Below is a comprehensive basketball betting guide to help you learn how to bet on the NBA. We’ll cover all of the top basketball betting markets, such as moneylines, spreads, totals, props, and futures. You’ll also find step-by-step instructions on how to bet on the NBA, including details and where in the US you can bet on basketball.

Our recommended NBA betting sportsbooks for May 2024

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How to bet on the NBA

  1. Pick one of the sportsbooks above that features the best promotions and NBA odds for you. Most sports betting apps offer the same standard NBA wagers, but some of the more niche options may only be available on certain platforms.
  2. Sign up for an account at the sportsbook you select. Please gamble responsibly.
  3. Choose a deposit method. Popular options include online banking, debit card, and PayPal.
  4. When money is in the account, go to the NBA section and view the available betting options.
  5. In states where sports betting is legal, some sportsbooks may offer special retention promos or odds boosts for the NBA. Go to the “Promos” or “Boost” section of the sportsbook to view what’s available.

NBA betting odds & markets explained

You’ll find odds and lines at legal NBA sportsbooks for every NBA game. If you click on the NBA or basketball tab, the main betting lobby will populate with upcoming games. The default listing features three main bets. Here’s how each one works.

Basketball moneyline betting

Choose which side you think will win the game. The odds will indicate whether a team is the favorite or underdog: negative for the former and positive for the latter. A large gap between the numbers indicates an anticipated mismatch, while a closer range indicates something more akin to a toss-up.

Milwaukee Bucks+105
Los Angeles Lakers-115

Learn more: What is the moneyline?

Basketball point spread betting

Sportsbooks set a spread, which is essentially an estimated margin of victory to factor into your decision. You can bet on the favorite minus the spread number or the underdog plus the number. For you to win the bet, the side you choose has to cover the spread.

Los Angeles Clippers+2.5 (-110)
Brooklyn Nets-2.5 (-110)

Basketball totals betting

Oddsmakers set a line for the total combined points in a game. You decide if you think the actual total points for the game will be over or under that line.

Over214.5 (-110)
Under214.5 (-110)

You might see odds for the following day’s NBA games the evening before, and they should for sure be available by the morning of the contest. After release, the odds and lines can shift in response to betting action or new information such as injuries.

It’s a good idea to shop around prior to placing any bets. The numbers won’t always be exactly the same everywhere, and seemingly minor differences can add up. Some bettors like to wager soon after the initial release, while others prefer waiting until closer to tipoff.

Time of BetAdvantageDisadvantage
When the lines come outYou’re wagering on the number set by the book without worrying about market influences.New information may emerge in advance of tipoff that could impact the bet.
Just ahead of tipoffAll of the information is in, and the market has spoken.Late movements can impact your perception of the contest.
Live after the game has startedReal-time wagering allows you to focus on the game in progress.Need to pay careful attention as the game plays out.

Online sportsbooks will also have some standard rules that cover the placement and settlement of bets, as well as any circumstances that could impact the proceedings. For the NBA, here are some points to keep in mind:

  • The sportsbook will consider all bets to be action once the game gets underway. Bets will remain live in the event of a slight delay, but a cancellation or postponement will lead to voided bets.
  • Sportsbooks will remove prop bets on players who fail to suit up or are ruled out prior to a game, and they will void and refund any placed bets.
  • A spread or total bet that lands exactly on the sportsbook’s line — for instance, 210 total points when that’s the over/under for the game — is a push, with neither side winning and the sportsbook refunding your wager.

Understanding vig/juice

Vigorish, also known as “vig” or juice, is the amount that sportsbooks tilt the odds in their favor to try to guarantee a profit. For instance, with standard point spread betting odds of -110 on both sides, a $100 bet would stand to win a profit of $90.91 if correct. So if the betting money coming in is even or nearly even on both sides, sportsbooks will make money on the bet instead of it being a wash.

Of course, the vig can change in either direction. Very favorable results will have a lot of vig, while unlikely situations would have higher payouts. It’s also important for bettors to do some line shopping and determine the best available odds. Our odds pages feature tools to help with this process.

NBA futures, props, and live betting odds

The big three bets for NBA games are the point spread, moneyline, and over/under. Those options will appear prominently at top basketball betting sites, but they aren’t the only ways to wager. There’s an active futures market for pro basketball, as well as various props for each contest. Once the games start, you can also place live bets as the action plays out.

NBA futures betting

Futures odds for the NBA will first appear over the offseason and are for long-term bets, generally related to outcomes of the full season or playoffs.

  • NBA Finals winner
  • Division and conference winners
  • A team’s total wins for the regular season
  • Clubs to qualify for or miss the playoffs
  • MVP, rookie of the year, and other award winners
  • Season-long leaders and individual player accomplishments

When betting on futures, the goal is to make the right call while also finding the selections you want at the best possible prices. This is another area in which line shopping can be beneficial.

NBA prop betting

You can find props for upcoming NBA games by clicking on each individual game listing. There’s typically a range of choices for each contest, with options like game, team, and player scenarios.

  • Will the game go to overtime?
  • Which side will lead at halftime — New York Knicks or Denver Nuggets?
  • How many total points will Stephen Curry score (over/under 28.5)?

On the player prop side, those with fantasy sports experience often find this to be a natural entry point for crossing into sports betting. Many wagers focus on specific accomplishments, so projection skills and experience can translate well.

NBA first basket betting

First basket NBA prop bets have been growing in popularity. The wager is a quick one that settles almost immediately, as it simply involves betting on the first basket of the game. There are several options for betting on this prop, including the following:

  • Player to score the first basket.
  • Method of the first basket.
  • First team basket scorer.

Using the player to score first as an example, there will be odds for the players whom sportsbooks expect to suit up in the contest. Just like any other wager with an array of choices, the odds will range from the favorites to score first down to the long shots. If you choose correctly, your winnings will arrive in your account as soon as the wager settles.

NBA first team to 20 points betting

Which team will hit a certain benchmark (like 20 points) first? Options will vary by sportsbook, but there’s generally a range of options, such as a race to 10, 20, or more points. Here’s what the odds might look like for one of those bets:

  • Race to 20 points
  • Orlando Magic +150
  • Philadelphia 76ers -190

NBA first team to “X” number of points betting has also been rising in popularity in recent years. It’s another quick wager that has a result quickly and also provides some additional rooting interest for the early stages of the game.

NBA 3-pointer betting

NBA props provide the opportunity to dig deeper into specific aspects of the game. Here are some examples of the wagers you can make on 3-pointers:

  • Over/under on the number of 3-pointers that a particular team or player will make.
  • Player to make two or more 3-pointers.
  • The player or team to make the first 3-pointer of the game.

Three-pointer props bring another strategic element into the equation as you get set to enjoy the NBA action.

NBA live betting

After the game begins, you can bet live as the action plays out. Many legal books have dedicated sections for current and upcoming live betting options.

  • Updated game lines: You’ll see updated odds for the moneyline, spread, and total based on what’s happening in the game.
  • Quarters and halves: You can focus on specific segments of the game, such as which team will score more points in the second quarter.
  • Player props: There will be a lot of prop-style bets throughout the game, many of which will resemble what you would see prior to tipoff.

Live betting is fast-paced, which makes it easy to get caught up in the action. That being the case, it’s imperative to have a clear budget in place and limits to adhere to whenever you plan on betting on a live NBA game.

How the NBA playoffs work

Since the 1984 season, the NBA playoffs have traditionally included 16 teams: eight each from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. That format expanded prior to the restarted 2019-20 season to include play-in rounds. Here’s how the NBA playoffs work under those rules.

  • The top six teams in each conference — three division winners and next-best records — receive automatic bids.
  • The final two seeds in each conference will be decided via a play-in tournament. Teams with the seventh- through 10th-best records in each conference will compete.
  • Tiebreakers will determine seeds and qualifications as necessary.
  • After the play-in round, the NBA playoffs begin, with four rounds in total.
  • The rounds are best-of-seven with the first team to four wins advancing.
  • The final rounds on both sides of the bracket are the conference championships, with winners advancing to the NBA Finals.

NBA play-in tournament betting

The NBA play-in tournament was first introduced in the 2019-20 season. It has since become a permanent fixture. At the conclusion of the regular season, the top six teams in each conference clinch playoff berths. The teams that finished seventh through 10th in each conference advance to the play-in tournament to play for the final two spots. Here’s how it works for both conferences:

  • Play-in game: No. 8 at No. 7. Winner advances as the No. 7 seed. Loser plays in the No. 8 seed game.
  • Play-in game: No. 10 at No. 9. Loser is eliminated, winner advances to the No. 8 seed game.
  • No. 8 seed game: Loser of 7/8 game vs. winner of 9/10 game. The winner of this contest is the No. 8 seed.

Betting on the NBA Finals

The NBA Finals pit the winners of the two conferences in a best-of-seven series to determine a champion. It’s the signature event of the NBA season, and also the star attraction from a betting perspective. You can bet on the NBA Finals in several ways. Here are some of the top options:

  • Moneyline, spread, and total for each game.
  • The overall championship winner.
  • Which player will win the MVP.

Each game will also have a variety of props. Once the games tip off, you can also place live bets in real time.

NBA draft betting

The annual NBA draft takes place every year shortly after the NBA Finals. It’s a two-round event for the top prospects: an assortment of college, international, and other amateur players. Prior to the draft, there’s an annual lottery to finalize the order at the top of the board. The team with the worst record has the best chance to land the top pick, followed by the second-worst club, and so on down the list for the non-playoff teams. The order for the remaining teams depends on their placement in the final standings.

The 2024 NBA draft will take place from June 26 to 27 at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York, the first time that the draft has been held over two consecutive nights. Sportsbooks will offer a range of NBA draft betting options, including odds on who will be the first overall pick, the exact order of selection for the top prospects, and the position to be drafted by a team.

Betting on NBA All-Star weekend

The first NBA All-Star Game took place in the Boston Garden in 1951. Since then, the weekend has added a plethora of events for fans. The weekend consists not only of the All-Star Game itself but also a 3-point contest, dunk contest, and skills competition. Here’s a recent sample schedule:

Certain events might be off-limits to wager on, depending on where you are located. The dunk contest is not an available option in every state where online betting is legal.

WNBA betting guide

Interest in the WNBA continues to grow, and the 2024 season tipped off on Tuesday, May 14.

Anticipation is high for Caitlin Clark, the first overall pick at the recent WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever. Clark dominated during her college career at Iowa, setting multiple records while averaging 28.4 points per game. Sportsbooks are offering Caitlin Clark odds for her rookie season.

The Las Vegas Aces enter the season seeking a three-peat. Last season, they defeated the New York Liberty 3-1 to claim their second straight title. A’ja Wilson was named the WNBA Finals MVP.

NBA betting FAQs

Can I bet on the NBA All-Star Game?

Yes, the NBA All-Star Game is an officially sanctioned event that’s available to wager on. You will be able to place bets in every state that has legal online sports betting or retail betting.

What NBA All-Star events can I bet on?

In most states, you can wager on all events. Other states may prohibit wagering on events like the dunk contest, 3-point competition, and skills competition.

Where can I bet on the NBA?

All of the top online sportsbooks offer NBA wagers in states where they are legal. This includes traditional spreads and totals, along with various props, futures, and same-game parlays.

How can I bet on the NBA online?

As long as you’re in a state where online betting is legal, it’s easy to create an account and place a bet online. Make sure you’re at a legal book when doing so.

What is the difference between DraftKings and FanDuel for NBA betting?

For the most part, top sportsbooks will feature very similar wagering options for the NBA. Some differences may include the specific odds, niche props, and retention offers. Sportsbooks will have different layouts in how they present what they offer for NBA betting. They will also feature different odds boosts when available.

Where can I get free NBA predictions?

Legal Sports Report does not offer picks and predictions on NBA games. We provide information on how and where to bet, including promotional information from top legal sportsbooks. We also provide tools and resources to help people understand odds and make educated bets.

Can NBA betting be profitable?

There’s an extremely slim chance that your sports bets will be profitable long-term. LSR features content to help you be a safer and smarter bettor, including understanding odds and bankroll management. For many, online sports betting should be a fun and leisurely activity. As always, please gamble responsibly.