NBA Odds & Lines Explained

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NBA odds explained

By Daniel Coyle | May 2024

Before placing any wagers, you must understand how to read NBA betting odds. We've put together a basic guide of the most popular wagering types and how oddsmakers devise them below:

NBA moneyline odds

As in other major North American sports, NBA moneyline betting enables you simply to bet on which team will win a game. Research the schedule, pick your team, lay your wager and sit back and enjoy the contest. Here's how moneyline betting works:

Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors
Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers

In the above example, the Philadelphia 76ers are listed as the favourites in their date with the Toronto Raptors. This is evident by the fact that their odds are lower than the Raptors.

That means you must place a wager of C$150 to claim a payout of C$250 (your profit plus your stake back) if Philadelphia wins the game. Conversely, the Raptors are pegged as the underdogs. That means if Toronto picks up the win, your C$100 bet would generate total winnings of C$230. Feel free to have a play around with our odds calculator further down the page to work out potential winnings.

NBA point spread odds

Point spreads add an intriguing layer of complexity to your NBA betting experience. The most popular of all NBA betting options, NBA point spreads enable you to bet on a team's margin of victory or defeat in-game, with the payout determined by moneyline odds.

Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors
+3.5 (-110)
Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers
-3.5 (-110)

In the above example, the Philadelphia 76ers are listed as 3.5-point favourites (indicated by the minus sign in front of their odds) in their date with Toronto. That means to win this NBA against the spread bet, the Sixers must win by at least four points.

In this case, the odds of Philadelphia covering as 3.5-point favourites are listed at -110. So, you must wager C$110 on the 76ers to get a payout of C$210 (a C$100 profit plus what you originally staked).

NBA totals or over/under odds

Totals betting, also known as over/under betting, enables you to be on whether the total number of points scored in a game will be 'over' or 'under' the number established on the betting line, with the payout determined by moneyline odds.

Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors
O 225.5 (+100)
Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers
U 225.5 (-120)

In the above example, the total for the matchup between the 76ers and Raptors is set at 225.5, with the 'under' favoured with -120 odds. So, if the Toronto and Philadelphia teams' combined score is 225.5 points or fewer, the under would be the winning bet, with a C$120 wager resulting in you enjoying a return of C$220.

But, if the total number of points scored in the game is greater than 225.5, then the sports bettors taking the 'over' bet would cash in, with a successful C$100 wager returning C$200.

NBA futures odds

These are odds on long-term markets. NBA futures odds enable you to bet on the performance of a team or an individual player throughout the season, the regular season or playoffs. NBA finals odds and NBA playoffs odds often open before the start of the schedule and fluctuate through the season due to results, injuries or betting action.

Typically the earlier you place your bets the better if you want to get hold of the best odds – although of course, the risk is much greater when you bet early.

With OGCA's comprehensive coverage of NBA futures odds, including NBA odds to win the championship and best odds to win the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, you can quickly and easily keep up to date on odds movement all year long, even in the offseason.

NBA championship odds

With NBA championship odds betting, you can wager on which team you think will go all the way and claim the NBA title. Opening odds for all 30 NBA teams are typically published within hours of the NBA champions being crowned at the end of the NBA finals, and are available for wagering all year round.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns
Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors
Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks
Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors

Above is an abbreviated example of how NBA championship odds are typically presented in your favourite sportsbook. In this example, the Phoenix Suns lead the way as the favourites, which means sports bettors backing the Suns with a successful C$100 bet will claim winnings of C$600.

NBA Rookie of the Year odds

As the name suggests, the NBA 'Rookie of the Year Award' is given to the rookie player considered to be the best in the league during the regular season. NBA ROY odds (or NBA ROTY odds) are typically first published in the offseason, at the conclusion of the annual NBA Draft, and are updated throughout the season depending on player performance.

NBA Defensive Player of the Year odds

The NBA 'Defensive Player of the Year Award' is bestowed upon the player deemed to be the best defensive player during the regular season, and is voted on by a committee of sportswriters.

NBA DPOY odds are also typically first published during the offseason, and given the somewhat subjective nature of the award, the odds can experience dramatic movement until well into the regular season.

NBA Most Improved Player odds

The 'Most Improved Player Award' is given to the player who has shown the greatest improvement in his play during the regular season. And like other individual player awards, it is determined by a committee of sportswriters.

The criteria for determining the winner of this award has changed dramatically over the years and is currently intended to honour an up-and-coming player who has shown dramatic improvement. The subjective nature of the award also makes it one of the most challenging on which to wager, so bear that in mind when checking out NBA MIA odds.

NBA Most Valuable Player odds

By far the most popular of all NBA individual player awards, the NBA 'Most Valuable Player Award' is given to the player deemed to be the best performing player in the NBA during the regular season.

When looking at NBA MVP odds, it's important to consider trends. For instance, since 1985, only two MVPs have come from a team that finished worse than second in its conference during the regular season; and the MVP award has been won by players who were 23 or younger on just four occasions.

NBA Slam Dunk Contest odds

One of the most popular events during NBA All-Star festivities, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest features entertaining acrobatics by the game's biggest stars.

First introduced at the 1977 NBA All-Star Game, the Slam Dunk Contest has gained a massive following among basketball fans and sports bettors alike. A veritable who's who of NBA stars have taken part, including Zach LaVine, Blake Griffin, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and the 2022 winner, Obi Toppin.

Unlike other individual awards, NBA dunk contest odds only open once the competitors for the annual event are announced.

NBA Three-Point Contest odds

Like the Slam Dunk Contest, the Three-Point Contest is held as part of the NBA's annual All-Star festivities. Introduced in 1986, it has increased in popularity in step with the rapid increase in three-point scoring in league play. And not surprisingly, it has become a showcase for the NBA's best shooters beyond the arc, including stars like Stephen Curry and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Like Slam Dunk Contest wagering, NBA Three-Point Contest odds are not published until the field for the competition is set shortly before the NBA All-Star Break. Odds on who will win the competition are constantly updated up until the start of the event.

NBA line movement

NBA line movement is the term used to describe how odds have changed since they are first published in the sportsbooks. Two major factors impact movement of NBA lines.

The most important to sportsbooks is sports bettor behaviour. If sports bettors are heavily supporting one side of a betting line, the sportsbook will adjust the betting line in an effort to find a balance where an equal amount of money is bet on either side of a line. This is crucial to the profitability of the sportsbook.

The other factor that will influence line movement is outside influences. Has a team been hit by injuries? Are they playing on back-to-back nights? Did their plane arrive late due to a snowstorm? All of these intangibles can have a dramatic impact on the line movement, and further demonstrate how important is for sports bettors to do their homework before making bets.

NBA Vegas odds

Many people often ask, 'what are NBA Las Vegas odds?' and 'are Vegas odds any different from those offered at online sportsbooks?'

Well the plain simple answer is, no they're not. 'Vegas odds' is simply the term used to describe the NBA odds offered at the best sportsbooks, whether online or a brick-and-mortar. So when it comes to how to read Vegas odds for the NBA and NBA Vegas lines, you'll find it's the same approach as outlined on this page.

More on basketball betting


How do you read odds for the NBA?

Like other major North American sports, NBA online betting odds are expressed as American odds, but in our review, we have used decimal odds in our examples as this is the most standard format in Canada.

With decimal odds, the potential winnings are included in the stake, so you need to multiply the stake by the odds. So if the odds are 2.30, like with the Toronto Raptors example, a C$100 bet would return C$230 including the stake.

How do NBA odds work?
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How do you read NBA betting lines?
Daniel Coyle
Daniel Coyle, Sports writer

Based in Montreal, Daniel has been writing about sports betting for two decades. His work has been featured in major sports media and daily newspapers, including Sportsnet, NESN, Sports Illustrated, Montreal Gazette and Globe & Mail. He has also contributed to a number of betting blogs, covering major sports leagues and tournaments around the world.

Daniel's expertise: Sports; Sports Leagues

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