NBA betting guide for beginners

NBA betting is one of the biggest markets in the online sports betting industry, with millions of fans following the odds each day of the basketball season.


And that’s why Unibet have created one of the best In Play betting sportsbooks on the planet — so you can bet on NBA with ease wherever and whenever you are.


Basketball betting grows in popularity every year as fans gain more and more access to live information. But not everyone knows how to bet on basketball.


This guide will show you the best tips for basketball betting, including the most popular markets, the favoured strategies and the season-long odds the experts bet on.


Read this guide to get a better understanding of basketball betting and some of the terminology punters use when placing a bet on the NBA. We have also written a guide to betting on the MLB


NBA basic rules 

Basketball is a two-team game made up of five players each. The teams face each other on a court and the aim is to throw the ball through the opposition team’s hoop, called a basket. You earn two points for a basket and three if you score from outside a scoring zone that surrounds the hoop. Players can also score one-point shots when taking a free throw, which is awarded when a foul is given.


Players must bounce the ball after every two steps when they are running, or it is given as a foul. Basketball is predominantly a non-contact sport, although there is always jostling for position between players.


An NBA match lasts for four quarters of 12 minutes each, with the game clock stopping frequently. Teams can call for a certain number of timeouts and there is a 15-minute break for half time. Basketball betting fans can therefore expect an NBA game to take around two-and-a-half hours to complete.


The NBA is the biggest basketball league in the world, with 30 teams competing across six divisions. There are three divisions in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Once the regular season is over, the best teams from each division play in the Conference rounds, with the eventual winners reaching the NBA Finals.


Basketball is also popular in Turkey, Spain, Russia and Greece, with teams from these countries making up the bulk of the EuroLeague — an annual cross-Europe competition. But many players who excel in Europe will try and land a contract in the USA and Canada, where the biggest and best players compete each year in the NBA.


Best basketball betting tips and markets 

Because basketball is a team game there are always plenty of betting markets available during matches. Much like NFL and rugby, there are a lot of points scored in basketball. And this makes betting on basketball quite unique.


Here, we will take you through the biggest and best NBA betting markets, so you know which ones to consider when thinking about placing a basketball bet.


Match bet 

This is simply a bet on which team you think will win. Because there are no ties in NBA or EuroLeague, almost all basketball betting markets will offer either a home (1) or away (2) win. You might see the match bet market described as a ’12’ bet. For example, Atlanta are playing Boston at home in an NBA game. Atlanta (the 1 team as they are at home) are 2.00 to win the game. Boston (the 2 team) are 1.78. You bet $1 on Atlanta and they win the game, so you win $2!


Most basketball betting fans will bet on the match outcome of games. This is the most popular bet and many back their favourite teams to win. It is also a popular bet because you can bet on the match winner both before and during the game! In Play betting at Unibet means you can bet on a winner even after the game has started. Of course, the odds will change depending on what the score is — but this is an exciting way of making a match bet later in the day if you cannot decide who will win before tip off.


Handicap betting 

This is similar to a match bet but is used by NBA betting experts who want to create a level playing field in a game that is uneven. For example, New York are 5.00 underdogs against Toronto (1.30). Basketball betting fans may be dissuaded from betting on either team because the odds are either unattractive (in the case of Toronto) or too risky (in the case of New York).


What the basketball handicap betting market does is level the odds but proving a simulated advantage or disadvantage to the score. So, instead of betting on the Toronto winning the game, you can bet on ‘Toronto -11.5 points’, at more favourable odds of 2.00. If Toronto win by 12 points or more, you win your bet.


Likewise, you could bet on ‘New York +6.5 points’. So long as New York don’t lose by seven points or more, you win your bet!


Over/Under betting 

Over/Under betting is a better way to bet on NBA if you’re not supporting one team. This is when you bet on the total number of points scored in a game, or scored by a particular team or player. You could, for example, bet on a game between Sacramento and Los Angeles to witness +220.5 points. If this happens, you win your bet.


Equally, you could also bet on Sacramento themselves to score -115.5 points in the game. If they don’t reach 116 points, you’ve got a winning bet!


Bear in mind a typical NBA game witnesses between 180 and 220 points. This average is greater than Euroleague, where there are between 140 and 180 points scored per game on average.


In-game results

You can also bet on results in-game, such as the first quarter results or half time results. This is a great way to activate and follow a quick bet, so you don’t have to wait until the end of the game to see if you have won! Basketball is a very fluid game and teams can enjoy long spells of dominance, before falling away again. That’s what makes in-game betting such great fun!


Player specific betting 

Unibet’s basketball In Pay betting markets are perfect for player betting. This is when you bet on a specific player achieving a specific goal. For example, you can bet on a player to score the most points in a game, score the most three-pointers or even score over/under a certain points level.


You can also bet on players to score more than other players in a specific one-vs-one market. This is particularly fun when betting on a game where both teams rely heavily on one player to score big.


Season-long NBA betting 

NBA betting is not all about individual games. Like many other sports in the Unibet sportsbook, we make sure there are plenty of season-long bets you can make on basketball.


Many NBA fans like to bet on who will win the Championship at the end of the season. These odds open a year before the NBA Finals and there are usually a handful of favourites. But remember, the odds can change dramatically during a season and teams will rise and fall depending on their success on the court.


Because the NBA is split into six divisions, many basketball betting fans back certain teams to win these ‘groups’. As the season progresses it can become very apparent who will win their divisions. But other divisions go right down to the final weeks of the regular season and create tense situations where two or three teams are battling it out to reach the NBA Playoffs.


You can also bet on the MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards, top scorers and the NBA draft. This is when you bet on which teams will sign the new crop of talent to have graduated out of college each year. It’s a lot like NFL draft betting or soccer transfer betting, which can sometimes be found under the specials section of a sportsbook.

We recommend you to check out our guide on how to bet on the NBA playoffs and our NBA draft betting guide for more detailed intel on betting on those NBA events.


International basketball betting 

Remember, basketball is not all about the NBA and EuroLeague is a huge competition in Europe that runs from fall to spring each year. But domestic leagues in Turkey and Spain are also huge. It means there is almost always a basketball match taking place at some time in the world — and here at Unibet we’re dedicated to bringing you all the coverage so you don’t miss any of the action.


You can also bet on basketball at the Olympics. The United States have won a staggering 15 men’s gold medals at the tournament, while the women have won it eight times. The USA certainly dominate Olympic basketball, with many European teams struggling to even make the finals!


There is also the Basketball World Cup, which the USA has also dominated over the years.

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