While NBA handicapping is a very broad and detailed subject, today we will take a slice out of our playbook and give you some insight from a professional sports betting on how to handicap NBA games involving injured players.
Injuries are part of sports and they will happen to everyone at some point in their careers, whether a small injury or a season-ending injury, the risks are taken by all athletes in their respective sports. However, it can be argued that the sport that is most affected by injury of a star player is the NBA. Other sports such as the NFL and MLB have enough players where the absence of a superstar is not as extreme as a disadvantage because of the amount of players on each team that can pick up the slack of one player missing. However, in the NBA with only 5 players on each side, it makes replacing an important player much more difficult. Also taking into account that fact in the NBA each player plays both offense and defense and there is not a special unit for each as is the case in the NFL.
In the NBA, if the Bulls were to lose Derrick Rose or the Lakers lost Kobe Bryant those teams would struggle until they returned from injury. This is not to say they would not be competitive but when a team has an offensive game plan the resolves around their star player and big time point maker, it is very hard for the team to adjust in the short term without the focal point of their offense. As you can see, the intricacies of the offense in the NBA with many plays revolving around the Superstar affects the way the basketball team will perform against a particular opponent. Below I will outline what to look for when a player goes out with injury and how you can be more successful at reading the impact of the loss of a particular player.
Injuries are a very significant part of the NBA handicapping process but also the play of these superstars is also extremely important. If Kobe Bryant has been struggling over a 5-6 game stretch more than likely the Lakers will not be as heavily favored. However, on the flip side of things, if Dwayne Wade is playing lights-out basketball, more than likely the Heat will be favored by a little more than they should in their upcoming games. See the public puts too high a price on recent performance of a team/player so if one player/team is playing above or below expectations you will often see them over or undervalued in the NBA betting odds. So it is important to not only track injuries but also performance of the superstar players representing each team. To go along with stars not performing well, a player playing through an injury will also affect the odds the same way that player struggling would and that can affect your betting.
Another factor to take into account when handicapping the NBA is the upcoming schedule for each team. Say Derrick Rose is injured for 3-4 games, but they are playing teams that are well below the overall skill level of the Bulls, then the injury to Derrick Rose would not matter as much. With that same thought though, if the Bulls had a tough stretch of games coming up that same rule would apply in that the Bulls’ odds to win would not be as good had Derrick Rose been playing during that stretch. What a lot of NBA bettors tend to underestimate is the emotion in the NBA game. With the regular season being very long (82 games) there are going to be plenty of situations where teams are in letdown situations as well as momentum situations. Knowing if and when those situations pop up is very vital when factoring in a star player being injured.
You also want to take a look at the depth of the basketball team that loses a superstar to injury. If a team has great depth than the injury to a star player would not hurt as much, however if the team is not very good and they lose their best player than you better believe that they would be an even greater of an underdog at the sports book. Teams that have more depth are more likely to rally around each other to pick up the slack of their ailing superstar. Often times if a star player is out for exactly 1 game, the level of play on the court will not change at all because of that rallying element. I can tell you that over the years betting on NBA teams the first game they are missing their superstar player is a very profitable situation. Don’t get fooled by a 1 game sample size though, remember that you might not see the true effect of a missing player until game 2 and beyond.
One more thing to look at when evaluating an injury is how the team has come up before in these situations. Years ago at the height of this career every single season you could count on Alan Iverson being injured for a significant number of games. When a player like Iverson misses up to 25 games a year, his teams were able to pick up the slack because they are used to playing without him. In most situations his teams have actually played better without him! However, you can expect a NBA team that has not had to encounter a situation without their star player, to experience growing pains before they begin to excel without them.
Hopefully after reading this article on NBA injuries, the next time a superstar is ruled out you will know what to look for and how to bet advantageously on the situation, considering the circumstances in conjunction with the spread and the moneyline.