NBA Betting Guides

How To Handle Load Management & Injury News When Betting NBA

The NBA is a star-driven league. One injury or one absence can have more of an impact on the betting line than in any other sport. Teams understand the importance too as they aim to keep their stars healthy and fully charged for deep playoff runs. Enter load management, where players get entire nights off or reduced time on the court due to some vague “injury”.

Bettors can find good value bets if they know how to anticipate and interpret the dynamic effects of load management. Below, we’ll explore three tips that can help you capitalize on anticipated or expressed load management news including some general rules for timing your bets, identifying correlated bets, and locking in bets before sportsbooks can make adjustments.

How To Handle Load Management & Injury News When Betting NBA
Load Management

Bet Against Teams Early, Bet On Teams Late

If you’re worried that load management will be a factor (e.g. your betting on the Nets’ game, it’s late in the season, and the Nets are leading the Eastern Conference by 5+ games), timing your bet is critically important.

Let’s game out a moneyline bet where the first place Nets are playing against the last place Hornets. If you’re looking to bet on the Nets moneyline or spread, you’ll want to wait for confirmation that star players will be sitting out or seeing less time on the court before locking in your bets. This is true because you wouldn’t want to bet the Nets’ moneyline, only to have the line movement work against you when the final lineups come out. You’ll have missed out on those more favorable odds. However, if you’re planning to bet the Hornet’s moneyline, you’ll want to bet early, before the news breaks, and while the Hornets are still massive underdogs.

The same principles apply to player props. If you plan to bet on Ben Simmons over 29.5 points, you’ll want to wait for confirmation that Simmons will not be seeing reduced play time against the Hornets. Conversely, if you’re planning to bet on Ben Simmons under 29.5 points, and think that there’s a chance he’ll see reduced playtime, then you should place your bet early before the book prices in the load management you’re expecting.

Who Is Hampered, Who Benefits?

The next aspect of handicapping the load management is accurately predicting how players will perform with or without key teammates. The tricky part about predicting the impact of load management is that it varies from player to player.

For instance, if LeBron James sits an entire game or is load managed during the fourth quarter, not every player benefits equally, or at all, from the 30 points LeBron was projected to score. The players who can create their own shots might still perform consistently with expectations, but players who rely on LeBron’s playmaking ability for their points might suffer.

Take Dennis Schroder for example. During his time with LeBron James and the Lakers, Schroder scored about five more points and two more assists per game when James sat. However, Anthony Davis only averaged 0.7 more points per game when James was sidelined.

The initial reaction to James being out by most recreational players would be to bet on Davis exceeding his usual point totals since he’s the second-best player on the team. But the data shows otherwise. You’re better off betting Schroder’s points.

The other factor to keep in mind is what happens to the team’s style of play when a key player sits. Does the team’s defense perform poorly? What happens to the team’s pace of play? In the 2021-22 season, the Lakers pace of play was actually higher when James was out than when he was in and their defense gave up an extra 1.5 points per game. That means when James sat, bettors would have been better served betting Lakers’ overs.

Lebron James Player Prop Points
LeBron James Over 24.5 Point Player Prop
Lebron James Player Prop Points with Minutes
Same 24.5 Point Line with Minutes Played

Beat The Books To It

There was a time when the sportsbooks had an informational edge on bettors with respect to personnel news. Outfits like SportsOptions created information asymmetry by providing lineups and personnel news to sportsbooks before the betting public. Today, platforms like Twitter have democratized information distribution and consumption, including relevant player news. Some news breaks first on Twitter and you might very well see it before the sportsbooks.

One way to get edge with respect to player personnel news is to anticipate how and when teams announce such news. Is there a particular beat writer that breaks news from the team’s training facility? Does the team announce starters 5 hours before the game or 2 hours before the game? Are the starters on a predictable load management schedule? If so, where and when was that schedule announced?

Note that the sportsbooks tend to be very conscious of the main lines when roster news is announced but aren’t as on top of the player prop bets. If a star is announced out, you can usually still find some good value with the other correlated player props (e.g. a teammate’s points) as the books are not as fast to adjust these less-obviously related props.

Bettors can create edge by capitalizing on anticipated or expressed load management news including some general timing load management related bets appropriately, identifying correlated bets, and locking in bets before sportsbooks can make adjustments.

Outlier Team
February 14, 2023
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