As soon as the pairing for the NBA Finals is known there is a rush for handicappers. There are futures bets to be made, and lines to be bet before the betting public unleashes on them. To take maximum advantage handicappers need to quickly get a sense of what the matchup means and how the series could turn out. Here are seven factors to consider to quickly get a sense of the impending series from a betting perspective:
Style of play – The single biggest factor in determining how a series will play out is how the teams prefer to play and whether they will be able to play that way. If the teams have similar styles then it will come down to which NBA team can do it better. If they have very different styles then only one team is likely to be able to perform in their comfort zone. If one team likes to play very quickly pushing the ball up the hardwood, for example, while the other favors a much slower tempo setting up plays carefully in the paint and on the perimeter then only one team is going to be able to dictate the tempo. NBA sports bettors need to realize that as a general rule the team that is able to dictate the style of play is likely going to be the one who comes out on top.
Stars – More than any other league, the NBA is a star driven organization. It is very important to get a sense of who the biggest stars are on either side, and how well they are playing. There are a couple of big reasons for this. First, the stars are likely the best players, so they are likely to have the biggest impact on the series. More significantly however, the stars are the ones that will draw the most attention from the betting public, and are the ones that can have the biggest impact on the series. If one NBA team’s stars are higher profile than those on the other team, then that can affect the public beys. If the stars aren’t playing as well as their reputation would suggest then there could be a chance for real value.
Point guards – The point guard is the quarterback of the team, and in most systems he has the ability to dictate the style of play and influence how the team plays. A mismatch in point guards, then, can have a big impact on the series outcome, and how the public reacts. There are some point guards that aren’t as strong as the public thinks, and others that are stronger than their reputation. Those misinterpretations of point guard strength can lead to betting value.
Depth – By the time the finals roll around players have been through a whole lot – the preseason, the endless regular season, and three rounds of the playoffs. Even the youngest, healthiest professional basketball players are starting to get worn down by this point, and veterans could really be hurting. In an ideal world teams would have enough depth to give their key players some much needed rest during games without sacrificing their quality of play significantly. If one team has more quality depth than the other then they may have an edge in the series – especially if they are able to play an aggressive, high tempo style that will challenge their tired opponent.
Coaching – Coaching is never more important than it is in the NBA Finals. Teams face countless distractions and more pressure than ever before. It can be very easy for a team to lose focus or temporarily lose their intensity in the face of those challenges. The coach needs to be able to keep their team on task. They also need to be able to make adjustments on the fly against an opponent that is clearly playing very well and dominating the action on the court. When evaluating the coaches it is very important to look at their relationship to their team and their performance through the playoffs as opposed to their reputations or what they have done in the past with other teams.
Health – There is no team that is completely healthy by the time the finals arrive. They have just played too much basketball at too high of a level. There will be players on the sidelines, and other who are playing hurt. Getting a sense of who is in good shape and who isn’t will help you understand what impact that could have on matchups, and what opportunities teams will be able to exploit. In particular, you want to look at two things – what players are playing at less than full capacity, and which players are likely to return to the lineup after an absence. These can be huge factors when it comes to making smart NBA picks.
Head to head play – I put this one last because it is the least important of the factors listed. You can look back at the regular NBA season to see how the teams performed when they played. It’s dangerous to attach too much significance to these results because of the time that has passed, the ways the teams have changed, and the stakes of the series. Still, you may be able to identify matchup issues and other weaknesses that could have a big impact on the series and on your ability to exploit moneylines and those tricky NBA playoff point spreads.