NBA Odds and Betting | Basketball Sports Betting Guide

NBA Odds & Betting

NBA Odds and Betting

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the world’s biggest professional basketball league. It takes place in North America with 30 teams, including 29 from the US and one from Canada.

Basketball is one of the most popular team sports in the world, and the NBA has become synonymous with the sport globally. This also makes NBA odds and betting fun to follow.

The state of Ohio has one NBA representative, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who won their only NBA championship in 2016, often touted as one of the best NBA finals in the history of the league. 

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James shoots a basket during game against the Los Angeles Clippers

 NBA Format 

The NBA season is mainly divided into a regular season and playoffs, or post-season. There are two conferences, Western and Eastern, with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. 

There are six divisions with five teams each, making a 30-team total. Teams from the same division play each other four times, twice at home and twice away, which makes up 16 games. Six teams from the same conference but not from the same division will play each other four times, which makes up 24 games. The four remaining conference teams will face each other thrice, an additional 12 games.

Overall, this means 42 matches against teams from the same conference. Teams then play one match home and away against teams from the other conference, which adds up to 30 matches, giving us 82 regular season games.

NBA playoff and play-in format

The top six teams from the two conferences will automatically qualify for the playoffs. The teams from 7th to 10th in their conference will take part in a play-in tournament.

The winner of the match between the 7th and 8th teams will qualify for the playoffs, whereas the loser gets another chance, facing the winner of the teams ranked 9th and 10th.

Finally, eight teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs, giving us 16 teams in total. 

The playoffs are contested between teams from the same conference. The team seeded 1st will face the team seeded 8th in the conference, the team seeded 2nd will face the team seeded 7th, 3rd will go up against 6th, and 4th will go up against 5th. 

Each playoff match is a best of seven ties, meaning the first team to win four matches will go to the next round. The winner of their respective conference will be awarded a conference winner’s title before heading to the NBA final. 

Plenty of NBA odds and Betting Opportunities

As you can see, the NBA is a grueling league with lots of regular season matches between the months of October and April, including an all-star game in February, before ending with the NBA finals in June. This means many matches that allow you to create long-term NBA betting strategies.

The playoffs are a different beast from the regular season. For example, let’s go back to the 2015-16 season when the Cleveland Cavaliers won their only NBA championship. The Golden State Warriors, who the Cleveland Cavaliers faced in the NBA finals, set the best regular season record in the history of the league by winning 73 matches and losing just nine.

The Warriors broke 25 NBA records that season and were expected to win the NBA finals, having led the series 3-1. That didn’t materialize, of course, and that’s exactly why NBA betting can be so exhilarating. 

The NBA odds were heavily in favor of the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA final season from the start, and right to the very end, with them having just won the Championship a year earlier.

But the Cleveland Cavaliers managed the unthinkable with some extraordinary displays from their best players and some luck.

NBA Rumors and Narratives Play a Big Part

The narratives around players can also change throughout a long season, so there are separate MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards for the regular season, the playoffs, and the NBA finals. The NBA odds and betting for this are sometimes as important as the team that wins the NBA Championship. 

Players who are part of sides with bigger rosters might get rested. It is often referred to as load management. The same player could turn up in the playoffs and make the team much stronger. Similarly, there isn’t a lot of time between matches, so players might be playing with inhibitions to avoid getting injured. Playoffs are also about matchups; a team with a lower seeding might be perfectly suited to playing against a team with a higher seeding. All of these permutations make for intriguing NBA betting. 

NBA Odds and Betting Explained

To begin betting on the NBA, you must first be aware of how NBA odds are displayed on sportsbooks. Three odds formats can be categorized as American, decimal, and fractional. 

The American odds are whole numbers prefixed with minus or plus signs, decimal odds are in decimal form, and fractional odds are in fractional form. 

Let’s use the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors as examples. If the two were to face each other, the sportsbook might offer odds that look something like this: 

Golden State Warriors

Cleveland Cavaliers

American odds



Decimal odds



Fractional odds



These NBA odds are the same -- that is, they offer the same rewards -- but are presented differently depending on the type of odds a bettor prefers. According to the figures in the table, a stake of $120 on Golden State Warriors would win the bettor a $100 profit. On the other hand, a stake of $100 on the Cleveland Cavaliers would win the bettor $120 if we’re going by American odds. 

If we’re going by decimal odds, a $120 stake in the Golden State Warriors multiplied by 1.83 would pay out $220, which is a $100 reward. If we’re going by fractional odds, you will win six dollars for every five you bet on the Cavaliers. In short, the fractional odds are represented as a ratio of the reward to the stake.

Types of Betting on the NBA   

Moneyline betting

This is the common place to start for those who are getting into NBA betting for the first time. You must simply pick the side you think will win or lose the match. The NBA odds on offer will give bettors an idea of who is the favorite because the higher the number, the more of an underdog a team is considered to be. 

Picking a winner in a match between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers from above is an example; the Golden State Warriors are the favorites, and so they have the smaller number (-120) or shorter odds. The Cleveland Cavaliers have a higher number, or longer odds because they aren’t favored as much as the Warriors. The table from earlier is an example of how moneyline odds are presented in the NBA.

NBA Spreads 

Unlike moneyline betting, spread betting in the NBA is not on a fixed outcome like winning or losing. It is also the most common form of betting in the NBA. Let’s continue using the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors to explain spread betting. 



Cleveland Cavaliers 

+7.5 (-110)

Golden State Warriors 

-7.5 (+110)

This form of betting makes things far more interesting because it levels the playing field between two teams that aren’t equal in terms of quality. In this example, the Golden State Warriors are favorites and must win the game by a margin of more than the spread number (-7.5). The Cavs can lose the game by less than the spread number (+7.5) for your bet to be successful. 

This means that even if the Golden State Warriors win and the Cleveland Cavaliers lose, the former might not win you rewards if it doesn’t win by the point difference required, and the latter might rake rewards as long as it doesn’t lose by a certain margin of points.

In this example, think of it as the Cavaliers beginning the game ahead by 7.5 points. If they manage to hold on to that advantage, irrespective of the game’s final result, you will win $100 for every $110 you bet on them. If, on the other hand, the Warriors claw back the -7.5 handicap and you backed them to win by more than that, you get $110 for each $100 you bet.

NBA odds and betting of this type make a lot of sense for a sport like basketball because it is a high-scoring sport. Other sports also have spread betting, but, in the case of the NHL or soccer, the scores are so low that this market isn’t always lucrative.

Over and under betting

This is another popular form of NBA betting. You’re essentially betting on how many points will be scored in total, generally in terms of the aggregate score of both the teams or, in the case of prop bets, just one team.

The over/under aspect of it comes in because you aren’t betting on the exact number of points; instead, your wager will be on whether the total aggregate of points will be over or under a particular number that the sportsbook decides. 

Outrights and futures betting

This is a bet on the outright winner of the Championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t go into most tournaments as the favorites to win the NBA Championship, which is why they’re likely to have long odds of winning the Championship.

This sort of bet is usually saved for the best teams in the NBA, like the Golden State Warriors, who have been one of the best teams in the last decade, constituting what many would consider a dynasty.

There’s a lot to win here because even though one team might be a favorite, a lot can change over a season with 29 other teams involved in the Championship.  

Futures betting markets also involve betting on who the MVP will be, which teams qualify for the playoffs, which teams will top a conference, and so on. If it’s an outcome set in the future, you can generally bet on it.

NBA Prop bets

Prop bets are generally bets made by experienced bettors and are the foundation of live betting. These bets focus on tiny pockets of play that don’t directly affect the final result of a game, like, for instance, whether a certain player will score over or under a certain number of points. This can also be applicable to things like blocks, assists, 3-point shots made, and the like.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal to bet on NBA games in Ohio?

Yes, sports betting is legal in the state of Ohio. The state hasn’t launched a sportsbook yet, but sports betting was legalized in Ohio in December 2021.

What format are NBA odds presented in?

NBA odds are generally presented in American format by default if you’re in the United States, and to a lesser extent as decimal odds. The fractional odds are rare on American sportsbooks, but you will be able to toggle between different formats from within a good sportsbook’s interface.

How to start betting on the NBA?

Start with moneyline betting, but if you have in-depth knowledge of the sport, you can also start getting into NBA props and spreads. Be wary when betting on your home team because biases might disrupt your strategy. 

What is the best strategy for NBA betting?

Start by watching the games, but this isn’t necessary all the time. Follow a few websites with a good record with NBA tips and do your research using websites that offer in-depth statistics or break them down nicely for even the most casual viewers.