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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, February 22, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Pro basketball gets much more intense at the top of the NBA after the All-Star Break, but much less intense for non-playoff teams or those tanking at the very bottom to improve their draft position.

This can make it very tricky to handicap the board on a daily basis. Oddsmakers already know which teams are trying and which teams aren’t. It’s your job to dig even deeper, often focusing on tricky angles like:

*Who “should” be trying, but is coasting instead

*Who “shouldn’t” be trying, but is anyway

I’m always emphasizing THE MOTIVATION FACTOR to you here in the coursework. Late season NBA teams don’t always cooperate!

Some great betting value will pop up when young guys on non-contenders decide they’re playing to make a career, and start leading their teams to results. Many really bad bets come from asking playoff contenders to do too much when facing a non-threat. A team that “needs” to win to improve playoff seeding doesn’t necessarily need to win by at least 12-15 points. THE MOTIVATION FACTOR only involves straight up victories when you’re talking about the playoff chase.

To help you pin down your focus, here are questions NBA handicappers should ask in each game, about each team.

 

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Have the daily standings handy so you know what’s happening in the playoff races…in the battles for the final playoff spots…and down at the bottom of the standings in the chase for lottery odds to win Zion Williamson. I can tell you this…the COACHES and the PLAYERS know what’s at stake. That’s driving how they prioritize the game. You need to know what they know to even begin picking these games.

 

WHAT’S THE RECENT PRIOR EVIDENCE?

Teams are establishing their rotations, strategies, and intensity level on a nightly basis under the “what’s at stake” banner. This is great news for handicappers, because it gives you an immediate read on how they’ll probably perform the next time they’re in that situation. Some teams will bring the same approach every night. Others will save peak intensity for future playoff opponents, while resting a bit in games they might be able to win at three-quarter speed. Be sure you’re reading every boxscore to get a sense of minute-counts and game flow. You can probably throw away most “pre-Break” trends because they won’t matter any longer. Treat this like a new season.

 

HOW IS THE MARKET REACTING?

Sharps are very quick to jump on late-season tendencies. You might as well take advantage of all those “extra eyes” watching the games to spot additional edges. Monitor both team side and Over/Under moves to see how “respected money” is influencing the numbers. Then, monitor the final results of those moves once the scores are in the books. You will likely find a few meaningful tendencies that you can exploit over the final month of the season. I’ll add here…if you don’t normally bet Over/Unders…this is a good time to let the market show you some possibilities you were probably missing.

 

IS THIS A BACK-TO-BACK SPOT?

Though schedule-makers have lessened the load on NBA teams with friendlier schedules, there are still some back-to-back spot that will pop up down the stretch. Do your best to determine each head coach’s approach to these fatigue challenges. Some coaches will “punt” one game or the other, because being healthy for the playoffs is more important than trying to sweep two games in a row. Some coaches will give away their strategy in media interviews to local beat reporters. Others make you wait to watch the game so you can learn and benefit. Oddsmakers will tell you the toughest games to price are those involving back-to-back situations because some teams are so deep it doesn’t bother them, while others don’t mind suffering a blowout loss because discretion is the better part of valor.

Because most students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping prefer college basketball to the NBA, most of our coursework over the next six weeks will be focused on preparing for conference tournaments, the NCAA’s, and maybe the NIT. I’ll try to pop in with some NBA notes here and there…but emphasis will largely wait until April when the playoffs begin.

If you’d like some help finding basketball edges, KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling my office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. I have great packages that take you through the rest of March Madness or the NBA Playoffs. Don’t forget to ask about Major League Baseball when you call. Early bird rates always offer the best overall value.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping is very excited about the coming NBA Playoffs. The Eastern brackets are going to be loaded this season. I can’t remember the last time I said that. Golden State is still the heavy favorite in the West…but they had to sweat last season more than some expected. And, there’s still plenty of time for bad injury luck to complicate matters. I hope today’s guidance will help NBA bettors build a nice bankroll in advance of the postseason.

For the rest of you, we’ll get back to college basketball in our Monday class at the usual time. I don’t have much new to say about the Alliance of American Football beyond the obvious…keep looking at Unders until more offenses figure out how to drive the field. Clearly Orlando and Arizona are the class of the AAF if you focus on game stats. Handicapping games means determining how well oddsmakers are capturing that reality (or overreacting to the eye test by making lines too high).

Thanks for your hard work and attendance. Best of luck this weekend.

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