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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 4:00 PM

The NBA is about to jump back into action after its annual All-Star Break. Once again the skills competitions Saturday night overshadowed the All-Star Game. That was the best slam dunk contest ever (particularly of the post-Jordan years). And, the three-point shooting contest is fun because elite shooters are competing.

The game itself? Mostly a joke! I understand nobody wants to play defense, but that was ridiculous!

Most everyone will be back to playing defense when they first take the floor Thursday and Friday night. Las Vegas sports bettors will be back to trying to pick winners. Here are some keys for you regular students in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping to consider.

First, THE MOTIVATION FACTOR can get very tricky! The new era of “analytics” has emphasized to too many teams the motivation to lose! Non-contenders want great placement in the draft lottery. If you’re not going to make the playoffs, you might as well be horrible to see if you can get lucky in the draft. A lot of your smartest Las Vegas bets over the next two months will be going against teams who are motivated to lose.

On a night-to-night basis, even playoff-bound teams have ups-and-downs in motivation. Some games are given peak priority. Others are blown off because the players are so tired. You may see a team playing as hard as they can because they’re trying to either get into the playoffs or earn a certain seed (Utah caught fire last year at this time for example). But, you may also see good teams go in the tank a bit if they want to drop down from a #3 to a #4 seed or whatever. That can happen if a coach wants a certain matchup in the playoffs.

Bottom line…be sure you’re in touch with what each team’s goals are in a given game…or don’t even try to handicap the NBA right now!

Second, THE FATIGUE FACTOR will start to become an issue in a few weeks. This extended rest break is going to help for now. But, you really need to have your eye on teams who are going to fade from the grind. Post All-Star Break handicapping is often about taking teams who are relatively fresh against teams whose tanks are close to empty. Back-to-back’s are tough to deal with in the best of times. In late February, March, and early April…they can be really brutal. That multiplies when it’s the third game in four nights, or fourth game in five nights. Know who’s fresh. Know who’s tanks are emptying out.

I think you’ll find it helpful to chart everyone’s schedule. You can do this by hand very simply on some old fashioned graph paper. Just right down the names of the teams down the left side…then mark the dates on the right. This will help you see which teams are playing clusters of games in a short time period…or who just had 3-4 days off in a way you hadn’t noticed. That can be some quick homework for you right now. Build that chart! It’s easy to find schedules for all 30 teams at various websites across cyberspace.

Finally today, I want to emphasize the importance of TEAM DEPTH. Normally I’m focused on PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS for you. In the second half of the NBA season, you have to tweak that to include potential COVER-MAKERS on the bench. By that, I mean guys who can come in and score points in a way that leads their team to wins and pointspread covers. Or, maybe defensive stalwarts who do that on the other side of the floor (Utah’s great second half run last year was all about defensive PLAYMAKERS rather than offensive).

When we get to the playoffs, the SUPERSTAR GAMEBREAKERS will once again be front and center. LeBron James will be trying to lead Cleveland to a title (as long as he’s healthy). Kevin Durant will be trying to do the same for Oklahoma City. But, during the upcoming stretch run, many superstars will be pacing themselves while other guys determine who covers the spread. Be sure you’re studying boxscores to get minute counts for starters, while making impact assessments for backups.

If you’d like some help picking basketball winners right now, KELSO STURGEON’S top selections can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters’ office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Note that most of my selections at this time of year are in the colleges. But, I will mix in some NBA when warranted.

Thanks very much for your attendance. Get cracking on that homework if you’re truly serious about picking winners in the NBA! The Dean of Sports Handicapping will see you again this weekend with what will very likely be a college basketball discussion. No breaks for sports bettors…it’s a year-round job!


Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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