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Our NBA futures page is designed to direct you to the best bets and odds available across all the major sportsbooks. If it's unclear as to what a futures bet is, don't worry. All futures means is you're betting on an outcome that won't pay off until a while in the future.
This guide serves to help you understand what futures are, how to read the odds and to clearly distinguish between the various types of futures wagers we have available for you on this hub by way of the best legal online sportsbooks in the US.
All odds are in relation to bets of $100. If it helps to think of it in slightly smaller terms in the event your sports betting bankroll isn't that high, you can also do the math with hypothetical $10 bets.
Let's walk through an example. After winning the 2020 NBA championship, the Los Angeles Lakers had +200 odds to win the Western Conference the following season. If you were to bet $100 on the Lakers and they won the conference, you'd win $200; if you wagered $10, it'd be a $20 payout.
Apply this math to every odds listing, and you'll have no problem figuring out what the potential payout will be on the team you want to wager on. What's more, at abe and any other sports betting site, you'll have the payout calculated for you.
As opposed to betting on basic lines such as a point spread, moneyline, or Over/Under or Total, NBA futures have much more delayed gratification and require bettors to have a far longer-ranging view of the season. This is part of the beauty — and, perhaps, frustration — that comes with these types of bets in general.
At least when it comes to the NBA — as opposed to, say, the NFL — it's more clear-cut as to who the contenders and pretenders are thanks to how top-heavy and star-laden most rosters have to be in order to compete for a title. Although there can be night-to-night parity, the playoffs are the real measure of a team's true identity.
The odds to win are long because, well, the NBA season is a lengthy grind not for the faint of heart. Single games are far easier to predict than which team will win the championship — or even a division. When there are lines for single games, you have a series of bets. You even have the aid of a point spread to increase your margin for error. Futures don't require any sort of points differential or even so-called style points. Scores don't matter. It's all about who gets it done, and who's left standing at the end of the NBA Finals.
The challenge for a bettor is undeniable, but in the NBA, future forecasting can be a lucrative business for the keenest bettors. Continue reading as we break down the biggest types of NBA futures bets you'll see.
When it comes to futures, bettors are most commonly going to bet on the team they think will win the NBA championship.
Whether it's the LeBron James and the Lakers or Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, you can wager on a team to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy throughout most of the NBA season. The only time you can't bet on an NBA futures odds line is when they're eliminated from championship contention. This means they're out of the playoff picture and won't qualify for the postseason, thus rendering it illogical to list them as a contender.
All this makes sense because when there are 30 teams in the NBA and all of them need to be assigned championship odds, even the prohibitive favorites will have betting lines that are fairly high.
Nearly every sportsbook features futures bets on the NBA Finals as a central pillar on their main pages before the season tips off. NBA championship odds are posted prior to the start of the regular season, so the earlier you jump on just about any team, the longer your odds tend to be, and that increases your profit ceiling. Unless a team makes a midseason rally after a slow start or wins the championship as a massive underdog, most futures betting odds will reward you for betting on a winner earlier rather than later.
Odds fluctuate throughout the season, and the opening lines are a great spot to land a bargain deal.
Injuries to key players can often tank a season for any sports franchise, and that applies to the NBA so much due to the star-driven nature of the league. Thus, bettors who take the plunge early must be mindful of that. Free agency looms larger than ever and must be taken into account, and the trade deadline alone can cause oddsmakers to drastically change NBA championship odds up in drastic fashion.
Circling back to the Lakers and LeBron for a second: you might've been able to get the Lake Show at much better title odds when the NBA resumed action following the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. LeBron and Co. struggled in losing four of their last five regular-season contests in Orlando, didn't have starting guard Avery Bradley after he opted out, and had Rajon Rondo out due to injury.
Obviously, things changed once the playoffs hit, yet it's a prime example of how quickly odds can shift. The Lakers wound up winning the title despite those initial bubble struggles in Orlando, as Rondo returned to be one of the key players to their NBA Finals run.
It's almost as tough to pick a conference winner as it is to predict who will win the NBA championship, but the task is at least slightly less daunting. One important fact that you must know before jumping into conference championship futures: there can be confusion as to whether this means the regular-season winner — aka the No. 1 playoff seed — or whether it's the eventual NBA Finals participant.
A futures wager of this variety is indeed for which team will win the Western Conference Finals or the Eastern Conference Finals. The regular-season Western Conference and Eastern Conference titles are completely separate from this, so if the team you bet on ends up earning the top playoff seed, don't count on a payout right away. They still have to win three more postseason series to validate your winning betting ticket.
Look at the 2017-18 Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately for them, they got swept in the conference semifinals by the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto bettors were probably feeling good about themselves after the Raptors posted a 59-23 record, but that's part of what makes sports, and the NBA in particular, so exciting when teams must win four out of seven in the heightened playoff atmosphere.
The Miami Heat only finished fifth in the Eastern Conference during the 2019-20 campaign. Their odds to win the Eastern Conference had to be super long, and like the eventual NBA champion Lakers, Miami lost four of five leading up to the playoffs. No matter, though, because the Heat won the Eastern Conference Finals. They could've finished with the eighth and final playoff berth, and it wouldn't have mattered in the end. Since they ultimately represented the East in the 2020 NBA Finals, it was a winning bet for those who wagered on Miami.
Unlike the last futures odds section, this particular type of bet doesn't pertain to the playoffs. You'll get paid out for a successful wager once the grueling 82-game slate finishes off. So, what to consider when making predictions for NBA division winners?
Organizational stability, coaching, and star power in some combination often determine who wins a division. Take the East's Central division: the Bucks have the NBA's back-to-back MVP in Giannis, continuity on the coaching staff with a two-time Coach of the Year in Mike Budenholzer, and a second All-Star in Khris Middleton. It's no coincidence Milwaukee has run away with the division crown the past two seasons.
It often pays to wager on NBA futures favorites if you can get them at any sort of bargain. However, certain teams are such perpetual contenders or winners of their respective divisions that their odds aren't even worth betting on due to the lack of return on investment. Such was the case with the Bucks for the last two years, but again, even with the No. 1 overall seed in the East both times, they failed to reach the NBA Finals.
With Giannis and Budenholzer in Milwaukee for at least one more go-round, it'd be difficult to garner decent odds for the Bucks to win the Central division in 2020-21. They'll be something like -1000 odds, so it's not worth the risk to throw down any money. Victor Oladipo is probably that division's next-biggest star for the Indiana Pacers, and he's entering a contract year, still knocking off rust from a major knee injury.
Taking a flier on NBA futures bet just because the odds are good basically amounts to throwing money away. Watch out for any single one of the following elements as a red flag for a prospective bet: a team that's breaking in a new coach, an inexperienced or mediocre core of players, and a bad organizational culture.
Exhibit A of this phenomenon: Before 2019-20 began, in a loaded Western Conference Pacific Division, you wouldn't expect the Sacramento Kings to make a run to a division title. Luke Walton was just starting his tenure as head coach after lackluster results with the Lakers, and frankly, the Kings weren't fielding any top-flight talent on the roster other than point guard De'Aaron Fox, who's only 22 years old.
Due to their roster construction, young foundational player, and first-year head coach — not to mention the presence of the Clippers, Lakers, and Warriors in the division — you can see why a bet on Sacramento to win the Pacific would be a stretch in the first place. Just because sportsbooks list a team's futures doesn't mean you should bet on them.
Whichever type of NBA futures odds you place wagers on, whether it's what we have available here or player futures like, say, Ja Morant to win Rookie of the Year, or LeBron's or Giannis' odds to win MVP, the tactic of hedging is always recommended. If bettors are to heed any tips on NBA futures betting, this would probably be the top priority, as it mitigates some of the innate risks.
Hedging a bet means you're betting on a different outcome to guard against the potential that your initial bet doesn't hit. The benefits of this are harder to see when it comes to betting on a single game and is virtually nonexistent on binary Yes/No prop bets. This wouldn't work for team win totals, for instance. When it comes to the pure team or player futures, though, it's a no-brainer to hedge.
In our deeper, overall dive on futures betting, we discuss how you can view futures as building a daily fantasy lineup. That is, you'll probably want to pick a couple of heavier favorites, but the long shot a team is, the higher the potential payout is. You can find tons of value on the futures market for NBA Finals odds by unearthing dark-horse contenders. Take a favorite or even two or three of them, and hedge accordingly with long-shot teams you feel good about.
When it comes to NBA title odds or Eastern and Western Conference futures, that's where you'll have the best luck with hedging. Seldom does it pay off so much when it comes to division winners? Only in the event of a hotly contested division would it be a more viable play.
For more guidance, tutorials, and betting tips about pro basketball and much more, visit abe's "How to Bet" page, where we provide plenty of tools for beginning bettors and even experienced players who want to sharpen their skills. Do make use of our odds comparison engine on our main odds page as well, so that you don't miss out on maximizing your payouts on every bet.