If you have bet the NBA for a while, or even just followed it as a fan, then this has certainly happened to you – you have had very high hopes and expectations for a team heading into the season but they come out of the gate totally flat. Their best players, their top-shooting guard, big-bodied center, or top assist man, have not played like stars; they have lost games that they should have won, and they certainly don’t find themselves on top of the standings. If you really liked the team heading into the season then that faith can be expensive after a slow start like this. Before you lose too much on them you have to take a step back, evaluate, and determine whether your expectations were wrong or whether the team is just in a funk that they are going to break out of. When you are trying to solve that puzzle here are eight factors to consider that will help you with your NBA basketball handicapping:
Who have they played? – It’s never good when a good NBA team gets off to a frustrating start, but it’s more acceptable when they struggle against very good teams than it is when they play a weak schedule and still can’t win. If they have played a weak schedule and looked lousy then it either means that they just haven’t been good enough to beat them, or that they aren’t motivated or focused enough to get up for the games. Neither one is good for a team with a whole lot of games ahead of them and either will affect your sports betting.
What have they done in the past? – I know I am crossing sports, but I think of this one as the Norv Turner factor. Turner is a reasonably competent NFL head coach, but for some reason his teams practically never play anywhere close to their potential in the first month of the season. You really can’t judge where his teams are at until they are six or eight games into the season because he is incapable or unwilling to be ready for the first four games. If an NBA team that has gotten off to a bad start has some Norv Turner syndrome – a repeated pattern of slow starts or effort that isn’t as strong early on as it will be at the end of the season – then it might not be time to panic if they are lousy out of the gate. If they are typically a pretty strong starter, though, then their stumble needs a closer look because it could be a sign of bigger problems.
How are they losing? – Ultimately a loss is a loss, but there are some losses that are more acceptable than others. If the NBA team has been competitive throughout their games and have lost close contests by poor luck, unfortunate matchups, or other bad breaks than you might not be too worried about what has happened. On the other hand, if the team has lost because they have consistently been outplayed in the paint, their opponents have been better prepared, or they aren’t playing together effectively on the hardwood then it could be a sign of larger issues – or at least a sign that they have more to work on before they turn the corner and get back on track.
How are their best players playing? – The NBA is ultimately a star driven league, and if a team came into the season then you can be sure that they have a player or two who is at a superstar level. If those players are playing well, taking down the rebounds, hitting three-point shots, making assists, then there is a good chance that things will turn around. If they have struggled and played well below expectations, though, then you need to look closely at what is causing their issues and whether there are bigger problems – health issues, problems with teammates or coaches, advancing years, and so on. These are things that can affect your sports betting and be the difference between making losing and winning wagers.
What is their public tone? – You can tell a lot about how a NBA team is feeling by how they are interacting with the media. If they are still reasonably loose and relaxed despite their issues then they probably aren’t too worried about what is affecting them, and you probably don’t need to be, either. The more that players and coaches become elusive, hostile, argumentative and generally unpleasant, though – especially if that’s not normally what they are like – the more reason there is to be worried and the more need there is to figure out what’s going wrong and how long it might last.
Has management made any moves yet? – If the team front office is really worried and starts to take action then it’s clearly not just a small issue. If they make a trade, change their coaching staff, or even shuffle their starting lineup significantly then it’s a good sign that what they hoped would work coming into the season isn’t working as planned, and they need to change things. If they stand their ground and do things the same way they set out to do them from the start, though, then it’s a sign that they still believe in what they planned and are optimistic about the future. You can use trade rumors as well as actual moves to get a sense of the feelings of the front office, though you will want to make sure you are using reliable, connected sources instead of just rumor mongers before you start applying the information to the latest odds.
What’s the injury situation? – This one should be obvious. If the team is healthy and underperforming it is a much bigger concern than if they are injured and playing without their full starting lineup.
What is the public thinking? – When a team limps out of the gate the biggest issue of concern is how the public responds to the situation. If the public and the media respond with fear and panic to a situation then you can be sure that the NBA odds makers will start to reflect that, and there could be increasing opportunities for value if you aren’t as pessimistic as the public is. If the public doesn’t seems too worried about a situation, though, then it won’t have a big impact on the line, and you might be able to find value if you are pessimistic about the short term future of the team. You can find value when betting on games where a team has gotten off to a slow start.