In order to successfully bet on the NBA playoffs, you need to have a concise understanding of the structure of the NBA playoffs and how eliminations and progress through the post-season events works. The NBA season typically kicks off around Halloween every year, or late October, and the Playoffs typically begin in mid to late April, providing a nice long season and series of events for fans who participate in legal NBA betting to enjoy. . The Playoffs of the NBA are a simple enough structure to understand. Out of the 15 teams in each conference, Eastern and Western (30 total), the top 8 seeds from each conference make the post-season. The teams are seeded from 1-8, with #1 playing #8, and #2 playing #7, and so on. So, for instance, if the Eastern Conference had the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 1 seed, and the New Jersey Nets as the 8 seed, the Nets would travel to Cleveland to play LeBron and the Cavs.
Each conference has four post-season match-ups between its 8 teams, with the winners of those series moving on to play in a quarter-final - the equivalent of the NCAA's Elite Eight. After a winner is named in a 7-game series, the respective conferences host an Eastern and Western Conference Championship, the winners of which meet in the NBA Finals. The viewership numbers are typically high for the entire Playoffs, but there's also a big spike in gambling activity, as gamblers attempt to win big bets by betting on their favorite teams through legal basketball betting.
One of the best parts about the Playoff season for the NBA is that it's typically longer than the playoffs for the NFL or even the NHL. You can expect more 7-game series, as the teams are more evenly matched. This also induces some big action on the sportsbooks, as the spreads are relatively minor, the O/U are hit or miss, and the moneylines are far more forgiving. However, US players are forced to look at offshore options to do their betting. Unless you're a resident of Montana, Nevada or another of the four exempt-from-PASPA states in America, then you won't have any legal US based betting options. Luckily, though there are a handful of sportsbooks operating outside of US jurisdiction that are legally licensed and that welcome US players.
You can get more helpful information from our page covering NBA betting tips.
Because of the amount of bets laid down on the Playoffs in late April and May, you may be under the mistaken impression that sports betting is actually legal. This is perfectly understandable. After all, if you saw every single person on the road speeding, you would think the speed limit was raised. But this is just a sign of the times, not a reflection on the law. USA based ports betting is still illegal per federal regulations like PASPA and the Federal Wire Act, so you shouldn't expect to find any legitimate sites or online ebookmakers operating within US soil. Instead, go with the offshore options to ensure you're placing legal bets. As long as you bet with sites outside the US that are legally licensed and regulated, sports betting is perfectly legal.
The Structure of the NBA Playoffs
The Playoffs are right around the corner, and you may be very eager to begin betting. But approach your bets with caution. Don't go crazy betting; take things slowly and make safe, logical, small bets.
As the playoffs approach, you can check out the official NBA Playoffs Bracket to get a look at the matchups.
Outside of professional football with the National Football League (NFL), basketball takes second billing as the nation's most popular sport, and it's the National Basketball Association (NBA) and its 30 teams leading the charge. There's a lot more basketball in America than you may think, not only the collegiate teams and the WNBA (women's b-ball), but also the D-league and other amateur leagues, some of which even have television contracts. Though it's the stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry with the NBA that sell the tickets and glue fans to the tube, and there's no event in the NBA more watched and revered than the NBA Playoffs. The Playoffs are essentially a battle to get to the Finals, and the games typically equate to some of the best sports you will see all year.
The NBA is comprised of 30 teams that are split up between two conferences, 15 in the Eastern Conference, and 15 in the Western Conference. Over the course of seven months, give or take, NBA teams play 82 regular season games, and the teams with the best records got to the NBA Playoffs. Each conference puts forth its eight best teams, for 16 teams in total. This actually leads to 14 separate Playoff series. Starting June 2 of 2016, the NBA Finals will likely be among the highest viewed in history because of who is likely to be there (more about that elsewhere).
The Western Conference in 2016
The Western Conference of the NBA is considered to be the most tightly contested conference not only in the sport's history, but of all the sports in the world. That may sound like it's overstating the competition a bit, but it's really not. Not only do you have the Golden State Warriors who went 73-9 this year, breaking the Bull's win record of 72, but you also have the San Antonio Spurs who won 67 games and who were 41-1 on their home floor. Then you have a team like the LA Clippers, with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul. And that's not even touching the Oklahoma City Thunder with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The West is so extremely competitive that they spend most of the year beating up on one another and crushing the East by comparison. This wasn't always the case. When LeBron was still in Miami with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, the East had won back-to-back titles. But after San Antonio beat the Heat and kept them from winning back-to-back-to-back titles, LeBron headed back for Cleveland, and the West has been dominating ever since. And that's unlikely to change any time soon.
The Eastern Conference in 2016
The Eastern Conference of the NBA has been known colloquial as the "NBA Least" all year, due to the fact that the two top dogs in the East, the Cleveland Cavs and Toronto Raptors, basically pale in comparison to the Warriors and Spurs. Winning 57 and 56 games respectively, the top seed in the East is a full ten games behind the second-best team in the West, and ten games is a pretty large disparity in basketball over an 82-game season. Even still, the East has some serious talent. We would have to start with the Cavs, who have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and a much improved and healthy Kevin Love on their roster. No other team in the East can compete with this level of talent, and it's almost a sure shot that the Cavs will coast to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, they're basically evenly matched with a Toronto Raptors team that's young and relatively unknown, but most assume the Cavs' experience will pull them through. Regardless of how things play out, Cleveland is the only hope for an Eastern team that can compete with a Western team. The West really is dominant.
Which Teams are Favored For the Finals?
To speak about which teams are favored, let's start with the power struggle in the West. While the Warriors had the best record in the history of the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs did beat them earlier in the season, and they have the talent to do it for four games. This is going to be a knock-down, drag-out sort of fight if and when (more likely when) these two teams meet up in the Western Conference Finals. And what complicates matters more now is that Steph Curry has missed games due to his ankle and his knee. His ankle is supposedly healed, but his MCL sprain in his knee is recent. Meanwhile, the Spurs are healthy and strong, even with a 40-year-old Tim Duncan. This is going to be a series for the ages, and it's going to work out one of two ways. One, Steph isn't 100% and not effective enough, so the Spurs end up taking them out. Two, Steph is his normal self and the Warriors get past the Spurs with their home court advantage. Portland, the Clippers and OKC are second fiddle at best to these teams, so don't expect any upsets on their part.
In the East, things aren't even that complicated. Now, that's not to say that the Toronto Raptors couldn't beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in a seven-game series. Anything is possible. But right now, as of 4/16/16, Cleveland has already swept its series with Detroit 4-0, while the Raptors are stuck 2-2 with the Indiana Pacers, who were ranked #7. So if the Raptors struggle with an undermanned seven seed, the odds of them beating a LeBron-led #1 seed are very slim. Cleveland gets the winner of Atlanta-Boston, which is also tied 2-2 currently, but neither one of those teams has the depth or size to give Cleveland any problems. LeBron James could literally play center against these small teams and go off for 30 a night, not to even mention Love's enormous size as a power forward. Plus if Toronto does get past Indiana, they may end up losing to the Miami Heat in the next round. D-Wade is playing like he's 10 years younger, and that team can flat-out shoot the basketball, like a poor man's Golden State. So Cleveland is far and away the Eastern Conference favorite.
How Golden State Changed the Game
Throughout the course of NBA history, it has been said quite a few times that a player, players or teams have come along and really changed the game. Believe it or not, the NBA was dying slowly in the early 1980s, with very low ratings, low attendance, and owners not making any money. TV contracts were few and far between, and the average league salary was under 100K. The National Basketball Association was failing, and failing miserably actually. Until, of course, two stars were drafted in the same year: Erving "Magic" Johnson to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Larry Bird to the Boston Celtics. This duo, who had played a year earlier in the collegiate National Championship, practically revived basketball by themselves and saved it from going belly up. Magic revolutionized the point guard position, and Bird was one of best shooters in league history, with a flare for tenacious defense.
Fast forward a decade later, and the game was changed yet again, this time by a single player. Michael Jordan, a young, talented kid from North Carolina, came up in an Eastern Conference playing against teams like the Bad Boy Pistons and the Boston Celtics in their hey. With the Chicago Bulls, it wouldn't take long before Michael Jordan would become the most feared player on the court. Legends of the game like Shaquile O'Neal have said that the year Jordan retired was great for him because it meant the East was wide open. Jordan and the Bulls won back-to-back-to-back titles before MJ retired to play baseball. Though after a single season, MJ would return and the Bulls would again win back-to-back-to-back championships. Jordan not only changed how positional basketball was played on the court via a shooting guard's position, but also how the game was called. Until the "Jordan rules" were enacted, you could hand check players, block their path, make body contact when they shot, etc. Though to keep Jordan healthy and at the foul line, new rules were enacted, and these are the rules that today pay off for the likes of D-Wade, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. In fact, it won Kobe and the Lakers a championship as they came back and took the lead against the Celtics in the 2010 Finals, all from the foul line.
Though with all the many players to change the game, of which we only mentioned a few, none have changed the game as much as the Golden State Warriors, led by league MVP Stephen Curry, son of former Sixth-Man of the Year Dale Curry. With Andre Drummond, Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut and Curry, the Warriors are the best shooting team in the history of the league. Curry is almost guaranteed to make a three-pointer every game, and the Warriors broke the Bulls' record of 72 wins by earning 73. Impossible to guard, Curry can pull up from anywhere, and just when you think you're dealing well with the Warriors, the supporting cast can play great defense. Before in league history, ball had been played inside-out, needing a great big man down low. Even Jordan's Bulls had great big men like Luc Longley and Horace Grant. But the Warriors play an outside-out type of ball, whereby they patrol the perimeter and look to kick it out past the arc for a three-point shot. Meanwhile, they still have big men to clean up rebounds and go after loose balls and play D. It may be crowning them too early to say they're the best team ever, but they have definitely changed the game completely.
In summation, the Golden State Warriors have taken the game to a new place, just like Jordan before them and Magic-Bird before him. We see this about once a generation, but it's certainly a treat to see it happening in live time. As it stands right now, the Warriors are the odds-on favorites to win the NBA Finals, and we can't really disagree with that sentiment. They will likely face off against the Cavaliers, led by LeBron James. For a better breakdown on this topic, check out our betting piece for the NBA Playoffs.