NBA Handicappers Need to Look Deep When Judging Star Player Moves
The trade of Anthony Davis to the Lakers will very likely be looked back upon as the beginning of a serious arms race in the NBA. With the Warriors now vulnerable, and the imaginations of owners fired up by the one-year overhaul that Toronto rode to a title, teams are going to be looking to make their move.
Contenders like Houston, Boston and Philadelphia have signaled that they will have a very different look next year. Teams like Milwaukee and Denver that were close last year could look to get closer. Toronto could stay the course or be forced into a massive overhaul. The Knicks, Nets and Clippers have been aiming for a free agent windfall that may not arrive. Dallas could look to further enhance their suddenly potent roster. And on and on. By the time the dust settles later this summer, we are likely to have a very different looking NBA. And as bettors our job will be to figure out what it all means. Here are four questions to ask about every high-profile deal that is made this summer:
What does his salary do to the roster?: It's fitting that we ask this question so soon after the Davis trade. The kind of guys that teams covet generally don't come cheap. Most want a max deal, and max deals have a way of really eating up payrolls. Having stars is great, but as Golden State showed in the finals, if you don't have useful depth behind those stars then you are vulnerable. If the Lakers were to add a third high-priced star to join LeBron and Davis - which they certainly seem inclined to do - then they would put themselves in a real jam when it comes to figuring out the rest of the team. This is a squad that doesn't have a signed guard on the roster at this moment. If the star doesn't allow much flexibility for the team, then the move is a lot harder to get excited about. It's not just immediate flexibility, either - flexibility down the road matters, too. Toronto was able to add Marc Gasol at the deadline in part because they hadn't totally backed themselves into a corner, and they likely wouldn't have won a title without the Spaniard.
Is he a fit?: Stars are great and all. However, if the stars don't clearly and obviously work together, then it might not work out. You want guys who are greater than the sum of their parts, not the opposite. James and Davis seem like they will be a strong fit if they stay healthy and have help, because they compliment without overlapping. But many times, we have seen stars who should have been good together but who weren't for some reason. Nothing matters more than chemistry.
Does he deliver on his reputation?: Players have reputations, and the general betting public uses those reputations to make their betting decisions in a lot of cases. Your job, then, is to figure out if the player as he is now matches the reputation he has. Chris Paul is an all-time legend in the league. However, when Houston got him, he probably was not quite prime Paul anymore. And if he moves this summer, which feels likely, he will be a long way from the Paul that casual fans might expect. Guys can fall from their peak in a flash in this league, and too often they are paid like the player they used to be instead of what they are. Any time a player is signed or acquired, you need to be on top of what he has to offer now.
What will the public think?: When Davis came to the Lakers, the team's futures odds at BetOnline immediately fell from them being among the mix of contenders at +1000 to the strong favorites at +350. Now, both prices were totally insane in my eyes, but you can clearly see that the public is very excited about this trade and optimistic about what it means. There are a couple more potential deals this summer that could make a similar impact - Kawhi Leonard landing somewhere interesting, the Warriors adding another star, the Lakers adding a third superstar, and so on. The public can almost be guaranteed to overreact to a big move like that - especially if it involves a public team. On the other hand, if it is a star who isn't as flashy or popular, or a team that isn't high profile, then the public often won't give it enough credit. This summer, for example, Denver could get significantly better without anyone really noticing.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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