HOW TO EVALUATE INJURY IMPACT THROUGHOUT THE NBA PLAYOFFS
We've already seen some very prominent injuries in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Rajon Rondo's thumb fracture turned the Chicago/Boston series around. Blake Griffin's foot injury has had a huge impact on the LA Clippers/Utah series. But, Kevin Durant missed a couple of games for the Warriors, and they barely lost a step.
How do you evaluate injuries in the NBA playoffs? You NEED to have a plan of attack because the physical nature of the game virtually guarantees that more starters will miss time from NEW injuries over the next several weeks.
The worst thing you can do is ask "how many points is this guy worth." That's the wrong question at the wrong time. Oddsmakers make the mistake of assuming a value without really thinking through the process. YOU need to be smarter.
Think about it this way. When Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team definitely got worse. When Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors, it was barely noticeable. Imagine Kevin Durant played for a bad team like the Brooklyn Nets or Phoenix Suns. He'd be posting huge numbers (the way Russell Westbrook is for OKC this year), and his loss would be devastating because that lesser team would immediately fall back to being lottery caliber.
It's the same Kevin Durant! But, he doesn't have a "point value." His impact on the team is based on how good his replacement is...how well the team can make up for his contributions elsewhere...and whether his absence creates the potential for an outright collapse.
Chicago didn't have anybody on the roster who could do what Rajon Rondo did in terms of controlling the offense and getting the ball to the right place. His injury turned them from a team that could beat Boston into one that would have to be very lucky to do so.
The Clippers have a poor bench, so the injury to Blake Griffin has made it very easy for Utah to shoot a high percentage in the paint. If Griffin played for the Warriors, they'd adjust. The Clippers don't look to have a great way to adjust!
Whenever there's a new injury to a key player...don't think about the lineup that used to be. ONLY evaluate the NEW lineup going forward. How will THIS group of five starters perform? What's the substitution rotation going to look like now? If you say to yourself "there's no way Rajon Rondo is worth 3-4 points, this line has adjusted way too much," then you've missed the point. The absence of Rondo may have been "worth" a double digit turnaround on the scoreboard because of the nature of Chicago's roster and approach. On another team with a quality point guard who could also shoot, heck...the team could have gotten better by losing Rondo!
LOOK AT THE NEW LINEUP!
Some handicappers have point values for each NBA player. Others calculate plus/minuses (and more advanced material) for all five-man groups in the league. For your analytical purposes, the player who isn't there any more doesn't matter. You have to predict what's going to happen going forward. Focus on the guys who will be on the floor.
We wouldn't wish an injury on anybody. But, there are going to be high speed collisions in the second round and beyond. There's going to be shooters who land awkwardly on their ankles. How you perform with your Las Vegas bets from this point forward will be greatly influenced by your ability to respond quickly to new realities and make smart decisions.
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