NBA Spreads Explained

In simple terms NBA spreads are handicaps given to the underdog to level out the playing field.  Once the NBA spread has been made any spread bet on the favourite will have to cover the spread, while any bet on the underdog will include the spread even if the team loses.

For example, if the San Antonio Spurs are at home to the Dallas Mavericks the spread may look something like this:

  • Dallas Mavericks +4.5
  • San Antonio Spurs -4.5

This means that for any bet on San Antonio to be declared a winning bet the Spurs must “cover the spread”, which means win by more than 4.5 points because they are the favourite.  Therefore, if the Spurs win by ten points the wagers on San Antonio are winners, while if the Spurs win by 2 points, the Dallas Mavericks wagers are winners.

NBA spreads may still have odds beside them showing the betting line for each team.  An example of this is below:

  • Orlando Magic -8 (-105)
  • Washington Wizards +8 (-115)

In this instance a $100 bet on the Magic to cover the 8 point spread would return $195.24 if the Magic won, while a $100 bet on the Wizards would return $186.96 if the Wizards won or the Magic won but didn’t cover the spread.  If no odds are given then (-110) odds are assume, which would cause a return of ($191) on both teams.

This is also a good time to explain how a bet could be pushed when the spread is a whole number.  If for example, the Magic won by exactly 8 points, then all bets on either team would be pushed.  This means that the bet would be refunded, but there would be no winnings paid out.

Point spread bets are the most popular form of NBA betting because the spreads even out the playing field which allows bettors to be more confident while betting on underdogs and earn a more reasonable amount when betting on favourites.