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Adjusting for In-Season NBA Free Agents

Each year in the NBA it seems like we are seeing more and more players signed as free agents during the regular season. There are a number of ways a professional basketball player can become a free agent in the middle of a season – if they have been playing in another country or as a free agent in the D-League, if they were free agents before the season but weren’t signed or were injured, or if they have been bought out of their contract by a team. What’s striking is not just that this is happening a lot, but that a lot of the NBA players that are being signed are guys with familiar names and established reputations. For NBA sports handicappers these players can represent a challenge. You have to be able to quickly determine what their role is going to be, and what impact they are likely to have on a team. Sometimes a player, whether they’re a hotshot guard or big forward, can make the difference for a team and can put them over the top. Other times, though, the impact is minimal, or perhaps even negative. Before you jump in and start playing the spread, here are six factors to consider when trying to determine what the impact of an in-season free agent is going to be:

Why are they available? – Basically, you need to determine whether they have been playing well recently or not – and by extension whether they can be expected to play well now. What you want to look for is guys that are available because they have been a disappointment with their former team. If a team has upgraded the position and made the player expendable, or if they felt that salary cap flexibility is more important than the player’s impact, then it’s quite possible that the player doesn’t have a lot to contribute from the court. Unless a team doesn’t have roster space to accommodate a player then their decision to cut a player free from the roster probably indicates that the player doesn’t have a lot to offer right now.

Are they healthy? – This is really an extension of the last point. It doesn’t matter what a player is capable of when he’s at his best if he’s not going to be able to perform at or near his best because he’s not healthy. A team will often take a risk on a cheap free agent even if there are injury concerns that might compromise his ability to take down rebounds, make the big dunk or run the court, because the upside can be high and the downside risk is low. If you aren’t aware of those health concerns, though, then you could easily overvalue the addition of the player.

What role will they fill? – You need to be very careful that you are looking at what role they have been added to their new team to fill, not what role they have filled for other teams in the past. Are they expected to be a starter, or are they going to be coming off the bench? Are they going to play situationally, or will they play at all times? Are they being added primarily for their playing contribution or for their leadership? Are they a setup guy capable of double digit assists or a massive three-point shooter? Do they potentially have a longer term role with the team, or are they just a temporary solution?

How much will they play? – It’s hard for a player to have a big impact on his new team if he doesn’t get a chance to play very much. It’s important to understand, then, whether he is being brought in to be a major part of the team’s rotation, or if he is just depth – a practice body that will only be used in NBA games when absolutely necessary?

How comfortable will they be with the system? – A player who joins a team in the middle of the season has to be able to adjust on the fly. The rest of the teammates have had a whole season – and often longer – to get comfortable with each other, the coaches, and the system they are playing in. The new player has to step into the middle of that and be able to adjust quickly. That’s never easy to do, but it is much easier if the player has played for the coach before, or if he has played with some of his new NBA teammates in other places. A veteran hoop player who has moved around alot is also going to find it easier to adjust and adapt because they have done it so many times before.

How will the public respond? – As with all situations in NBA sports betting you need to be very aware of what the public reaction is going to be. Will the public have very high hopes for the player based on what he has done in the past and the needs of the team? Or will they hardly take note of the transaction? If your opinion of a move differs from the public perception then there is a chance for real value as you find great lines for games you’re interested in handicapping .

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