Studying Fatigue in NBA Playoffs

Kelso's Advanced Handicapping: Studying Fatigue in NBA Playoffs

As we get closer and closer to determining the 2012 NBA champion, discussions of fatigue and depth are becoming more important. Today in my College of Advanced Handicapping, I want to focus specifically on how to determine if a player or team is about to get tired.

I think it's VITAL for you do-it-yourself handicappers out there to pay attention to this element. Star players and even entire teams can just fall off the map once they hit a wall. Many argued last year that LeBron James wore down throughout the playoffs, leading to his relative disappearance late in close games against Dallas. Certainly the fact that Dallas spread out its scoring responsibilities while Miami tried to win with 2-3 guys played a huge role in determining who won the 2011 title. Then, this year, we've already seen tired teams who had to go seven games in one round struggle to play at a high level in the following round vs. rested opposition.

Here are the fundamental keys in my view for studying fatigue:

  • MINUTES PLAYED per game by starters

  • PACE of the game (number of possessions per team)

  • AGE of the key players

  • The LOAD those players are expected to carry

You should have those four factors prominent in your mind as you advance from each game to the next. And, don't just think about them individually. Consider how they work together in unison to either create fresh teams who are ready for a peak outing, or exhausted teams who are about to hit a wall.

  • Older players last longer at slower paces (that's why Boston plays so slow!). Heavy minutes aren't the end of the world for veteran starters as long as the pace is slow.

  • It's not hard for younger players to go 30-35 minutes in an up tempo sprint. Just because you see that a game was fast, don't assume the stars are going to be tired the next time out. Anyone playing 40+ minutes in a sprint is likely to show signs of fatigue.

  • A go-to guy on offense is more likely to wear down than a guy who stands on the wing waiting to shoot a three-pointer if the ball comes his way.

Normally I'd be factoring days off in the mix. But, in the conference finals everyone's going every other day. That creates NO TIME to recover when you're tired. Boston played two great games in the last round vs. Philly when they had an extra day off. Nobody's getting an extra day off in this round.

How do you know when a team is starting to play tired? The eyeball test for one thing. It's hard to miss if you're watching the games closely. Everyone's out of breath and jumpers hit the front rim. If you're a stat guy, then watch turnovers and shooting percentages. Tired teams get sloppy.

I can't tell you that what we've discussed today will, by itself, result in a major release for me this weekend. But, it's certainly an important part of the overall handicapping mix or I wouldn't have written the article. Either relative fatigue or freshness (as one team compares to its opponent) will be an issue in at least one of these games in my view:

Friday: Miami at Boston (Game Three)
Saturday: San Antonio at Oklahoma City (Game Four)
Sunday: Miami at Boston (Game Four)

Be very careful trusting Power Ratings alone in those games. It's possible that one team in each of those games will miss their standard rating by quite a bit because of what we've talked about today in our coursework. Same thing with trends. Game Three of Game Four trends from past years and past teams may have nothing to do with the lineup dynamics in play in these current matchups. Stat averages? Same story. If a team gets tired, it doesn't matter what their stats were when they weren't tired. Those won't have predictive value for the fatigue scenario.

If you'd like some help picking basketball winners this weekend and through the League Finals, it's available right here at this very website. Purchase game day selections with your credit card. Or, sign up for the rest of the postseason at a low rate. Don't forget that I have daily baseball going as well.

Our next class will be on Tuesday, as I talk more about June baseball where the pennant races are really heating up. We'll keep mixing basketball and baseball through the month of June so you can improve your performance in both summer wagering sports.

Thanks again for being a student at my College of Advanced Handicapping. I would like to encourage you one more time to print out all of these articles so you can create a permanent textbook of higher level strategies. I look forward to talking with you again on Tuesday.

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