Learn How to Bet on Basketball: Tips & Strategies for 2023-24 and the 2024 NBA Playoffs

Learn NBA moneylines, point spreads, totals, parlays, and more in this comprehensive NBA betting guide.

Apr 19, 2024 • 09:42 ET • 4 min read
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray in NBA action.
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is one of the most entertaining leagues to bet on thanks to its fast and furious pace and unrivaled intensity. Fortunately there's no shortage of basketball betting options during the NBA's thrilling 82-game schedule. Multiple matchups are on the board, allowing bettors to wager on their favorite teams as well as bet on the big games on TV each night.

In this guide we'll teach you about the different kinds of NBA bets available and will share tips and strategies from our team of NBA experts to help you make better informed NBA picks.

Basketball betting lines explained

Like most major sports, there are endless ways to wager on basketball. The most popular forms of basketball betting are the moneyline, point spread, and Over/Under totals.


NBA moneyline odds ask bettors to pick the winner of the game. Based on the strength of the teams and other factors, oddsmakers calculate the implied probability of victory for both sides and set moneyline odds for each team.

Point spread

NBA point spreads level the competition between two teams, with oddsmakers setting a handicap in points. One team is the point spread favorite – and has to win by more than the spread – while the other will be pegged as the point spread underdog – having to win outright or lose by less than the spread.


NBA Over/Under totals are the estimated total number of points scored by both teams in a game. Bettors wager on whether the final score will go Over or Under that expected tally.

Moneylines: Pick the winner of an NBA game

Betting basketball moneylines is the most straightforward and basic betting market available, simply allowing you to bet on which team you think will win the game.

Sportsbooks generate moneyline odds for a game based on each team's implied probability of winning. Basketball teams are not always evenly matched, and the moneyline odds will reflect those chances of victory. You can use our odds converter and moneyline calculator to see a team's implied probability based on their odds.

Sportsbooks most often display moneyline odds in hundreds (American odds). American odds show one team set as the favorite (indicated by a negative value) and one team designated as the underdog (positive value).

For example, the Los Angeles Lakers are -130 moneyline favorites versus the Toronto Raptors, the +110 moneyline underdogs.

Team Moneyline
Lakers Los Angeles Lakers    -130
Raptors Toronto Raptors    +110

Because the Lakers are the stronger team (56.52 percent chance of winning), for every $10 you wish to win betting on Los Angeles, you must risk $13 ($130 bet will win $100). Since the Raptors are the weaker team (47.62 percent implied probability), you can win $11 for every $10 risked ($100 bet will win $110).

Point spread: Betting the spread with basketball

The point spread is the preferred odds market for many basketball bettors because it levels the difference in skill between the two teams. When calculating the perceived point spread between the two sides, oddsmakers analyze both teams and consider the venue, current form, and any critical injuries.

The negative value indicates a point spread favorite, and that team must win the game by more than that spread to win for bettors. The underdog has a positive value in front of its point spread. Underdogs can either win outright or lose by less than that spread to generate winning bets.

For example, the Los Angeles Lakers are -2.5 point spread favorites hosting the +2.5 underdog Toronto Raptors. For the Lakers to cover the spread, they must win the game by three points or more. For the Raptors to cover the spread, they must either win the game outright or lose by two points or less.

Team Spread
Lakers Los Angeles Lakers    -2.5 (-110)
Raptors Toronto Raptors    +2.5 (-110)

Point spreads always have a second set of odds with them, known as the vig or the juice. They are the cost of placing a bet. Most point spreads have a vig of -110; to win $100, you need to risk $110. However, vig can be adjusted depending on current betting action and can vary from book to book.

Over/Under: Betting on basketball point totals or season win totals

Another popular way to wager on basketball is via the Over/Under odds, also known as the total.

Oddsmakers measure the matchup between two teams, looking at both offensive and defensive production, and set an expected total number of points scored by both sides for the game. Once a sportsbook sets that total, bettors can wager if the final score will go Over or Under that number.

For example, the Over/Under total between the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors is 222.5 points.

A bet on the Over requires the game's final score to total 223 points or more to win, while a bet on the Under needs 222 or fewer points.

Team Total
Lakers Los Angeles Lakers   Over 222.5 (-110)
Raptors Toronto Raptors    Under 222.5 (-110)

Like point spreads, both sides of the total – Over and Under – have attached vig, often set at -110. This value can adjust to betting action and may vary from book to book.

Parlays: Combine NBA bets for bigger payouts

Parlays allow you to risk a smaller amount to win a bigger payout but carry a higher risk. NBA parlays require you to tie two or more bets together. 

The more bets added to the parlay, the bigger the potential payout and the bigger the risk, as all bets in the parlay must win for the entire parlay to pay out.

The majority of parlays will end up with a line at plus money. Each fixture within a parlay is considered a "leg." Most books will allow anywhere from 2-12 games in an NBA parlay. 

If you're solely betting the Milwaukee Bucks, you're getting them at -120. By parlaying the Bucks with the Golden State Warriors at +140, the bet turns into plus money. Now the parlay is listed at +340 odds.

Two-team Parlay
Moneyline:Bucks Milwaukee Bucks (-120)
Moneyline:Warriors Golden State Warriors (+140)
Parlay +340
Stake $100
Total return $440

Prop bets: Betting on player performance and more

Prop bets are a rapidly growing way to bet on basketball, allowing you to wager on different aspects of the game – not just the final score. 

NBA prop bets can focus on game events as well as a team's performance and individual player performances. Examples of game and NBA player props odds include betting on the first team to 15 points, a team's total three-pointers made, or a player's combined points, rebounds, and assists.

Listed below are Kevin Durant's and James Harden's over/under for total points scored in a single game. You must pick whether or not either player scores more than or less than the designated number set by the sportsbook. In this case, the Over/Under are both listed at -120, meaning the sportsbook favors neither scenario.

Player Over Under
Suns Kevin Durant 30.5 points (-120) 30.5 points (-120)
Clippers James Harden 25.5 points (-120) 25.5 points (-120)

There's no way this bet can be a push because of the half-point. If the game goes into overtime, the prop still counts as well. 

Futures: Win totals, MVP, and NBA Championship Odds

Futures odds are long-running betting markets focused on overall results for a team or player, such as odds to win the NBA Finals and the player to be named NBA MVP. Another popular form of futures is season win totals, in which you can bet on whether a team will go Over or Under their set total of wins for the year.

These odds often open before a season begins and will take bets throughout the schedule, adjusting to results and injuries, until the market is decided.

Below are the odds of winning the NBA Finals. Odds will come out as early as the end of the season prior, and can usually be wagered on into the final round of the postseason. These types of lines will fluctuate and change throughout the NBA season depending on team performance, injuries, and roster transactions. 

Basketball betting tips and strategies

Keep these basketball betting strategies in mind when looking to handicap NBA odds. 

Shop for the best odds Shop for the best odds

When betting, it's always good to get the best bang for your buck. Line shopping is something all the experts do and takes very little time. If you want to bet the Lakers at -140 at one book, but they're -125 elsewhere, there is a ton of value on the latter. Missing out on the best lines long-term will affect your bankroll, especially if you're betting larger sums of money. 

You can use our odds comparison tool to find the best lines for each game and a huge variety of online sportsbooks.

Basketball Count on current form

Don't get caught up looking at the standings when betting on the NBA. Pay more attention to current form, weighing the past three games more attentively.

Even the best teams can go through slumps, and losing teams can suddenly find their form. Find out what's behind those recent results and if they'll carry over into the game you want to bet.

Matchups Mind the matchups

Every team has its strengths and weaknesses. When searching for the best NBA bets, look closely at how those attributes match up against that day's opponent using our NBA scores and matchups page

If a team struggles to rebound and takes on a foe with a bigger, more potent frontcourt that dominates the glass, make sure you account for that and bet accordingly.

Basketball is a game of runs, and these matchups and mismatches often fuel those deciding swings.

Covers Global Two Color Bandage Injuries and off nights

The NBA schedule is a grind, and injuries will play a huge role in a team's success along the way. If you're looking to bet on a side, comb through the injury report and see which key contributors are out of action. Also, try and find out which players could be resting – a recent wrinkle to betting the NBA, particularly on back-to-backs.

Big-name stars' status will carry the most impact on the NBA odds. Still, there is an edge in finding undervalued injuries and how those could impact a team's performance. A missing backup point guard or a sidelined wing defender may not move the odds but will have a say in the final score.

Line Movement Follow the line movement

As with all sports wagering, NBA betting is often not about betting the best team but rather the best number.

Point spreads, moneylines, and totals will constantly adjust to action and injury news. Make sure you monitor the opening NBA odds and where they're moving to pinpoint the best time to place your bet.

Derivatives Dive into derivatives

NBA betting odds can be chopped up into halves and quarters, setting sides and totals for different segments of the game. These derivative odds can hold added value not found in the full-game lines as teams present tendencies and trends that fly under the radar of oddsmakers.

Some teams are slow starters and find their form in the second half, making them an excellent bet to fade with the first-half spreads. Others come out firing quickly on offense in the first quarter, adding value to the Over in the opening frame. Dive into the analytic splits to uncover the best derivative bets on the board. 

Scout The Schedule Scout the schedule

The calendar can sometimes dictate a team's performance on the court, depending on rest spots, travel, and motivation. Situational betting – also known as spot bets – is a valuable tool to find underlying value betting on or against a team.

Chunks of the schedule could have a team playing multiple games in a short window, leaving them running on empty for the final outings of that stretch. The schedule can also allot an extended break from the action, allowing players and coaches to adjust their game plan and get injured bodies back. And as always, be mindful of "letdown" and "lookahead" spots around important matchups and big wins.

Covers Global Two Color Whistle Handicapping refs

An underutilized method of handicapping basketball odds is to dissect the guys blowing the whistle. Referees significantly impact games' outcomes, specifically the Over/Under totals. Covers is one of the rare sources of unique betting data for every NBA referee assignment.

You can use this data to measure a team's recent betting results when a particular ref is part of the officiating crew. Or, you can follow referees with one-sided tendencies to the Over and Under, as some refs will call more fouls than others. Those whistles result in foul shots, which means teams are scoring points with the clock stopped – a big boost for Over backers.

How to make an NBA bet 


Research available games matchups on our scores and matchups page.

Our NBA scores and matchup page lists the day's games and upcoming days, but you can also sort by spread, total size, and line movement. 

Each game gives a snapshot of the opening odds, current odds, team records straight up and against the spread, as well as the percentage of picks calculated by our Covers Consensus

From there, you can dive deep into our detailed matchup pages for each game. Track line history, view the most popular spread and total picks and analyze unique betting trends for every team.


Find the best NBA odds using our odds comparison tool.

Making intelligent bets on NBA basketball isn't always about betting the best team, but betting the best odds. 

Find current spreads, totals, and moneylines for every NBA game from the top legal sportsbooks in your area using our odds comparison tool. Compare across the industry and shop for the best odds for your NBA bets.


Login/Sign up for a sportsbook in your area.

Signing up for a new sportsbook is simply a few clicks away. Once you find a legal book in your area, sign up for an account and quickly deposit using various banking methods, such as credit cards and e-transfers. Most sportsbooks also offer great bonuses and sign-up promotions to new users.


Make your bet

After researching your best NBA picks on Covers.com, you can place those bets at the sportsbook by selecting NBA basketball from their menu and searching for the game or market you want to bet. 

From there, select the wager to add it to your bet card and enter the amount of money you wish to risk. After that, click submit, and you'll get a receipt or e-ticket for that bet, showing you the odds you bet and the amount you can win.

Today's NBA odds

Here are the current NBA odds for today's biggest games:

Best basketball sportsbooks for beginners

Covers’ team of betting experts have thoroughly researched the internet’s vast collection of online sportsbooks so you don’t have to. Here are the best basketball betting sites so you can get your NBA betting underway.

These sportsbooks are licensed and trusted sites and offer great sign-up bonuses, plenty of convenient and quick banking options, and great odds for rookie bettors.

NBA betting forum

Want to learn more about NBA betting and meet a large, knowledgeable community? Check out Covers’ NBA betting forum to get picks, ask questions, and learn from experienced sports bettors.

Smart NBA betting strategies

Strategies to Help You Handicap NBA Betting Odds
NBA Point Spread Betting Tips
NBA Parlay Betting Tips
NBA Over/Under Totals Betting Tips

Basketball betting FAQs

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