How to Bet on the NBA Finals – NBA Championship Betting Guide

This page is going to show you how to bet on the NBA finals and increase profitability. To do this, we’ve expanded on areas like strategies, tips, markets, and example bets. The NBA finals is the pinnacle of the sport and as a result, is one of the best opportunities to make money betting on basketball.

Example of an NBA Finals Bet

Before the NBA Championships start, online betting sites are going to be hustling to create a huge range of bets and markets to wager on. Series can take place for up to seven games, which creates a lot of buzz that the sportsbooks need to take advantage of.

To keep things simple, we will use the popular NBA futures betting market, which is the outright winner, a key component to learning how to bet on the NBA finals. This market will be one of the most popular, so we highly recommend that you shop around for the best odds to maximize returns.

How to bet on NBA finals

We’ve used the BetOnline online sportsbook for this example as we rate it as one of the best for basketball betting. As you can see from the image above, we have a list of teams to choose from, each with odds next to its name.

The odds are in American format, and these are represented with a positive and negative number. Positive numbers are the amount of profit you will make from a $100 bet and negative number is the amount you must wager to make a $100 profit.

Let’s say that we decided to pick the Los Angeles Clippers to win the NBA Finals as an outside bet priced at +800. We know that for every $100 we wager if the Clippers win, we make $800 profit. Of course, you don’t have to bet $100, it’s just easier to work through the example like that.

How to bet on the NBA finals

To expand on this and to reiterate how to bet on the NBA finals, we will use another market, which is the NBA conference winner market.

This is a much smaller market and you’ve only two selections of the Eastern Conference or Western Conference. You don’t need to pick the team that will win, just the conference the winning team comes from.

For example, if we still think that the Clippers will win, but want some security with our bet as it’s an outside pick, then we might choose to pick the Western Conference as a safer bet. You then also get teams like the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder as part of your bet.

As you can see from the market, both bets are priced at -110. This, in betting terms, is the same as a coin flip. The reason that it’s not +100, which would be true coin flip odds, is that the sportsbook vig is applied to the bet, which offsets it slightly.

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How the NBA Finals Work

The NBA finals are the absolute pinnacle of the sport. It’s the culmination of an extremely long season and is a chance for teams, players, and coaches to create legacies. Here’s how the process works.

NBA Regular Season

30 teams across two conferences, Eastern and Western, play 82 games each in the regular season. They all play each other at least twice with teams playing the franchises within their conference and division more often. The season runs from October through to April with teams often playing multiple times per week.

As well as the two conferences, six divisions include 5 teams each:

  • Atlantic Division (Eastern Conference)
  • Central Division (Eastern Conference)
  • Southeast Division (Eastern Conference)
  • Northwest Division (Western Conference)
  • Pacific Division (Western Conference)
  • Southwest Division (Western Conference)

Playoff standings are decided based on the team’s performance. The more games a team wins, the higher it ranks. It’s also worth noting that higher-ranked teams in the regular season get an easier draw in the playoffs, at least, on paper.

Playoff Qualification

The top six teams from the Eastern and Western Conference automatically qualify got the playoffs.. These are the highest-ranked teams from each conference based on win-loss records.

There will be times when two or more teams in a conference are tied on the same win-loss record. When this happens, head-to-head results and divisional and conference records are used to break the tie. This is why, in the regular season, more weight is given to wins against teams in the same division or conference.

The final two of the eight total spots come via the NBA play-in tournament. This will include teams from seventh to tenth in each conference who play a mini tournament to get the last two spots.

In the seventh versus eighth game, the winner of this will the go straight into the playoffs. The winner of the ninth versus tenth game will then play against the loser of the seventh versus eighth game. The winner takes the final playoff spot.

Playoff Rounds

The NBA Playoffs start in April and include 16 teams in total, with eight from each of the Western and Eastern Conferences. These playoffs include three rounds:

  • First Round
  • Conference Semi-Final
  • Conference Finals

The first round starts with these matchups:

1 Seed vs. 8 Seed

2 Seed vs. 7 Seed

3 Seed vs. 6 Seed

4 Seed vs. 5 Seed

All series from the playoffs through to the Finals are the best of seven games, which means a team needs to win four games to progress. The highest games alternate between home and away venues, with the highest-ranked team having the advantage of a scheduled four home games and three away games. This is referred to as home-court advantage.

The first round starts with eight teams, the Conference Semi-Finals have four teams and the Conference Finals have the last two remaining teams. The winners of these games go into the NBA Finals, commonly referred to as the NBA Championships.

NBA Finals – NBA Championship

The NBA Finals is the pinnacle of the season and the same seven-game format that is used throughout the playoffs, is also used here. Home-court advantage is decided by the team with a better regular season record. If these numbers are tied, then they will use the tiebreak qualifying criteria.

Even though the Finals include the best two teams from each conference over the course of a season, given the sheer volume of games played before the series tip-off, it’s as much about endurance than skill. The winners will lift the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy and players will each get a championship ring.

2023/24 Schedule

The two tables below give an overview of when the 2023/24 season starts and ends. We’ve split them up between the regular season and the playoffs.

Regular Season

Event Date
Season Start October 24, 2023
Season End April 14, 2024

Playoffs

Round Start Date End Date (Tentative)
Play-in Tournament April 16, 2024 April 19, 2024
First Round April 20, 2024 TBD
Conference Semi-finals TBD TBD
Conference Finals TBD TBD
NBA Finals June 6, 2024 TBD

Types of NBA Finals Bets

The increased popularity of the NBA Finals adds a whole new dynamic to NBA betting. Sportsbooks are keen to tap into the final games of the season and by doing so, have a huge range of betting markets to choose from.

MoneylinePoints SpreadOver/Under Bets (Totals)Futures BetParlaysLive Betting

Moneyline

Moneyline betting is simply betting on the outright winner of each game. With the NBA finals, you can bet individually on each game, or you can bet on the overall winner.

Points Spread

The points spread, commonly known simply as the “spread”, involves the margin of victory for each team. The favorite will have points removed from their points total and the underdog will have points added. Teams must then either win or not lose by this margin.

Over/Under Bets (Totals)

Over/under bets are linked to the total number of points scored in a game. The bet requires you to choose the over or under for the line. For example, if the line was set at +/- 200.5 points, and you chose the over, you need 201 or more points to be scored in the game for the bet to win. The winning team is irrelevant.

Futures Bet

This is one of the most popular markets for NBA Finals games and is where you bet on the team that will win before the first game starts. This market can open as early as June following the result of the previous season.

Parlays

These are bets that include one or more selections in a single wager. If you’re solely betting on the NBA Finals, the most common wager of this type is a same-game parlay which includes multiple bets for the same game. This might be a team to win, a player to score X number of points, and over X number of points to be scored in total.

Live Betting

Live betting is where you bet on the game after tip-off. Most betting sites will have live betting options and can include markets such as the next team to score and the next player to be fouled. It’s fast-paced and one of the more exciting betting options.

NBA Finals Prop Bets

There are few games throughout the course of the season that generate as many prop bets as the NBA Finals. To help explain how to bet on NBA games, we’ve broken these down into player and team prop bets.

Player Prop Bets

ScoringRebounds and AssistsDouble-Double/Triple-DoubleFirst to Score

Scoring

A bet on the number of points a player will score in the match. Most players will have markets for this for the finals, and most sportsbooks will have the over/under line set. However, some sportsbooks will run brackets, so 10-13 points, 14-16 points, and so on.

Rebounds and Assists

Like scoring, this is where you choose the number of rebounds or assists for a player. How these markets are displayed will vary, and some go with the accumulative number and some go with individual bets.

Double-Double/Triple-Double

This is a bet on whether a player will score double digits across points scored, assists, and rebounds for the game. The double-double bet includes two categories and the triple-double includes all three.

First to Score

Pick the player that will score the first point of the game. You can choose between a cumulative pool that includes players from both teams for the very first point of the game or you can pick the player to score the first point for their team.

Team Prop Bets

Team ScoringHighest Scoring QuarterTeam to Score FirstWinning MarginTeam Totals

Team Scoring

This is linked to the total number of points scored by one of the teams. It can be broken down into quarters, halves, or the whole game. These are usually over/under bets, but you can also bet on head-to-heads, where you choose the team to score the most points in a quarter or half.

Highest Scoring Quarter

Pick the quarter where the most points are scored. Again, you can pick a cumulative number for both teams or you can choose just one of the teams.

Team to Score First

Choose the team to score the first point of the game. There may be options where you can choose the first points of each quarter or half, but these are less common.

Winning Margin

Bet on the winning margin for the game. This can be bracketed or use an over/under bet type.

Team Totals

The total number of points, rebounds, or assists for each game. Extensions of this can include fouls, but they aren’t as popular.

NBA Finals Betting Tips and Strategies

Following on from learning how to bet on the NBA Finals, it’s time to start making some money. We’ve included a series of betting strategies that you can use for betting throughout the series in an attempt to maximize profits.

1. How to Beat the Spread

Beating the spread is a skill and doing so can become one of the most profitable betting strategies for NBA betting. To beat the spread, analyze team performance trends, particularly against the spread, in both regular season and playoff games. See how often a team covers and compare data for home and away, as this can play a big role.

Historically, underdogs have a solid record against the spread in the NBA Finals. We should also consider injuries, team fatigue, and matchup history. It’s not just about who wins, but by how much they win.

2. Home Court Advantage

Home-court advantage plays a significant role in the NBA Finals with teams playing at home winning a higher percentage of games. For example, since 1998, home teams have won 64.9% of NBA Finals games. This number jumps to a staggering 81.3% for first-round games and 80% in the second round.

The caveat to this is that it’s data that a lot of sharp bettors know already and therefore, can skew the odds, with more weight being given to the home team than the stats suggest. You must balance the fact that teams at home have an advantage, but at the same, analyze if the odds are too reliant on this single data point.

3. Betting Against Public Opinion (Fade the Public)

Fading the public means betting against the general public opinion. The reason we do is that most casual bettors will look to bet on their favorite team, instead of finding value. When this happens, betting lines move with the money even though no other factors have changed.

To take advantage of this, you must follow line movements and track trends. A great way to do this is to find out when the line (betting odds) will be released and then follow it over the next few days. Significant changes, without any external factors such as injuries or roster changes occurring, mean a high volume of bets have been placed.

The process of “fading” is to simply take the opposing line. For example, let’s assume the LA Lakers are playing in the NBA Finals and the line is released on the Wednesday before the Saturday game. Initial odds were +150 but by tip-off, the price had dropped to +110.

Assuming no other factors could influence this, including opposition team news, then this is down to a high demand for bets. What’s also important to note is that when one price drops, the other increases. So, let’s say they were playing the Boston Celtics, initially priced at +110, and now have drifted to +150, this comes in reaction to the Lakers’ price change.

The value now lies in the Celtics, even though most people are betting on the Lakers. We get odds of +150 for an outcome that should be priced at +110. This is fading the public.

4. Zig Zag Theory (Momentum)

The Zig Zag theory suggests betting on a team that lost the previous game in a playoff series, assuming they’ll have a bounce-back performance. This is based on the idea of momentum shifts in a series, which, unlike in college basketball, is common in play-off games.

While it’s not foolproof, it’s worth considering, especially when a strong team loses at home and is likely to adjust for the next game. A good place to look for this would be to see how they have responded in earlier playoff and regular season games after a defeat.

A great example of this came about from the 2019/2020 season with the Denver Nuggets who completed the regular season with a 46-27 record. From the 27 games that they lost, they only ever lost more than one game in a row four times.

Their bouncebackability was emphasized in the playoffs where they made history coming from 3-1 down not once, but twice to make it to the Conference Finals. It’s easy in hindsight to sit and say backing them to progress in either round would have been worthwhile, but the data was there from their regular season form and this is the kind of data that you need to use to crack the Zig Zag theory.

5. Getting Value From Futures Bets

Futures bets involve predicting the winner of the NBA Championships well in advance. The key is to find value early before public opinion sways the odds. This means assessing teams’ potential during the regular season and early playoffs. You can extend this to pre-season as well, but it becomes picking form from these games carries a lot less weight.

Targeting roster changes and new players into up-and-coming franchises is a great place to start. An obvious point would be to see who’s picked up first-round picks and then to see if this is going to improve teams enough to compete.

Be warry with this as teams that have early picks are generally those that have been poor for the season prior.

We like to evaluate teams after a decent run both on the road and at home. See which players are clicking and who has the longevity to keep going over the course of the season. More often than not, the earlier you can get your money down, the more value you’ll get.

6. Key Statistics to Focus On

When analyzing games for betting, certain statistics are more predictive than others. We’ve outlined some of these below, highlighting the importance of stats when learning how to bet on basketball.

  • Player Efficiency Rating (PER): PER sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negatives and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance.
  • True Shooting Percentage (TS%): TS percentage takes into account a player’s field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws, providing a better metric for shooting.
  • Offensive/Defensive Rating: This is how many points a team scores or allows per 100 possessions, giving a pace-independent measure of performance. It’s one of the best tools for potential over/under bets.
  • Win Shares: Win shares estimate the number of wins contributed by a player, combining their offensive and defensive contributions. This pools in a lot of data and is one of the quickest ways to determine who is the most valuable player for the team. If they are missing from the starting line-up, this will affect the chances of the team winning.
  • Pace Factor: This states the number of possessions a team uses per game, providing insight into their play style (fast-paced vs. slow-paced). From a betting perspective, comparing the two teams with pace factor gives you an idea of how the game might play out. Two fast teams will likely create a lot of points, whereas slower teams will be less intense.

How to Bet On the NBA Finals – Step-by-Step

One of the easiest ways for us to explain how to bet on the NBA finals is to use a step-by-step guide. There are a lot of really good offshore sportsbooks that cover the NBA in huge depth, but the best in the business right now is BetOnline and it's they who we will be using as an example.

  1. Open a BetOnline Account

    Before you place a bet, you must open a BetOnline account. Open the sportsbook and navigate to the top of the page to find the “Join” button. Click this to get started.
    Open a BetOnline Account
  2. Complete Registration Form

    Once the form opens, enter your details for your account. Make sure that you take the time to check these are correct as you need to verify your account before you deposit. If you can’t verify your account, it may be closed.
    Complete Registration Form
  3. Make a Deposit

    Open the cashier and choose from one of the deposit options. Enter the BetOnline promo code “BET1000” to get a 50% deposit match worth up to $1,000. This is reserved for new accounts only.
    Make a Deposit
  4. Using the Sportsbook

    Once the account has been created and you’ve gone back to log in, head to the sportsbook and use the menu section to find “Basketball”. Under the “NBA” tab will be a series of markets to choose from. If you’re betting more than a few days before the NBA final starts, then select the “NBA Futures” and then the “Championship” market. If you’re betting any time after this, the game will be under “NBA Basketball Game”.
    Using the Sportsbook
  5. Place a Bet

    To place a bet, you need to click on the odds to send your selection to the bet slip. Once here, enter your stake and confirm the selection. Click “Place Bet” and you will get a notification to say the bet has been placed. If the odds have changed from the time you enter the pick into your bet slip, you will be asked if you want to accept the new price or remove the bet.
    Place a Bet

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Most Successful NBA Finals Winners

The table below shows the top 10 most successful NBA Finals teams, showcasing their total championship wins, the years they won, and a notable Finals MVPs from each team.

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers lead with 17 wins each, highlighting their historic dominance in the league. Notable MVPs like Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James reflect the star power that has driven these teams to their numerous titles.

Team Total Wins Years Won Notable MVP
Boston Celtics 17 1957, 1959-1966, 1968-1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986, 2008 Bill Russell
Los Angeles Lakers 17 1949, 1950, 1952-1954, 1959, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987-1988, 2000-2002, 2009-2010, 2020 Magic Johnson
Golden State Warriors 7 1947, 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2022 Stephen Curry
Chicago Bulls 6 1991-1993, 1996-1998 Michael Jordan
San Antonio Spurs 5 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014 Tim Duncan
Miami Heat 3 2006, 2012, 2013 LeBron James
Philadelphia 76ers 3 1955, 1967, 1983 Julius Erving
Detroit Pistons 3 1989, 1990, 2004 Isiah Thomas
New York Knicks 2 1970, 1973 Walt Frazier
Houston Rockets 2 1994, 1995 Hakeem Olajuwon

FAQs

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What are the types of bets I can place on the NBA Finals?

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References

  1. NBA (Official NBA Page)
  2. Statmuse (NBA Betting Stats)
Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert

Jonathan is a freelance writer working with Techopedia. He has been working within the gambling sector for over 15 years and has been fortunate enough to work with brands that include Gambling.com, CheekyPunter.com, BasketballInsiders.com and Betfair. He specializes in US and UK-based sports and casino content for Techopedia.