Expert NBA Handicapper Advice
As the regular season draws close to the end in any sport there are inevitably teams that have to play several games after knowing that they have no chance of making the playoffs. When two of these no-hope teams meet each other we have one of the tougher situations in sports handicapping. Neither of the teams has obvious motivation, and neither one is particularly good, so trying to determine a winner in these games can be a real challenge. Here are seven things to consider when handicapping games in which both teams are out of playoff contention:
Expectations before the season – If a team came into the season knowing that they were very unlikely to be a playoff team then being eliminated from the playoffs probably isn't that hard on them. They won't be excited about their fate, but they aren't surprised by it. If a team went into the season thinking that they were headed for a strong year and finds themselves on the outside looking in, though, then they aren't likely to be happy about it. They'll be frustrated and likely looking for the season – and their misery – to end.
Age of roster – Any player is going to be frustrated when they don't make the playoffs. If the team is a young one, though, then they probably knew going in that it wasn't going to be a great year, but that the future could be brighter. The players will still be feeling reasonably healthy, and they could keep playing at high intensity because they are looking to secure their futures and build towards one for their team. On the other hand, an older roster could be frustrated because the end of each season brings them closer to the end of their careers – they can feel their window slamming shut. An older roster might not be as motivated down the stretch – and they might not be as physically sound as well.
Health – One of the biggest contributors to the end of playoff dreams can often be a large number of injuries. If those injuries occurred earlier in the season and have largely been remedied now then the team could be performing at a higher level than they were before they got healthy. If those issues continue, though, then the team could struggle to perform. A discrepancy in injury status between two teams eliminated from the playoffs could create a real betting opportunity.
Contract status of key players – If the best player on a team is a free agent who is likely to be popular on the open market and isn't likely to return to his team then it's a good bet that he won't be playing at particularly high intensity. That lack of intensity could filter down to the rest of the team as well. If the best player on the team is a young player working for an extension, though, then he might be playing particularly well. Mid-level players who want a new contract could play with extra intensity as well.
Stability of coach – If a coach is secure in his position and is sure to be back next year then players are likely to play well for him down the stretch – especially if his plans and schemes are showing results. If a coach is clearly and obviously on his way out the door, though, then it's very unlikely that the team will be performing at their best because they will almost certainly have tuned out their departing leader.
Stability of management – If the team's general manager or decision maker is in his final days with the team then there will be no incentive to perform for him. If he's stable and sticking around, though, then players will be more inclined to be working hard to make sure that they have a future on the team.
Recent form – When a team has been eliminated from the playoffs people automatically assume that they aren't a good team or that they aren't playing well. Sometimes, though, a team can find strong form late in the season despite being eliminated from the playoffs. It could be that there is no pressure on them anymore, or that they have finally found some chemistry or learned the schemes and systems the coach wants them to learn, or that they are healthy again. Whatever the reason, a bad team on a hot streak is not likely to get the recognition they might deserve and that could create a big betting opportunity in a situation like this.
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