The NBA, which stands for the US National Basketball Association, is one of the longest-running and most spectacular sports championships to watch. The league routinely attracts top players from across the globe and attracts a worldwide viewership and a variety of sponsors.
All this attention makes it one of the most popular competitions to bet on, with fans and seasoned punters alike engaging in placing wagers in various ways: from game-to-game predictions all the way to betting on the NBA championship winners in the finals that will take place this coming June.
How Betting On The NBA Works
The NBA consists of 30 teams, 29 from the USA and one from Canada, half of which compete in the Eastern Conference and the other half in the Western Conference – each of which is further divided into three divisions of five teams.
The top eight teams from each Conference compete in the playoffs in a series of seven games within the Conference, before the respective winners move on to the Conference Finals and then the NBA Finals. With each team playing more than 80 games in regular season, there are plenty of opportunities to place a bet.
There are also a variety of ways to bet on NBA games. One that punters regularly prefer is the spread, where the bet is marked by a number of points on a minus (–) sign – which denotes that the team you bet on must win by at least so many points for the wager to be successful.
As teams in NBA games tend to score several points, this type of betting is very popular. Another type of popular bet is a moneyline, where the odds are based on predictions about who will win – which comes in handy when stronger teams compete against outsiders.
Another favourite option among more experienced punters is the total bet, which is based on the combined score of both competing teams.
Lastly, a first-half bet is a good type of wager for starting out in NBA betting, as it allows you to place bets during halftime – which means that you get to gauge a team’s performance and how the game will unfold before deciding. But you have to keep in mind that there are teams that are known for performing well in the start and others that tend to finish strong.
How To Identify Great Chances To Bet: Momentum And Psychology
Although there is no foolproof way to bet on the NBA, there are tricks on what to look for that could make your game-to-game strategy very successful. Historically, one of the biggest factors in NBA performance is momentum.
Teams that suddenly find themselves in a losing streak tend to linger there and underdogs that have scored an unexpected win against a better team tend to perform better at their next game, too.
For example, the Milwaukee Bucks are not really considered a contender for this season’s finals and when the season started they found themselves in the middle in terms of odds.
But their performance during regular season gravitated upwards, including beating the Boston Celtics in the Boston team’s home opener and a series of scoring six wins in seven games prior to Christmas.
That run led them to their December 19th win against the Cleveland Cavaliers – last year’s finalists and generally considered the natural fit (13/10) to win the Eastern Conference while the Bucks’ better-than-expected performance raised their odds to 14/1.
Whether a team plays at home or away is also sometimes influencing how a game unfolds, as psychology plays a big part in NBA games and fans tend to be quite vocal and united in their support for their home team and their disapproval of the other team’s players.
Trouble on the horizon is also an indicator of a team’s performance. The Cleveland Cavaliers for example, although they started the season strong, they have lately been suffering from internal strife and nagging about who is to blame for the team's streak of unexpected losses.
This is why they have lost their second place in odds to win the NBA championship to the Houston Rockets, standing at 6/1 behind reigning champions Golden State Warriors at 1/2. Doing some research on players’ and coaches’ comments as well as the winning or losing streaks of particular teams may point you in the right direction of who to back in their next game.
How Trading Can Make Or Break A Team
One of the aspects that attract the most attention and the most speculation in NBA is trading players. Every year after season – but also sometimes during the season – teams and players will agree on transfers that can significantly boost one roster and disrupt another, providing some indication for a team’s upcoming performances.
But predictions based on trades should be done carefully, as things might not always turn out as they seem. This year’s most-talked-about trade was Kyrie Irving transferring from the Cavs to the Celtics, who gave up Isaiah Thomas in return.
With four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James leading the team with the help of Kevin Love and Dwayne Wade joining, it seemed that the Cavaliers would again go strong.
However, the trade of Kyrie Irving proved to be the most important of all, as he shone in Boston Celtics and leading them to several wins after a rough start – no wonder that Irving features third in terms of odds to win the NBA MVP title at 16/1, leaving Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant of current champions Golden State Warriors behind at 18/1.
By contrast, Isaiah Thomas injuries’ prevented him from actually contributing in games, which made the trade not particularly fruitful for the Cavaliers and led them to recently trading him off to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Strategic Decisions: Injuries, Resting And Tanking
Injuries are also a big part of NBA losses and a major reason why trades do not always go as planned. Even the most meticulous predictions might be disrupted by an unexpected injury, but accounting for such unforeseen circumstances may give you an advantage when placing bets about live or upcoming games.
At the start of this season, the Celtics saw superstar and recent addition to their roster, Gordon Hayward, being inevitably benched for the rest of the season due to an ankle injury, after playing for his new team for just six minutes.
The Celtics struggled to find their pace again in the next day game, suffering a surprising loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Recently, New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis also suffered a torn knee – and the Knicks lost the next two games as well.
Purely practical concerns can affect a team’s strategy – and their performance. NBA is no stranger to tactics like coaches benching their big stars for specific games in order to allow them to rest in a strained schedule or avoid injuries – which means that on that day a team’s roster is less powerful, more disrupted, and less likely to win.
The fact that the NBA schedule is very heavy also means that teams often play back-to-back, competing in two games within two days, which decreased their chances of winning due to fatigue.
Finally, the unique drafting pattern and playoff format of the NBA, which usually pits the winner of each round against the worst-performing team, has led to the phenomenon of tanking – meaning that a team plays to lose on purpose, so that they can retain some advantage in the long run. So investigating what a team stand to lose by winning, can go a long way towards predicting their chances at their next game.
Whether you are just dipping your toes in NBA betting or looking to improve your strategy, getting a hang of everything that goes on in the NBA can seem daunting. Yet simple tips that focus on often overlooked practical aspects like coaching approaches or back-to-back fatigue might actually help you go that extra mile with your predictions.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*