Team depth, and the significance of it, is a tough concept for NBA bettors to deal with in the playoffs. Some basketball teams are obviously going to be deeper and more talented than others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to be better suited for playoff success. In the NBA playoffs there are some situations in which depth is very significant, and others in which it’s really not. Here’s a look at both:
Depth matters when…
Injuries are a problem – Sports bettors typically pay close attention to injury reports, so they aren’t going to miss that a key starter is injured and out of action. What they are far less likely to notice and accurately account for, though, is when NBA players are healthy enough to play but aren’t at full strength. It could be that they are coming back from an injury and aren’t yet at full speed, or that they are dealing with a nagging issue that can affect shooting, rebounding and other areas. Whatever the reason is, a basketball team that is dealing with nagging issues is going to rely more heavily on their depth, and if those nagging issues are under the radar then they can represent an opportunity for you to stay on the winning side of the NBA point spread.
Opponent is particularly active or physical – If a team is going to get attacked physically throughout the games they play then they are going to need depth. If an opponent is particularly physical then the team might not be used to dealing with that, and they certainly aren’t going to be used to dealing with it seven games in a row. That is going to exact a physical toll, especially under the net, and it could create issues with fouls as well, so depth in the forwards spots will be needed. Depth will also be called upon if the opponent plays particularly up-tempo and the team has to chase them for seven games. That’s a huge factor when it comes to the guard spots.
Coach uses a deep bench – This one is obvious, but still very important to consider. The more a coach likes to use a deep bench and rotate players throughout a game, the more important depth is. It’s surprising how often you’ll read analysis about a team that mentions depth concerns even though the coach never relies on his bench so it’s not a real issue. Your handicapping process needs to look at what the coach has compared to what he needs, not what he has compared to other teams.
Starting players are older – It’s far more important that the Suns have a viable backup point guard behind Steve Nash than it is that the Celtics have a great solution behind Rajon Rondo. Depth in both cases would be great, but the Suns are far more likely to need it because Nash is older and more fragile. In short, it would be far less scary for the Celtics, or any other team with a young, tough point guard, to gamble with a lack of depth then it would be for the Suns, the Mavs, or another team with an older starter at the point. The same obviously goes for the other positions as well.
Following a grueling overtime – Every so often in the NBA playoffs you’ll get an epic overtime battle – one that goes a couple of overtime periods and has the players looking like zombies by the end because they are so tired. Unless the teams have an abnormally long break between games depth is going to be a concern in the next game because teams are going to be more tired than normal, and players will have less spring in their legs.
Depth doesn’t matter when…
It’s behind a healthy superstar – When the NBA playoffs start and games matter as much as they do it’s going to be very hard to get superstars – especially young, healthy ones – to sit on the bench and watch the action. The big name guys are going to play heavy minutes, and they certainly are going to be playing when the game is on the line, so it’s not really a concern at all if they are short on depth behind that player.
It’s late in a series – When one of the teams has a chance to end a playoff series with a win neither basketball team is going to be saving anything for later – they will be letting everything they have hang out. Depth is primarily important in terms of conserving resources, but no NBA team will be trying to conserve anything other than their playoff lives. That means that they are very unlikely to go deep down the bench.