Handicapping the NBA Playoffs
Wayne Root: Handicapping the NBA Playoffs
Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, it's time to focus on the NBA Playoffs. We certainly saw a West Coast flair throughout the Big Dance this past season. That played right into my hands here in Las Vegas. Will the same thing happen in the NBA?
Of course...Golden State is the betting favorite to win the title!
That only got them to the Finals last season before they ran out of gas. But, they purchased more gas (and insurance) in the offseason in the form of Kevin Durant. Golden State proved in recent action that they clearly are best in the West (those road wins in Houston and San Antonio on back-to-back nights as underdogs were incredible). Most local sports books have them priced right now as favorites of -160 to -200 to lift the trophy. In their most recent form, that still might be too low.
No sure things in sports betting of course, though I do my best to find plays that are as close to that as possible.
I should also mention that my proximity to California will also be helping find an edge in all LA Clippers games in that #4 vs. #5 battle against Utah in the West.
Here are some general points you do-it-yourselfers should consider when handicapping the coming playoffs.
*The first point I want to emphasize to you is that there are bets to be won even if you already think Golden State is a lock to win the West, and Cleveland is a lock to win the East. Sportsbooks will be posting odds on every game. You have an opportunity to cash tickets on sides, totals, first halves, first quarters, and series prices even if a matchup won't influence who ultimately wins the title. Sports betting is about MAKING MONEY! Don't gripe because there isn't much drama in the early rounds. Rejoice because oddsmakers are more likely to take their eyes off the ball when the public isn't paying much attention. Recognize this opportunity!
*Secondly, remember that "defense wins championships" but offense scores upsets. If you're looking for live underdogs to win games or even a series...you need teams that can score points. The best defenses will cover spreads by losing close games, maybe hanging tough within a five or six game series. But, for a DOG to get outright wins, they need explosive weaponry that can get hot and punish an unprepared opponent. Evaluate each NBA offense specifically in regards to weapon variety, and their ability to make a lot of three pointers (they only have to do that four times in seven to steal a series). I should also mention that you should shy away from "one-man teams" in the playoffs because smart NBA defenses know how to neutralize one guy. Which teams will make treys when that one guy kicks the ball out of a double team?
*Next, be wary of what many here in Las Vegas call "the zig zag theory" and it's many variations. In recent years, elite teams have realized it serves their championship hopes very well to get each series over as quickly as possible. That cuts down on the traditional back-and-forth that used to be much more common. You don't "pace yourself" through early series by taking a game or two off. You rest up better through the spring months by racing through your early series then getting a week to prepare for the next one! Variations of the zig zag or bounce back will still work in the most competitive matchups (typically the 4-5 seed battles in each conference, and a few others when teams are more evenly matched than the seeds would suggest). Don't blindly bet reversals from the prior game. Pick your spots.
*Finally, read every boxscore to evaluate teamwork. See which teams are grabbing rebounds and which aren't. See which offenses are distributing the scoring workload and which aren't. Pay close attention to defense on two-point shots because that typically involves rotations and "help" defense. You can often tell when a lesser team has thrown in the towel in a series when things go south for them in these categories. It's hard to watch every game on TV with your own eyes, particularly in the first round. Use the boxscores as an additional set of eyes.
Back with you next week to talk some more about NBA Playoff handicapping once the matchups are locked in and the whistles have started blowing. I'm very confident that my pro postseason is going to be just as profitable as the recently completed college hoops postseason was.
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