NBA Betting Impact of Short Preseason
by Trevor Whenham - 12/22/2011
The NBA Preseason this year is ridiculously compact as the result of the work stoppage that dragged the sport through the gutters for months in the fall. Teams normally play about eight preseason games. This year they are playing just two, and they are doing so after a short training camp.
The regular season will start this year at the point when teams are just starting to get warmed up and serious most years. That’s going to have a big impact for NBA handicappers as the season starts.
Here’s a look at six ways that the very tight schedule will impact us:
Change will be rougher than usual
It often takes a while for new players to fit into a system, or for a new coach to get his message across and his system established. The preseason is very important for teams dealing with these changes so that they can be as ready as possible for the start of the season.
Even with the longer preseason it often takes quite a while for a team that has gone through major changes to fully hit their potential. With just a couple of games — played against the same opponent, no less — we can expect most teams with major changes to not play at a positive and sustainable level until further into the game than normal.
With a shortened and complicated NBA schedule a slow start because of changes could be a particular problem for a team as they fall into a pit they can’t easily climb out of.
Established teams will have an edge
If change is going to be rough then it only makes sense that the opposite would be true.
If a team is returning much of the same starting lineup and the same coaching staff then it is going to be much easier for them to get back up to speed because they already know the system and have comfort with their teammates.
Kevin Garnett has been one of the biggest critics of this preseason format, yet his team is one of the best positioned to succeed because of the veteran experience.
Stability is also a big reason why people are as high on Oklahoma City this year as they are.
General level of play will be rusty early
It can take quite a while for teams to knock the rust off and play at their full potential. That rust can extend into the preseason in normal circumstances. In this situation it could extend much further.
When teams aren’t able to play to their full potential it can be harder than normal to figure out what side to bet -- and this league isn’t the easiest to bet on at the best of times.
Less sense of depth
Coaches typically use the preseason — especially the early part of the preseason — to give their depth players a chance to play. That allows them to evaluate what they have, which holes they need to fill, and how best to allocate playing time.
With less time coaches have to focus more on getting their starters ready, so they won’t have the luxury of working with deep bench players as much. That means that teams could miss out on some useful talent, and could be forced to make some decisions that are rushed and less than ideal.
Significance of what players were doing in offseason
Most years I really don’t care what players were doing in the offseason. That’s because there are only a couple of answers — most were working out or healing, while some were playing internationally.
The longer offseason and the seeming likelihood that the season wouldn’t happen at all means that this was not your typical offseason. That means that players will come into the season with very different levels of preparation and fitness.
Some will have played professionally in other leagues. Others played high-level exhibitions, or scrimmaged and worked out with other top-level talent. Still others were held in a holding pattern because they didn’t know what their future held.
Understanding which players are likely to be in full form and which ones will need more time will be useful.
Public interest will be less than normal
The NBA didn’t have a ton of public goodwill built up in the first place. The TV ratings are lousy, betting volume is far lower than some other sports, and the league struggles in some markets.
The ridiculous farce that was this offseason — and the preseason thanks to the Chris Paul debacle — will have done nothing to improve their popularity.
The NBA isn’t particularly popular for bettors at this time of year at the best of times thanks to football. This year we should see even less attention to the league early on — at least until the league can remind people of what it has to offer.
With less public money on the sport a larger percentage of the betting action will be smart money, so it could be harder for savvy bettors to find value.
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