The pressure to win in the NBA is intense, so it is not at all uncommon to see teams – even serious contenders – significantly overhaul their team from the end of one season to the beginning of the next. Teams will frequently go into a season with more than half of their starters being new to the team. Because trades are so difficult to make in the NBA and frequently involve a lot of players to balance contracts changes in the starting lineup will frequently include significant changes in the supporting cast as well.
When significant overhauls happen it is very important that serious NBA handicappers get a good sense of what the impact of those changes will be when the season starts. After several games have been played it is easier to know what the impact will be, so it is harder to find value by spotting those impacts. At the beginning of the season, though, the public won’t have a good sense of what the real impact is going to be, and they are going to be affected by hype or media criticism. If your research when handicapping indicates that the impact could be different then the public expects then you could find some very nice value. Here are six factors to consider when trying to determine what the early impact of a major overhaul of an NBA team could be heading into a new season:
Did they get better? – This is an obvious question but not always a simple one. It’s also a crucial starting point for any consideration of a NBA team’s changes and analyzing the betting lines and odds that bookmakers are posting. It is very easy to make poor assumptions here – the team must have gotten better because they landed a big name player, for example. It’s important to look beyond the surface to see what really happened and the impact it can have. What players did the team lose? Who did they replace those players with? Are there holes in the new roster as the result of changes? How strong are they at the shooting guard spot or the point? Do they lack an adequate power forward? Are there playing time issues that will have to be worked out? How is their depth? How about their health and reliability?
Will the public think they got better? – The public perception is always just as important as reality when it comes to NBA odds and sports betting. The public is usually predictable in these cases. They will get excited when big name players join a team, and will panic and become very negative about a team that loses a star. When you get a sense of how the public will view a change you have a starting point to look at the reality of the situation. If your perception of the impact of the change differs significantly from the public perception then chances are good that you will find some very nice value early in the season and you can exploit that by recognizing a weak line and good bet.
Are there holes after the changes? – We touched on this earlier, but it is important enough to mention separately. When a NBA team makes changes it doesn’t always replace one piece with another piece that can do the same things. That means that there can be some holes on a team – even if the team got better overall. A strong offensive player that was added to the team may not be as strong defensively as the player he replaces, for example. Maybe he’ll add more points from the guard spot but maybe he’ll allow faster players to get by him. It is important, then, to look at what impact those holes could have, and whether they could be an issue early on until the team figures out how they are going to deal with them. When a professional basketball team is dealing with these changes early in a new season they could be particularly vulnerable to an opponent who is prepared to exploit the issues.
Will chemistry be a concern in the short term? – When a new player joins a team chemistry issues and comfort with teammates can be an issue – especially in the short term. One example of when this can be a problem is if one player who is used to being the star of his team joins another squad that also has an established NBA star in place. Over the long term the combination of stars could be lethal for opponents, but in the short term there could be growing pains and issues while the two alpha dogs figure out how to co-exist on the hardwood and the bench.
How long have they had to get ready for the changes? – The earlier a roster change has been made, the more likely it is that the new players will be ready to hit the ground running. A trade done at the draft, for example, will likely have a smoother early impact in the arena than a trade done in the middle of training camp.
What’s the status of the coaching? – When an overhaul is made it falls to the coaching staff to get the new players ready to contribute and to have all the players on the same page from the outset. The better a NBA coach is – and the more familiar he is at dealing with change – the better the chances a team will be ready at the start of the year. If a coach is new as well then an overhauled team could be a big challenge – one that takes a while to overcome. The other factor to consider is whether the coach has had any experience with the player in the past. If they have worked with them on other teams, or on an international team, then it will be easier to make the new player comfortable and help him fit into the new system he is joining. Use all of the points in this piece when handicapping teams and determining if you can bet the NBA line on a specific game.