Sports Betting: Handicapping Around the Trade Deadline
by Trevor Whenham - 02/12/2009
We are in the heart of trade deadline season. The NBA deadline is on Feb. 19 this year, and the NHL deadline comes soon after on March 4. For fans, the trade deadline is perhaps the most exciting and interesting thing on the horizon between Christmas and the playoffs. The rumors and speculation are like crack to a junkie. For bettors, though, the trade deadline can be a headache. It can cause teams to be distracted, players to underperform, and generally make already unpredictable sports even less predictable. Some teams are going to be very affected over the next couple of weeks, while others are not going to be affected at all. Being able to tell which teams fall into which category can help you avoid some costly mistakes and to spot some overlooked opportunities. Here are some questions to ask to help tell the difference:
Management history - Front offices are generally superstitious. That means that if something has worked in the past then they are likely to give it another try. In other words, if a GM tends to have an itchy trigger finger when he has a need, then a deal is likely. If he hasn't had the propensity to do big deals in the past, then he isn't likely to do one now. It's more than just that, though. Even if the GM doesn't follow past form and do a deal, the players will expect that he will. That will have them on edge, and that rarely leads to top performances. You also might want to consider the job stability of the GM. A guy who is secure is less likely to make a risky deal than one who is fighting for his life.
Player history - If a particular player is at the heart of multiple rumors, then it's important to look at his experience with the situation. Has he been traded before? Even if he hasn't, has he been the subject of trade rumors in the past? How did he react last time? If he was traded, how did he play before and after the last deal? Things can change, but as a general rule a player is going to act in the same way this time as he did last time. The exception is if it is a veteran player who has been traded before, or a player who hasn't been with the team for a long time. In both cases, the player is going to be less affected by the rumors than if it were the first time.
Player's role - If a key bench player or a journeyman starter is the subject of rumors then it could have a small impact on the team, or none at all. Even if the player is totally distracted and off his game it might not have a fatal impact on the team's performance. If it is the star of the team, though, then everything changes. His play has a direct and significant impact on the team, so even a small change in his attitude and play could have a big impact on the team.
Player's attitude - This shouldn't come as a surprise to you - some players are big babies. As soon as they face any adversity they pout, and that disrupts the team around the. Others are determined and focused, and are reasonably able to block out the distractions around them and do their job. Assessing the character of the players involved is a key step to assessing the impact of rumors.
Source of rumors - The Internet has made it easy to start a rumor, and very easy for rumors to spread. Most rumors you hear are just garbage. Agents are smart and connected, so players will know whether there is any truth to the rumors are floating around. It's quite common for rumors to fly around like crazy without any truth to them at all. Before you get sucked into a rumor and act on it, you need to do the best you can to confirm. That's an imprecise science, but you may be able to tell if talk has merit if the management of the team's involved has addressed it with the media. Even a carefully worded denial can be a confirmation.
Team's position - Fans think that a trade is the solution to every problem - if most fans were GMs then there would be a trade every week. Trades are risky, disruptive and far from reliably effective, though. Regardless of rumors, a GM isn't likely to make a significant deal unless three criteria are met - a meaningful goal (making the playoffs, making the finals etc.) is realistic, that goal isn't likely to be reached with the current lineup, and a suitable player is available at a fair price. If one or more of those isn't met then the rumors are likely little more than rampant speculation.