Before even getting into specific game bets or live (in-game) betting, a good starting point for new NBA bettors are “futures” bets.
A futures bet involves a result that typically isn’t decided until much later – for example the end of the regular season and/or playoffs. Futures bets can be team or player based. Most team futures bets predict:
- An NBA team’s number of wins.
- Whether a team will make the playoffs.
- Whether a team will win its division.
- Whether a team will win its conference.
- Whether a team will win the NBA Championship.
Player futures bets focus on end-of-season awards including:
- NBA MVP
- NBA Rookie of the Year
- Most Improved Player of the Year
- Defensive Player of the Year
- 6th Man of the Year
Occasionally, there will be futures offered on statistical leaders in points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots. “Most triple doubles,” for example, is also a futures category on some books.
Bet your NBA futures early
NBA bettors will typically make their futures bets in the preseason or early regular season.
The most favorable NBA odds will be offered in the preseason. The future wagers are still available during the regular season, but the prices will be adjusted up or down relative to team and player performance.
For example, during the 2019-20 preseason, the Milwaukee Bucks were priced at -300 to -450 to win the Central Division. Less than two months into this season, after a torrid start, the Bucks were priced at -1900 for the division title.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that team future bets are “performance based,” meaning the end result will be decided on the court via wins and losses.
NBA player futures for the year-end awards are more subjective. These year-end player awards are the result of sportswriter and/or player voting. At times it may seem to be more of a popularity or headline-grabbing contest. It makes sense to keep tabs on who is making their presence felt.
A natural progression from NBA DFS
If you’re a fantasy basketball player or NBA DFS fanatic, futures bets are a natural progression of the research you typically do before a game or season draft.
Who’s positioned to get a ton of minutes, pile up a ton of stats or help lead their respective teams to strong seasons? Transferring that research to futures (and prop bets) will feel extremely natural.
3 simple ways to approach futures bets
1. Think contrarian
Futures betting is about getting the best price. There’s little value in a 2019-20 futures bet on the Bucks, Lakers or Clippers to win the NBA title with all three teams currently only offering marginal returns.
A good NBA futures bettor digs a bit deeper and finds value that involves going against the popular public opinion. Be a “contrarian” and don’t be afraid to challenge the public opinion.
Here’s a recent example. Consider the side-by-side comparison of Atlantic Division standings early in the season (on left) and the future pricing for winning the Atlantic Division (on right):
The Celtics led the division and the Raptors were defending NBA champs (albeit sans Kawhi Leonard) but both were priced well above the market. They certainly offered great value vs. the 76ers.
Fast forward to the middle of the season and the Raptors and Celtics are both heavy favorites. An early bet on the Raptors has a high probability of paying off handsomely.
2. Big value in title odds, but it’s the icing
Futures bettors can be over-exuberant about a team’s playoff hopes and enthusiastically plunk down their hard-earned dollars for their team to go all the way to win the NBA title.
The reality is that their team is likely a longshot to win the title as only one (1) team can win. But in this example, flip your betting enthusiasm on its side for a moment.
If your team is going to win the NBA title, it will likely surpass its posted regular season win total. It will also likely make the playoffs. It may or may not win its division, but will have to win its conference.
Consider “weighting” each of the season futures outcomes prior to the season and adjust accordingly during the season if there are fewer futures options available. A sample weighting might look like this:
- Team to go “over” regular season win total: 10%.
- Team to make the playoffs (Yes/No): 25%.
- Team to win division: 15%.
- Team to win conference: 35%.
- Team to win NBA title: 15%.
If you have a $100 bankroll, this weighting suggests placing $35 on a “win the conference” futures bet. This strategy makes the conference title the big payday; winning the finals is then the “icing on the cake.”
This approach allows you to be rewarded for a team’s over-achieving (in this case) success in the regular season and through to the NBA Finals.
It also gives you a chance to cash a few tickets (OVER the season win total and YES making playoffs) before the playoffs even begin, and then again if the team catches lightning in a bottle and makes a run to the NBA Finals.
If your team does make it to the finals, you can also reinvest your winnings into additional NBA Finals bets.
3. Shop around and don’t hesitate
Keep tabs on what the legal sportsbooks in your state offer in terms of futures bets. Each book will offer slightly different types of futures with pricing also varying from book to book.
Keep in mind that the futures market is very fluid. Futures bets and pricing that might be available on one day may not be there tomorrow or even later that evening.
This is especially true once the regular season gets underway. If there’s a futures bet that looks good to you, don’t hesitate to go ahead and make the play.
Next Up: Timing Is Everything