Legally Betting On The NBA Playoffs And Finals For 2016

BasketballIt might not bring in the fans like the Super Bowl or the World Cup, but the annual NBA Playoffs do bring in millions of viewers and billions of dollars in bets. From local bookies, to Vegas sportsbooks and the offshore sites, tens of millions are bet every year during the NBA playoffs. Will you bet wagering this year? Before you make your decision, we feel like we have a piece that you should read before proceeding. We're not going to get bogged down in the details of a regular season, or what it means to have a record number of wins. Throughout this piece, we're going to be focusing on the viable candidates still in the playoffs, and speaking about which teams would make a good bet and which teams you should avoid.

It's very hard to narrow things down to a few strong contenders when the first round of the playoffs isn't even over yet. However, after researching data trends, team numbers, records, and other crucial data, we feel as if we know which teams are going to perform well and which are going to flop and flounder under the pressure of the playoffs. We're not saying that you should definitely bet alongside us; though we are saying that we have actually put in the legwork for the coming predictions. We're not just guessing based on popular wagon-riding trends like so many others are doing. Throughout this piece, we'll examine the lines, the teams left in contention, and even injuries that may act as spoilers for some favorites.

The Legalities - Is Betting On The NBA Playoffs Legal In The US?

Believe it or not, there are actually no laws that prohibit players from betting at online sportsbooks. This includes betting on the NBA. The laws that do exist actually make the act or business of accepting bets illegal, not placing the bets. So if your local bookie created a website and allowed players to place bets, that would be illegal. But the act of you placing the bets wouldn't. And because all of the sites we recommend are offshore sites, US gambling law doesn't apply to them.

There is also some confusion about the UIGEA bill. Many websites report that this bill makes online gambling illegal. That's not true at all. The law is actually aimed at banks and financial institutions and makes it illegal for them to process any transactions related to gambling. But it has no text at all that actually makes the act of placing a bet illegal from the players side.

There are a handful of states that have gambling laws or provisions in place that actually make the act of betting illegal on the state level. However no player has ever been arrested simply for gambling online. The only cases of people being arrested or convicted that we are aware of have to do with the act of accepting bets, not placing them.

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The Teams Currently Still in the Playoffs and Viable

Here's a quick rundown of how the NBA Playoffs started out this year and where they currently stand:

Eastern Conference

#8 Detroit Pistons @ #1 Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs: 4-0)

#7 Indiana Pacers @ #2 Toronto Raptors (Tied 3-3)

#6 Charlotte Hornets @ #3 Miami Heat (Tied 3-3)

#5 Boston Celtics @ #4 Atlanta Hawks (Haws 4-2)

Western Conference

#8 Houston Rockets @ #1 Golden State Warriors (GS 4-1)

#7 Memphis Grizzlies @ #2 San Antonio Spurs (SA: 4-0)

#6 Dallas Mavericks @ #3 Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC: 4-1)

#5 Portland Trail Blazers @ #4 Los Angeles Clippers (Port 4-2)

As of the end of April, these are the current standings. As one might expect, the top-three teams in the league, GS, SA and the Cavs, all made short work or their competition, or are making short work. Golden State got held up in a close game without Stephen Curry on the floor, out with a twisted ankle. Though the Rockets aren't much competition on paper or on the court, and it's likely that GS will win in their next game, and yet another team will get through. But of all the remaining teams, most of which are still playing, which are the good bets and which are the bad?

Good Bets For The Playoffs

In the Eastern Conference, we have two teams we think will make good bets going forward. The Cleveland Cavaliers should easily push past either the Celtics, Hornets or Pacers, whichever is the lowest seed to emerge. And the Miami Heat are, in our opinion, the sleeper of the playoffs. We feel that they will get through Charlotte without any issue, and if they end up playing Toronto, they will give the Raptors everything they can handle for a full seven games. So if you're wondering who the top two teams are remaining in the East in terms of bets, we'd go with the Cavs and Heat. Both teams are on a mission to prove that they can compete, and Miami is a lot more explosive than they appear. Charlotte has been playing lights out ball, but we don't expect that can continue.

Bad Bets For The Playoffs

We also like two teams in the West, and it's no mystery who we'll pick. The Golden State Warriors can get past the Rockets or the Clippers with or without Steph Curry. Sure, they will be much better with him, and much more likely to cover the spreads, but they can still beat the LA Clippers without him. Part of the reason is that if the Warriors stay without Curry, it evens out because the Clippers are without Chris Paul, who broke his hand in his last game. So the odds are great that the Warriors will end up in the Western Conference Finals. The next team we expect to be a surefire bet is the Spurs. San Antonio will be playing the Oklahoma City Thunder in a few days, and while they're young and fast, they're not nearly as deep as the Spurs. The Spurs proved this during the regular season by staying well ahead of the pack, and there's nothing about the Thunder to cause one to believe they can compete on San Antonio's level of excellence. Better players and better coaching should equate to a one-sided series, 4-1 or 4-2 at best.

The Types of Bets You Can Make on the Games

When betting on the NBA Playoffs, you're going to find quite a few bets at most sportsbooks. Even smaller sports betting sites offer ample options for an event this large. This is because many experienced gamblers go far beyond simply betting on the outcome of a game or series and instead bet per half, per quarter, make prop bets, bet on futures, etc. In this regard, there is certainly no shortage of betting types or structures you can find with most sportsbooks. Here are a few of the betting types you will likely see:

  • NBA Game Lines: Where you bet on point spreads, over-under scores, etc, per a single game
  • NBA Series Price: This is where you'll find odds for the entire series, e.g. Spurs vs. Thunder
  • NBA 1st Quarter Lines: With these bets, you're simply betting on first quarter action
  • 1st Half Lines: Instead of a quarter, you're betting on scores, individual stats, etc, that take place in the first half of a game
  • 2nd Half Lines: Same as above, only with the second half instead of the first
  • All quarters: Basically the same as 1st quarter, only for all three other quarters as well
  • NBA Props: Props are where you can bet on how many free throws someone will take, their shooting percentage, and other odds and ends
  • Game Futures: These are basically like straight bets whereby you will select a team you think will win in the future and place your bet
  • Conference Finals: These are futures that allow you to place bets on which teams you think will make the Finals in each conferences
  • NBA Finals: Same as above, only for the winners of the East and West respectively
  • Exact Game Bets: This is where you will bet on the exact number of games it will take for team A to be B, or vice versa

How To Approach Betting On The Playoffs

Strewn all about the Internet are different user guides and tip-based articles that attempt to help you bet on the NBA. But you have to realize that none of them are actually current. This is a fresh version of one of those guides, and we're dealing with the teams who are playing right now, and their odds of winning right now, and so this is reflected in the advice we offer.

First and foremost, we have to say that you're better off taking one of the top-two teams until they meet up with one another. So, for the best shot of winning, you should take the Warriors over the Clippers (if the Clippers get through) and the Spurs over the Thunder. This doesn't mean you should take them for every single game, of course. Start out by going with the first two at home on straight bets. Neither one of these teams lost more then two games at home all season, and there's no real reason to assume they would start losing them now. After those two straight bets are out of the way, start looking a little more closely at point spreads. For instance, if GS goes to LA and the Warriors are favored by 8, then you might be better off taking the Clippers to cover, even if you think GS will win. This sort of base covering will allow you the maximum amount of leverage in how you bet.

Another thing here is to try not to think too far ahead. Sure, most people have the Warriors at 44% to win the NBA Finals, and at over 60% to make it there, and in the East the Cavaliers' odds of making the Finals are even higher. But there's no real reason that you have to bet that far in advance. There's no benefit to it. The odds aren't so spectacular that you would need to walk out on that limb. You should take things on a game by game basis, or at the most a series by series basis. For instance, say that you bet on the first two Cavs' home games, but they split 1-1. Maybe Love or Irving got hurt. Maybe James is throwing up bricks. By taking it per game, you can adjust your bets and put your money down on the other team at home for an upset. Don't think of this as any sort of reach. This is what many did with the Cavs vs. Warriors last Finals. After the Cavs won, the bets shifted to the Cavs' favor, and the Cavs won again. Momentum and streaks in basketball are important. Things always seem to even out, but ride the waves when you can.

Lastly, we suggest that you avoid long shots. So, you see a game seven in GS where the Warriors are -320 and the Spurs are +550. That plus side is mighty appealing, but look at what you're dealing with. A team led by Steph Curry, playing at home where they've only lost 1 game all year. It might take you a larger bet to win more money, but that's still a far sight better than losing the money. Think hard about the bets you make before you make them.

The NBA Playoffs will be over before you know it. With a little bit of luck and initiative, you can get to a sportsbook now and start picking the winning teams based on the great teams still left in the fold. You're never going to be 100% to win every bet, but you will come out ahead more often than not by taking the averages.

You can find the schedule and full coverage for the NBA playoffs here. Or if you still have any concerns about the legalities, at the following page you can find answers to common questions such as "is online sports betting illegal?".