Oddsmakers struggling in the NBA


by Wayne Root
I sure don't envy oddsmakers who are trying to post accurate numbers here in Las Vegas right after the All-Star Break in the NBA. It's mind-boggling how many bad misses there have been in recent days. But, it's not necessarily the fault of oddsmakers. So many NBA teams are barely trying!

How do you properly price games when...

  • Many teams are TRYING to lose. It's now become the "analytics" mindset that bad teams should be as horrible as possible because it's cheap (big profits from TV money vs. low expenses) and it positions them well for the draft (where they can bring in more cheap talent!). You probably heard about Denver Nuggets players already looking forward to the summer. That's only going to become more prevalent in the race to the bottom. Too many teams are in that race.

  • Many playoff-bound teams are either saving themselves for later, or are going through a crisis of confidence. It's hard to know for sure what exactly is happening with the Washington Wizards or Toronto Raptors. Those teams are playing nowhere near their projections after the Break. And, the Chicago Bulls have fallen apart much more than seems reasonable in the wake of Derrick Rose's injury. We all know that Cleveland and Atlanta are going to be Eastern powers come playoff time. Does anyone else even want to be in the Eastern brackets?

  • Many teams are resting players in fatigue spots on the schedule, or being extra careful involving minor injuries. Is the whole team going to take the night off if a star player is in street clothes? Oddsmakers can only throw down a number and hope for the best. The concept of "teams at full strength who are trying" facing each other comes up much more rarely than it used to in this sport.

    What do you do when these situations align?! Who's the better bet against a big spread when an underdog trying to lose is facing a favorite that doesn't really care enough to win big in that particular game?

    From my perspective as THE KING OF UPSETS, it's become very tricky to find truly powerful underdog scenarios. The best bets lately have been "teams who are trying" vs. "playoff contenders who are imploding." You might get the money by 20 points. It's much dicier when you're dealing with fringe teams who may be trying to lose. Denver keeps getting routed. Yet, New York beat Toronto this past

    weekend. Here are my suggestions for finding live underdogs in the NBA this month:

  • Make a list of the teams who are clearly trying
  • Monitor their health so you're only betting them at full strength

    Don't just assume that it's playoff contenders who are trying. We already know that something's up with a few of those teams in the East. Dallas is having some turmoil and injury issues as well. They sure looked awful in a recent home loss to Brooklyn. Look at straight up and ATS results since the break to get the best sense of "right now" in this area. Create a go-to list of priority teams.

  • Make a list of all the teams who are 40% or worse ATS since the Break

    You definitely want to consider fading these teams as favorites. A lot of them won't ever be favorites! But, the easiest money in recent days has been bucking overrated playoff teams who are playing poorly since action resumed.

  • Make your own Power Ratings based on RIGHT NOW

    Don't look at the standings. Don't look at other people's Power Ratings or computer ratings. Don't think about what these teams "should" be capable of given their talent. Based only on recent results, compile a set of ratings that captures the essence of the past week. It's going to be weird that Washington shows up down at the bottom of the league. It won't make sense that Chicago turned into Orlando just by losing Derrick Rose. But, you need to see what's actually happening if you're going to make smart handicapping choices.

    Do I personally believe that these "slumpers" are really that bad? No. I'll be very quick to lift them back up in these "on the fly" Power Ratings when they start playing well again. But, I'm not going to assume it's happening until I see it happening!

    Wanted to get some NBA thoughts down on paper for you before we jump heavily into March Madness in the coming days and weeks. I'm very much looking forward to the mid-major tournaments that get rolling this week...and then the major tournaments next week. When the NCAA Tournament gets here...well, the only bigger betting event in Las Vegas is the Super Bowl! I'll be all over that from right here in the center of the action.


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