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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing NBA handicappers at the moment is the fact that so many key players across the league are dealing with nagging injuries. You don’t know for sure when they’re going to play on a given night. You don’t know if they’ll be at a level of 90-100% effectiveness if they play, or more like 50%. You can’t be positive if the bench is going to rise to the occasion, or take the night off.

I’d argue that ONLY those who use “Advanced” Handicapping Techniques should be trying to pick the NBA at the moment. We have a season unlike any other in recent memory, and you really have to pick your spots if you want to find line value. I’ll talk more about various strategies as the season progresses. We can now devote more space to both college and pro basketball with football largely out of the way. Today, I want to talk about how to handle NBA injuries.

*I believe the first thing an Advanced Handicapper must do every single day is peruse the injury list. You need to know which teams are largely healthy, and which teams are dealing with a lot of question marks. (And, you need to know if a star got hurt after you went to bed the night before!) The SAFEST bet you can make right now is on a good team that’s healthy. Philadelphia is a great example of this. They haven’t been immune from injuries. Nobody has in this brutal season. But, they have pretty good health, a lot of depth, and a great attitude. Right now, the Sixers are money, particularly when playing bad teams. Know who’s healthy, and keep your money invested on those healthy teams in good spots.

*A mistake far too many gamblers make regarding injuries is that they try to get cute when they hear somebody is going to be out. Some guys load up on the other team figuring it’s going to be a blowout. Others bet on the shorthanded team figuring that the bench is going to rise to the occasion. Vegas oddsmakers love this…because they get two-sided action and pocket the vigorish. Gamblers just CAN’T throw money at coin flips because they have a hunch.

Don’t bet against a shorthanded team unless you KNOW the backups aren’t up to the task. Boston was very shorthanded Monday Night vs. Orlando, yet still crushed the Magic anyway. Many big time gamblers took a loss there, as the line moved from Orlando -4 to Orlando -6 during the day. Even the best can lose when they overreact to injuries. Do you consider yourself one of the best yet?

On the other hand, don’t get illusions of grandeur about some bench guy coming in and saving the day. Yes, that happens sometimes. It happens just enough to trick you into losing money! Unless you’re truly following the entire league on a player-by-player basis (as a few of us do), you’re not in position to properly evaluate how backups are going to play when starters are out.

Whatever your tendencies are when you hear about injuries, don’t get cute!

*A final point I want to make regarding injuries involves the COMBINATION of injuries and fatigue. I personally will not go against a team based on injury news alone. But, if that team is playing its fourth game in five nights…its fifth game in seven nights…or has otherwise shown poor play in fatigue spots, THEN I’ll step in and make a move. The impact of injuries is most damaging when the whole team is tired, and unable to respond with a peak effort.

This season in particularly is ideal for charting fatigue tendencies. The league is racing through a 66-game schedule in a short amount of time…meaning EVERYONE will be dealing with a few killer schedule sequences. If injuries happen during those sequences, handicappers will be in position to make a killing. But, if injuries happen during the rare quiet times, a team may not take a step backward at all. Advanced handicapping means seeing how a variety of factors work together to create great opportunities.

Hey, anybody can do Power Ratings. Picking winners in the NBA this year means going well beyond Power Ratings. You must develop tools for anticipating peak and valley performances. Studying the injury reports will help you do that very well.

You can purchase my pro and college basketball selections here at the website every single day with your credit card. I’m trying to pick my spots very carefully in both sports because we’ve had such a great run of late on the biggest releases. This is a great week to try out my service if you’ve been thinking about it. Check the “buy picks” section of this website for more details.

I’ll be back again for another installment from my College of Advanced Handicapping late this week to talk about the colleges. Thanks to everyone who’s been attending my “College of Advanced Handicapping.” Be sure to look for video updates on the home page of this website for additional news and notes.

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