to do so. If the odds are big for an unlikely outcome that you want to bet on, a wager of just a few bucks could be worthwhile. At the opposite extreme, just because a team is a favorite does not mean that you need to place $6,000 on them to win $100.

Make your betting decision, then shop around and see what odds you can get about it. If the odds make a bet worthwhile to you, go for it. If they don’t, you might be better off not making the bet in the first place.

Where can I find the odds for NBA Rookie of the Year?

NBA Rookie of the Year odds are usually located in the Futures Bets area of the sportsbook, or in the Prop Bets section if the event is coming up, sometimes found in the prop bets.

Why did the odds change?

Sportsbooks set their odds according to their opinion about an event. However, they then adjust the odds according to how people bet. This means you will need to keep an eye things. Make your bet when the odds are acceptable to you, and don’t be surprised if the odds continue to shift afterwards.

About Ayden Fahlstrom
Ayden Fahlstrom author profile

Ayden loves sports. There is no doubt about that. He is a walking calendar when it comes to the latest events in sports. He has grown into the passion of writing about them, and settled into his role as a writer after many freelancing jobs. He can write about any sport out there! This is the guy!

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