NBA Betting Guide 2020

Update: The NBA is back! On June 5 the NBA approved a 22-team return to play format for the 2020 season. Games resumed July 31 in Orlando and NBA Championship odds are being offered at US online sportsbooks right now; see live NBA odds and lines below.

The NBA is one of the most popular US pro sports leagues for betting, and its global reach is continually expanding. The spread of legalized sports betting across the US only aids the NBA’s popularity. Every state with legal sportsbooks offers betting on basketball.

That means NBA betting is legal at casinos, racetracks, off-track betting parlors, and at online sportsbooks and betting apps across the country. NBA betting might already be legal in your state, too, as several have passed bills legalizing sports betting in the past few years.

Here’s a complete look at NBA betting across the US, including in which states you can bet on the NBA online and in person. You’ll also find answers to the most frequently asked questions about NBA betting, NBA finals odds and some expert insights on the best NBA betting tips.

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Where you can bet on NBA games online

States that host legal sports betting provide single-game NBA betting and NBA futures markets. If you’re 21 years or older and inside state lines, you can bet on the outcome of most NBA games. You can also bet on the prospects of most NBA teams and players at licensed online sportsbooks and their sports betting apps.

Here’s a list of the current states offering legal online NBA betting:

All the above states allow statewide online and mobile sports betting. Mississippi offers online and mobile NBA betting as long as you’re on the licensed sportsbook’s property. Several more states, including Michigan and Virginia, are planning to launch online and mobile sports betting in the near future.

Mobile sports betting apps and websites in NJ, CO, NV, PA, WV, RI, IA and IN all offer the same NBA betting markets available at local retail sportsbooks.

Best NBA betting apps

You can access most legal online sportsbooks via your computer, laptop or cell phone. Sportsbook operators usually offer a sports betting app for Apple and Android mobile devices. Beyond screen sizes, online sportsbooks and betting apps are almost identical. They include the same full slate of lines and odds. Many betting apps are fully integrated between the sportsbook and casino, which allows you to move from one to the other seamlessly. Whether on an app, online or in-person, you easily can place a bet, play around with the bet slip, test out potential payouts, make deposits and cash out your winnings. As long as you have correctly registered your account and are within the boundaries of a legal sports betting state, you can place a bet on the NBA.

draftkings live betting app1. DraftKings Sportsbook – $25 in free bets

DraftKings Sportsbook is legal in: NJ, CO, PA, WV, IN, NH, IA  

NBA bettors can get an account at DraftKings, a DFS and sports betting powerhouse, and access the sportsbook and casino. Fully downloadable iOS and Android apps are both available as is a web-based sportsbook. NBA markets include team and player futures, game lines & odds and varied prop bets

2. FanDuel Sportsbook – Up to $500 risk-free bet

FanDuel Sportsbook is legal in: NJ, CO, PA, WV and IN

Top-grossing online sportsbook & sportsbook app in multiple states. FanDuel is a market leader in every state it has launched with a great interface and a massive selection of NBA lines, futures & props.

3. BetMGM Sportsbook – Up to $500 bonus

BetMGM Sportsbook is legal in: NJ, CO, IN and WV

Among the best sports betting apps; it’s easy to use with competitive NBA lines and futures markets. This NBA sports betting app is fully downloadable iOS and Android apps are both available alongside the online sportsbook.

NBA Live Odds

The bubble is bursting with NBA game action every day as teams angle for playoff seeds and rev up for a run to the finals. Here are the real-time odds for every game in Orlando as you’ll find them at legal US online sportsbooks. Use the toggle menu to find sportsbooks in your state and to see moneyline odds and totals odds.

NBA Finals Odds 2020

The Toronto Raptors rode a wave of Kawhi Leonard and major injuries to the Golden State Warriors to win their first-ever NBA Championship in 2018-19. Kawhi, of course, moved on to the LA Clippers and instantly (along with Paul George) made them a 2020 Finals favorite.

The Los Angeles Lakers, with Anthony Davis in the fold alongside LeBron, also became instant contenders alongside the Milwaukee Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo.

As the NBA season prepares to restart after the global pandemic, those three remain the odds-on favorites. Twenty-two teams have been invited to Orlando to play down to a 2020 NBA Champion with play-in games to determine seeding.

Here are the current NBA Finals odds at legal US online sportsbooks including DraftKings and FanDuel. Use the drop-down menus to change your state or see more NBA odds markets including to win each Conference, win MVP and win Rookie of the Year. Click any odds number to claim your bonus and start the registration process.

How to Bet on the NBA online

There are some differences when it comes to betting on the NBA online as opposed to in-person at a retail sportsbook. The first difference is that you need to sign up for an account. It requires a minimal amount of personal information that, for the most part, is limited to your home address and the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Online and mobile sports betting operators also verify your age and location before you can bet freely. Then, once that process is complete, you will need to get money onto the site or app for wagering. Fortunately, sports betting websites and mobile apps across the US also make this an easy process.

Most accept major credit cards, online bank transfers, and popular third-party payment processors, e.g., PayPal. Plus, cash options include making a deposit at an affiliated casino cage, or 7-Eleven or CVS stores using PayNearMe. Once you are set up, you should notice the second difference between betting online versus in-person at a retail sportsbook.

Online sportsbooks offer you the chance to sift through all the NBA betting options before you place a bet. You can see all the varieties of outcomes before you bet online and choose your bets accordingly. If you try that at a betting window inside a busy sportsbook, someone will probably call security.

Online, there’s no waiting in line. You can search through all the available options, and you’ll enjoy quick access to all available in-play and in-game NBA betting options as well. While the retail sportsbook experience is an enjoyable one, the availability of online and mobile NBA betting only enhances it.

Beginner’s guide to NBA betting

Betting on individual NBA games usually involves the following basic single-game wagers:

  • Moneyline: A bet on a team to win a game. These bets pay out at either negative (favorite) or positive (underdog) odds posted by the sportsbook and locked in at the time the bet is placed. These odds are set according to each team’s probability of winning.
  • Spread: A bet on a team to win a game with a spread set by oddsmakers factored into the final score.
  • Total: A bet on whether the combined score in a game will be over or under a line set by oddsmakers.
  • Parlay: Two or more basic bets combined into one wager. All bets, otherwise known as legs, must win to get paid.
  • Live Betting or In-Play Betting: This type is betting during a live game using live odds that adjust throughout the contest.

Visit this in-depth guide for sports betting beginners to learn more.

NBA futures and prop betting

NBA futures markets are exactly what they sound like. These are NBA bets involving something where the outcome is not determined until the future.

These betting markets open before the season. The odds on each team adjust throughout the year as their chances of winning increase or decrease.

Most state gaming commissions allow for team prop bets, e.g., how many wins a team will have throughout the season. Also, they will allow player prop bets for each game or things like the annual NBA Awards or NBA draft.

Here’s a list of NBA futures and props you’ll find at legal US sportsbooks:

  • Division Winners: A bet on a specific team to win its division.
  • NBA Win Totals: A bet on a specific team to win more or fewer games than a line set by oddsmakers.
  • NBA MVP/Rookie of Year/MIP/Defensive Player/Coach: A bet on an individual to win any one of the annual NBA awards.
  • NBA Playoffs: Bets on a team to make the NBA Playoffs or win a specific NBA Playoffs series.
  • NBA Finals: Bets on a team to win the NBA Finals.
  • NBA Props: Bets on an NBA team or player propositions.
  • NBA All-Star Game: Bets on the outcome of the NBA’s annual All-Star Game.
  • NBA 3-Point Shootout/NBA Dunk Contest: Bets on the outcome of competitions held at the NBA’s annual All-Star Saturday Night.
  • NBA Draft: Bets on who will be drafted into the NBA.
  • NBA Lottery Odds: Bets on the order of where teams will pick in the annual NBA Draft.
  • NBA Free Agency: Bets on where a free agent player will sign in the offseason.

NBA moneylines

NBA moneyline bets pay according to each team’s probability of winning. Moneyline bets require you to pick a game’s outright winner. The posted odds are locked in at the time you place the bet.

Sportsbooks post the odds on each team as either a negative (-) or positive (+) number.

Negative numbers indicate that the team is the favorite and represents how much you must bet to win $100 plus your bet back.

Positive numbers indicate that the team is the underdog and represents how much each $100 you bet will pay, plus your bet back.

NBA point spreads

NBA spreads are the number of points oddsmakers figure one team should win by in a game. The home team is a standard 1.5-point favorite in most NBA games. Check the line and predict who will win the game with that line factored in.

Taking the favorite means you must subtract the spread from the team’s final score to determine a betting winner.

Taking the underdog means you’re betting on that team to win outright or lose by less than the spread. NBA spread bets are booked at moneyline odds posted by sportsbooks.

NBA totals

NBA totals require you to pick whether the total score in a game will end up over or under a line set by sportsbooks. NBA totals bets are also booked at moneyline odds posted by sportsbooks.

NBA parlays

When you combine two or more basic bets into one wager, you’re subsequently betting on a parlay. Parlays pay better than individual bets, but the catch is that you must win all the bets in the parlay to win anything.

As a beginner NBA bettor, parlay bets can look enticing with their odds and potential payouts, but they are fairly challenging bets to win.

Understanding NBA betting lines

Oddsmakers create lines for the basic NBA bets described above based on several factors. These include the scheduling and location of the game, historical matchup statistics, each team’s expected lineup, and both seasonal and most recent performance data.

Lines are also set based on a few fundamental NBA game principles. These include:

  • The better team almost always wins.
  • There’s an inherent home-court advantage in the NBA.
  • Most NBA games end up being close.

Obviously, it’s a good idea to consider all these factors when deciding which side of an NBA line you should bet.

NBA line shopping

Lines on the basic NBA bets, which you see above, will differ from operator to operator. Therefore, you will find value by shopping around for the best lines at different sportsbooks.

If you can lay less money on a favorite or get more on an underdog, you are essentially putting money in your pocket. Obviously, this is easier with online and mobile sports betting. However, sharp sports bettors will also shop around at retail sportsbooks in search of the best price on a bet.

NBA line movement

NBA lines only move for two reasons:

  • Injuries
  • Betting action that favors one side.

The first is an injury to a key player, which is entirely understandable.

In the 2019-20 NBA season, teams will be forced to provide the lineup for each game a half-hour before tipoff. If a key player is not on the lineup for one team, you will see sportsbooks adjust the basic NBA lines for the game ahead of time.

The second reason an NBA line might move is when more money comes in on one side or the other.

Sportsbooks set lines in the middle to attract action to both sides of a bet. That way, they are less exposed to major losses. If a significantly greater amount of money is bet on one side, they will move the line to reduce that exposure.

Bettors can track this artificial line movement and take advantage of the better price offered on a bet. Think of it like betting on oddsmakers being right the first time they set the line and then taking advantage of the fact that while their minds haven’t changed, the line has.

NBA live betting

Most state gaming commissions allow for live betting, aka in-play betting, on NBA games. This means you can make bets in the middle of an NBA game at odds that change as the action does.

It’s an excellent option for bettors who actively watch NBA games. Particularly in jurisdictions where mobile sports betting apps are legal. With the odds continually changing, it can be difficult to get live bets placed at retail sportsbooks.

Sometimes the line at the betting window can prevent you from placing a bet. Therefore, in-play betting is better for online and mobile wagering.

Sports betting apps that offer in-play betting require quick access to NBA data. Therefore, the ones that have a deal with the NBA offering access to game data have an advantage in setting these live and in-play lines.

Get $25 free and bet on the NBA live at DraftKings now

NBA betting strategies

Betting on the NBA at legal US sportsbooks is an easy process. It’s picking winners that is anything but easy.

Those who are the most successful at betting on the NBA will follow proven betting strategies they have developed over time. Some even employ computer modeling and algorithms to give them an edge.

Most also carefully manage their betting bankroll, limiting exposure and slowly grind out small edges to make a profit.

You want to look for value in the betting lines to give you an edge. Oddsmakers aren’t above making a mistake, and you need to pounce on these when you can.

Finding value can be challenging, but the following NBA betting tips might help:

  • Superstars Win Games: Make sure to follow who is hot and check injury reports to see who is in and out of the lineup on any given night. Some players can will their team to a win.
  • Most NBA Games are Close: In fact, many are decided by 2 points or less. Look for big, bloated spreads and take advantage of the fact that most underdogs usually keep things close.
  • The Best Team Almost Always Wins: Big upsets are rare, but there is little to choose from between top-tier teams, which makes it challenging to use this strategy.
  • The Home Team Almost Always Wins: Shop around for the best price on a home favorite to eke out a little value. Don’t forget that the best team almost always wins, but there is a palpable home-court advantage in the NBA.
  • Do Your Homework: Sports betting is a war of information, so get all you can by reading about the NBA and watching games. Then, bet on teams you know more about than oddsmakers who must follow the entire league.
  • Bet Situationally: Even the best teams in the NBA can play bad at the end of a long road trip or on the second leg of a back-to-back. Look at the situation as much as the teams, and you might find a small edge.

NBA betting mistakes to avoid

Try to avoid the following when betting on the NBA:

  • Chase Losses: Betting sometimes involves losing. The sooner you accept that, the better off you’ll be. Never chase losses by increasing your bet size. That’s a quick way to go broke. Proper bankroll management involves keeping your bets around the same affordable size. That way you can ride out a losing streak and still be betting when your picks start winning again.
  • Always Bet on Home Favorites: Home teams win more often than not in the NBA, but always betting on the home favorite is a mistake. Every team sometimes loses, even at home. Look for those weak spots and avoid betting the game or pick a road underdog primed to upset the home team occasionally.
  • Bet with Your Heart: Everyone has an NBA team they love, but that love won’t help anyone win all 82 games in the regular season. Instead of betting a team just because they are yours, rely on stats and data to back up your picks. Bet with your head, not your heart.

NBA betting systems

Do enough research and you’ll come across a few NBA betting systems that promise to be profitable. Just remember, anything can happen in the NBA.

Here’s a look at a few of the most popular NBA betting systems:

  • The High Totals System: This system involves finding nonconference games where the totals line is 220 points or higher. Taking the over in these games has proven profitable in the past.
  • The Blowout System: This one involves finding significant home favorites coming off a game in which they blew out their last opponent by 15 or more. You bet the underdog and lean on the theory; the home team is due for a letdown.
  • The Bounce Back System: This is predicated on the idea that NBA teams coming off a poor shooting night will bounce back at their next home game. Statistics show most teams bounce back from a poor offensive performance upward of 60% of the time upon returning home.
  • The Three in Four System: Although the NBA has reduced the number of back-to-back team play, you still see squads facing three games in four nights, on occasion. Apparently, point totals have proven to go way up in the third game with tired teams lacking defensive intensity. Consistently picking overs when a team is playing the third game in four nights has proven profitable.

NBA Power Rankings

NBA.com releases the NBA Power Rankings every Monday during the NBA season. It also issues a midsummer power rankings at the end of July after most top-tier free agents have signed.

The NBA.com Power Rankings are put together by NBA beat writer John Schuhmann, which means it is really just one man’s opinion. However, the power rankings can be valuable to NBA bettors who put stock in the idea that the best team almost always wins.

Here’s a quick look at NBA.com’s pre-season NBA Power Rankings:

Western Conference

  1. LA Clippers: The addition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George put the Clippers on top.
  2. Denver Nuggets: The Western Conference’s top seed in 2019-20 didn’t get much older, only more experienced.
  3. Utah Jazz: The addition of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic make the Jazz a better team.
  4. Los Angeles Lakers: Lebron James now has another All-Star to play with: Anthony Davis.
  5. Houston Rockets: The Rockets still have MVP candidate James Harden and got better swapping Chris Paul for MVP candidate Russell Westbrook.
  6. Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant is gone, but an improved D’Angelo Russell is there. The Warriors can still win with big three of the MVP Stephen Curry, fellow splash brother Klay Thompson (once he’s back from an ACL tear), and perennial defensive player of the year candidate Draymond Green.
  7. Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers will go as far as star Damian Lillard can take them.
  8. San Antonio Spurs: Adding Spurs legend Tim Duncan must make the team better.
  9. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes and Trevor Ariza have been key pieces on other contenders. Can they do it for Sacramento?
  10. New Orleans Pelicans: Adding No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson, sharpshooter J.J. Redick and a couple of young ex-Lakers might help replace Anthony Davis.
  11. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder traded this season for draft picks and will hope they end up with a high one.
  12. Dallas Mavericks: Consensus is Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic will be top stars in the future. It’s just that the future isn’t right now.
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Top players Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Dario Saric are gone. Andrew Wiggins has something to prove.
  14. Memphis Grizzlies: Draft pick Ja Morant is the youngest player on a young team in their first full year with franchise cornerstones Mike Conley and Marc Gasol elsewhere.
  15. Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton look like future all-stars, but there’s not much else to get excited about in Phoenix.

Eastern Conference

  1. Milwaukee Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic are gone, but MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo should lead this team to Eastern Conference regular-season dominance again.
  2. Philadelphia 76ers: The addition of Al Horford should make the Sixers better. However, they will only go as far as Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid can take them with Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick gone.
  3. Toronto Raptors: The Championship hangover should be real and real long with Kawhi Leonard gone, but the Raptors’ core makes them a playoff team.
  4. Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker replaces Kyrie Irving, which should improve the locker room vibe, even if it doesn’t equal more wins.
  5. Brooklyn Nets: The addition of Irving and Kevin Durant make Brooklyn better, but Durant could miss the whole season.
  6. Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon is a good addition, but the Pacers are still waiting to see when Victor Oladipo will be back on the floor.
  7. Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler makes Miami better as long as he doesn’t tear the team apart inside the locker room.
  8. Orlando Magic: A playoff team in 2018-19 that returns all its key players, but questions remain about how far these key players can take them.
  9. Detroit Pistons: The Pistons added Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and hope to have a healthy Blake Griffin coming off knee surgery. They could be better.
  10. Atlanta Hawks: A young team that is stockpiling more young talent. The question is if the Hawks can learn to play team defense.
  11. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls replace Robin Lopez with Thaddeus Young but are still dependent on the unproven Zach Levine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.
  12. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal is an all-star, but questions remain about whether John Wall and Isaiah Thomas can return.
  13. New York Knicks: The kicks drafted R.J. Barrett and signed Julius Randle, but their quest to add marquee free agents failed.
  14. Charlotte Hornets: Michael Jordan is still crying with only Terry Rozier to replace the departed Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb.
  15. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers are still paying the players LeBron James told them to, even though they aren’t competing for a championship alongside him anymore.

NBA Betting FAQ

Where is NBA betting legal in US?

NBA betting is legal at licensed online and mobile sportsbooks in the following states:

  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Rhode Island
  • Iowa
  • Indiana

The following states are also planning to license online and mobile sportsbooks soon:

  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Tennessee
  • Oregon
  • Washington, D.C.

NBA betting is legal at licensed retail sportsbooks in the following states:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia
  • Indiana
  • Tennessee

The following states have legalized retail sports betting, but licensed sportsbooks have yet to launch:

  • Montana
  • Illinois
  • Oregon
  • Washington, D.C.

How do spreads work in the NBA?

NBA spreads are the same as spreads in other sports. Oddsmakers set a line on the number of points the favorite is expected to win by. That number is then deducted from the favorite’s final score to determine a betting winner. That means favorites need to win by the spread or more, while underdogs can win outright or lose by less than the spread.

Can I bet against the spread in the NBA?

You sure can. Betting against the spread simply means you’re betting on the underdog to win outright or to lose by less than the spread.

What's the best way to predict NBA totals?

The best way to predict whether a game will land on the over or the under is to research the teams involved. Check how many points were scored the last time they played. Look at team scoring averages and the specific scheduling situation both teams are in heading into the matchup.

How do totals work in basketball?

NBA totals, otherwise known as the over/under, is a bet on whether the two teams in an NBA game will combine to score more points than a line set by oddsmakers.

What if the totals line is right?

If you bet on NBA totals and the teams hit the line exactly, it is a push. That means you’ll get your bet back.

Does overtime count for NBA totals?

Overtime counts in NBA totals unless otherwise specified. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, over bettors will start to smile.

How do second-half NBA lines work?

Oddsmakers adjust the basic lines for an NBA game based on first-half performance. You can lock in bets on these second-half NBA lines during halftime and either earn back some of what you’re expecting to lose on your pregame bets or eke out an even bigger profit.

How are NBA lines created?

Sportsbooks create lines based on things like the scheduling and location of a game, stats based on the history of the two teams involved, and recent performance data. Oddsmakers also lean on basic NBA principles that include the reality of home-court advantage and the fact that most NBA games are decided by just a basket or two.

What is NBA handicap betting?

NBA handicap betting is just another name for NBA spread betting. The handicap line is just the point spread set by oddsmakers.

What is the NBA Draft Lottery?

The NBA Draft Lottery is how the NBA decides the order teams will pick in the NBA Draft. It is held annually in May. The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled for May 19, 2020, in Chicago. Teams get more entries into the draw for the top picks based on how bad the season went.

The NBA Draft is where teams get to pick the rights to new players from colleges or overseas. It is held annually in June. The 2020 NBA Draft is set for June 25, 2020, in New York City.

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