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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Monday, February 23, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Pro basketball oddsmakers and handicappers were hoping the All-Star Break would cut down on the number of stars who were missing games. It’s rather easy to make a representative pointspread this deep into a season when teams are at full strength. When stars get scratched from the lineup? That’s a different story.

Just since the break…

*Kevin Durant is back on the shelf after undergoing a procedure to reduce pain in his foot. When he was on the floor, the market was pricing the Oklahoma City Thunder at what amounted to championship caliber. It didn’t matter what the full season standings showed, the Thunder were just behind Golden State as favorites in the West based on pricing. Now, everyone has to figure out how much of an adjustment to make with Durant out…right after some trades adjusted the lineup and rotation.

*Anthony Davis is dealing with a shoulder injury. You may have noticed the New Orleans Pelicans are surprisingly big home underdogs Monday night against Toronto. Was that an over-adjustment to Unibrow’s absence?

*Steph Curry had to miss Sunday’s game at Indiana. That was a late scratch…and the line adjusted a couple of points immediately on the news. That adjustment wasn’t enough because Indiana won outright by six points even though they were home underdogs.

*How bad are the Knicks going to be now that Carmelo Anthony is done for the season? This is even trickier because New York WANTS to lose in the race for draft lottery position. They also made some recent personnel changes. Based on Sunday’s line of +17 at home vs. Cleveland, the Knicks are probably the WORST board team of the modern era. The NBA isn’t supposed to be 20 points from to bottom on the scale (laying -17 on the road is about the same as laying -20 on a neutral court).

Handicapping the stretch run in the NBA is going to be difficult because:

*Playoff contenders want to keep everyone healthy

*Non-playoff teams want to lose for the lottery!

Let me outline how oddsmakers deal with injuries and late scratches, and then how sharps (professional wagerers) deal with them…



Generally speaking, oddsmakers have a point value in mind for each player. They will adjust a line 2-3 points when a star is forced to miss a game. And, they make that adjustment off the news…they don’t wait for money to move the line. The adjustment is about one point for important starters who aren’t quite stars. For everyone else, it’s a non-factor. If the fourth best player on a good team is out, the line probably won’t move at all. It’s assumed everyone else can pick up the slack.

Now…after that initial adjustment of 1-3 points…THEN oddsmakers let money move the number. If it’s clear that the smartest bettors think a bigger adjustment should have been made…then we see additional points fall by the wayside. Maybe a team is -8 at full strength….but they fall to -5 when it’s announced their star is out. If sharps keep betting to dog, that line will move to -4 or -3. On the other hand, if sharps come in on the favorite at -5…that’s pretty good evidence that the “move on the news” was too big, and the line will rise back up.



We have a difference here between old school sharps and the younger quants. Old school guys tend to mirror the oddsmakers. They have a number in mind and adjust accordingly. The quants tend to have point or win percentage values pegged for every player in the league. They program their computers with the new lineup…project new minute counts for every player…and then play the game out that way. This helps them find when teams have the bench strength to not lose a step when a star is out…or lack the bench strength so dramatically that a collapse is imminent.

Generally speaking…the quants have the best approach. The lesson from their success is that the impact of an injury isn’t so much about the quality of the player who went out…but the ability of everyone else on the team to produce in his absence. A star isn’t “worth” 2-3 points based on his own quality. He may be worth 0.5 to 1.5 points on deep, versatile teams…but as many as 4-6 points if he plays a central role on both sides of the floor for a team that lacks depth.

I have to say there’s more buzz about the NBA this year than in the recent past here in Las Vegas. I think that’s mostly because San Francisco teams have a decent following out here…and Golden State has become a league power. That plus the star power LeBron James brings wherever he’s playing has put a few more fannies in the seats of sports books during game time.

If you find yourself more excited about the NBA this season…let’s see if we can turn that energy into money! You can purchase my nightly BEST BETS (pro and college hoops) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business and talk to my representative.

We’ll pick up the pace here at the website as we prepare for March Madness. Then, come tournament time, we’ll have “sharp” reports similar to what we had in the NFL because there are a few days from opener to close that allow sharp action to be properly chronicled. Keep betting smart!


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Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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