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Handicapping the NBA – Bad Teams Down the Stretch

Scott Morris | January 20, 2023
handicapping the nba's worst teams

When handicapping the NBA, here’s how to handle bad teams.

Key Points

– Bettors can make money on bad NBA teams.

– In handicapping the NBA, don’t forget about teams that will not make the postseason.

Handicapping the NBA – Bad Teams Down the Stretch

In most seasons, there are roughly eight to ten NBA teams that clearly have no chance of making the playoffs by the time the All-Star break comes around. 

While their seasons may be over, we shouldn’t stop placing wagers on them. These basketball teams need to be viewed differently than you would a team that is in contention for a postseason berth. 

When analyzing basketball betting lines, a team that is out of the NBA playoffs but still performs well might offer excellent betting value. The following six elements can assist you in figuring out whether one of these teams will perform well in its next few games.

Coaching Stability

A team’s coaching stability will influence how it plays over the rest of a season. If a coach is in danger of losing his job towards the end of the season, you might have a team that simply packs it in.

If the coach has already lost his job and an interim coach is in charge, you may have one of two things occur. One is the team loses focus because their head coach is gone. The other is that the team rallies behind the interim coach. 

NBA teams can be strengthened by strong coaching, but they can also turn into a disaster when there is none. How far out of contention a team is will also affect play. The bottom line, though, is that a strong coach will elicit good efforts down the stretch. Keep that in mind when handicapping the NBA late in the season.


Star Player Contracts

The contract status of a team’s star players will play a role in how an NBA team plays in the second half of a season. These players will buy into what happens if they are stable and under contract.

If a player is approaching free agency, a number of things could happen. The player might be inclined to rise to the occasion in an effort to secure a better contract from another team after the season ends. He might also be inclined to care more about himself than his team. Wins might not be as important as his individual stats.

Contract status of star players can also affect the rest of the roster. Knowing that their star is leaving at the end of the season will have a different effect than if teammates know their star player is staying.

Check on the contract status of key players when handicapping the NBA later in a season. NBA bettors should also use these sportsbook bonuses to grow your bankroll.

Handicapping the NBA – Expectations

In many cases, season expectations will play a role in an NBA team’s mental state later in a season. If the team knew going into the season that they would face challenges, then their poor record doesn’t come as a surprise. 

A team anticipated to get 15 to 20 wins will have a much different mindset than a team that was predicted to make the playoffs. When that playoff-caliber team struggles and finds itself well out of even a play-in berth, the effort late in a season might not be there.

That can be significant when betting on these teams down the final weeks of an NBA season. 

Future Possibilities

NBA teams know when they are likely in for a rough season. They go into rebuilding mode and will sacrifice a season or two knowing that the future will be brighter. 

Take the Golden State Warriors. Prior to their current run of four NBA titles in eight seasons, the Warriors went five seasons – 2007-08 to 2011-12 – without going to the playoffs. They started to acquire players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and by 2014-15 they had won an NBA championship.

Teams made up of young players are aware that they might not win many games. They might be in the running for the Rookie of the Year. Be sure to check your NBA Rookie of the Year betting strategy.

These young players will gain valuable experience in preparation for future success. When handicapping the NBA, look out for teams that fit this mold. 

Handicapping the NBA Using Trends

There are times throughout an NBA season when a team is playing better than its record suggests. The opposite is also true. Sometimes, a team’s play declines over the course of a season, but their record shows they are playoff-bound.

A great way to identify teams that are better (or worse) than their record suggests is to break the season down into separate pieces. Then, compare the records over each different piece. What has caused the changes would be of great value. 

Smart bettors will recognize when there is value on a bad team. Most often, the betting public looks at just the overall record of a bad NBA team.

Milestones Ahead

For certain NBA teams, making the playoffs was never a realistic objective at the beginning of the season. When they are eliminated, it comes as no surprise. 

However, to say that those teams have nothing to play for is not entirely accurate. Maybe they want to win more games than they did the previous year. Maybe there is a certain number of victories, like 20, 30, or 35, they want. They might want to have a winning record at home. 

There are also players with incentives in their contract. A player with an incentive that pays him $50,000 if his team  reaches 40 wins will work to make sure that happens late in the season. 

You need to be creative in determining what milestones could be pushing players and teams to win. Identifying situations like this can help you in handicapping the NBA.

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