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James Harden, Anthony Davis Player Prop Controversies Put Onus on NBA, Sportbooks for Transparency

James Harden, Anthony Davis Player Prop Controversies Put Onus on NBA, Sportbooks for Transparency article feature image
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AP Photo/Darron Cummings. Pictured: James Harden

The return of the NBA and NHL seasons mean player prop controversies are abundant once more.

Unlike college football or the NFL, where catches and yards gained are relatively zero-sum, stat-keeping in America’s 82-game sports revolves around a ton of interoperation.

A few games in and we’ve already seen a potential NHL shot on goal discrepancy. No bets were refunded there because the league determined the shot wasn’t on target, although the goaltender did make the save.

An, on NBA opening night, Tuesday: two prop removal controversies.

On the first play, James Harden had an assist taken away due to a deflected pass. Assists are given at the discretion of the official scorer, who consults data, other scorekeepers in the NBA office and additional technology to retroactively change his or her decision. For the play in question, Harden’s assist was taken away after bettors were initially awarded.

These types of stats — blocks and assists, namely — are awarded at the sole discretion of the NBA. Judge for yourself whether you think this is an assist or not.

I can’t believe they really stat-corrected away this James Harden assist pic.twitter.com/wLKeFONyOB

— Jarad Evans (@Jarad_Evans) October 19, 2022

The second play was a simple scoring error. Anthony Davis was nowhere near a play that was registered as his block, but the scorers’ error was not amended until after the final whistle.

Davis’ second block counted on some scoresheets — for instance, the Action Network’s and ESPN’s — but the official NBA one listed Davis with just one. Davis’ over/under on blocks was 1.5.

And at FanDuel, some with Anthony Davis to record one block or more tickets found their bets voided due to the error, the Action Network confirmed. That mistake was amended the following day.

Crickets from Leagues, Operators

Despite both instances, the NBA didn’t clearly lay out their reasoning as to why the stat corrections were made, leaving bettors scrambling for answers.

Meanwhile, operators simply demurred and pointed toward their terms and conditions, which state they base their payouts on what the NBA deems as official statistics.

For one bettor — who lost an extensive parlay after the Harden stat correction — a simple explanatory message would have sufficed.

“Obviously free bet compensation would have been ideal,” said 27-year-old Yancy Gideon. “But something as simple as letting the customers know the reasons why the bet was getting taken away. I think that was the reason why everybody was upset — we didn’t know what was happening.”

And for some, the lack of transparency is enough to skip out on rebound, assist and block markets indefinitely.

“The way NBA grades specifically assists and rebounds with zero consistency is at the detriment of bettors,” said kiiLkenny, a sports betting Twitch streamer with more than 37,000 Twitter followers. “I want nothing to do with betting on these prop markets right now.”

Addressing the Anger

The NBA could consider releasing statements to accompany major stat corrections, but that’d leave the sportsbooks they partner with out to dry.

For instance, if the NBA admits the Harden assist was incorrectly reversed, but doesn’t correct the error, the pressure falls on operators, left to decide amongst themselves whether or not to issue refunds.

Operators may consider sending in-app messages to users that get burned by stat corrections. While this won’t necessarily placate the anger over a subjective ruling, more accountability couldn’t hurt.

As it stands, it’s most likely business-as-usual — status quo and ignoring the problem seems to be the way operators and the NBA wish to pursue this issue.

But it’ll continue to be at the detriment of the overall marketplace.

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