The preseason in most major sports isn’t particularly illuminating, and the NBA is no exception. There are some things that smart NBA sports handicappers can learn from watching the preseason, though. That can be very helpful when the regular season starts and the games really matter – to the teams and to your wagering bankroll. Here are five warning signs in NBA preseason play that a team might not be ready to perform up to expectations when the regular season starts:
Conditioning issues – It used to be that athletes showed up at training camp fat and out of shape and then used the month or so of time to get ready for games. Those days are long one now. When NBA athletes show up they are expected to be in top form so that they are ready to learn and implement systems and work on their game and not their fitness. If the conditioning of players isn’t particularly good – especially in the earlier preseason games – then it can be a sign of many different potential issues that will show up on the hardwood in the regular season. It could be that the training program the team is using isn’t particularly strong. Or maybe the discipline of the coaching staff isn’t strong enough to inspire players to come to camp ready. Maybe the players themselves don’t have the driving force to get as ready as they should be. Any one of those issues can lead to further problems as the season gets underway and affect your NBA wagers. If it is a motivation problem then that can show up in many other ways that can have negative impacts. If it is a problem with the training regimen then injuries and stamina could be a big problem as the season advances. There are many potential signs of conditioning issues. Look for teams that start out strong in games but finish with a whimper – like a NBA team that opens a huge lead and then blows it down the stretch. Also, be on the lookout for teams that are dealing with a lot of minor injuries that have cropped up during the preseason, or teams that are seeing a lot of veteran players participating a lot less in early training camp action than would be expected.
Lackluster defensive effort – Defensive play will be more impressive as it is revised and coached through the season. There is a lot that can be accomplished by players on the court early on, though, through effort and determination. If NBA teams are playing solid early defense through good hustle, good instincts, and strong individual play by making steals, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds then there are reasons to be optimistic. If, on the other hand, the team’s defense is lacking early on then it can be bigger signs of problems with the team. It could be a lack of personal effort, a lack of commitment from the players to the team, or a lack of conditioning. All would be a problem.
Lack of progress – There are eight preseason games in a typical NBA preseason. In an ideal scenario you would see progress on the court throughout those games. The star players would play more and play better as things go along. Key rookies or new additions would start to look more comfortable and game ready. The systems and approaches of the coaches would be more obvious as the schedule progresses, and fewer mistakes would be made. In short, as the season progresses the team should look more like you would expect them to look during the season. If that progress isn’t happening then it could be a sign of some problems or issues with the teams and this can affect your NBA picks.
Completely changing approach each game – Because we are looking for slow and steady progress during the NBA preseason it can be a real concern if a team seems to be trying out all sorts of things to find something that works. It could be, for example, that one day a team starts a big lineup of forwards while the next day they start three guards. Or perhaps one day they are running and gunning while the next they are trying to control the tempo. A team won’t look as good in the preseason as they will later on, but they should have a clearly recognizable identity that is driving their effort and giving them goals to work towards. A team that isn’t showing that identity is going to struggle. Expert oddsmakers know this and it will affect lines and betting in the regular season.
New players not stepping up – When a new player joins a NBA team – whether through free agency, a trade, or as a rookie – they should be hungry to earn the respect of the coaches and develop a role on the court and relationships with their new teammates. If they aren’t, then it can be a real issue and it can affect odds makers, lines and betting. If new players are looking tentative, disinterested or unprepared then it can be a sign of problems – at least in the short term, and potentially for much longer if the problems linger. Review these five warning signs as you head into the NBA season and start working towards making winning NBA bets.