USA TODAY Sports. Pictured (left to right): James Harden (13), Anthony Davis (23), LeBron James (23), Giannis Antetokounmpo (34), Stephen Curry (30).
- Oddsmakers provided us with information regarding NBA player values to the point spread.
- Unsurprisingly, LeBron James is at the top of both lists, and may be more valuable than he ever has been as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
- The two favorites to win the NBA Title, the Warriors and Celtics, each have several players who the analysts do not see eye to eye on.
Ever bet on an NBA team, only to learn shortly thereafter that its star player would be resting? Your heart rate spikes. Strong feelings of anger overcome your body. And as we all know, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to … suffering.
As you load the burning money GIF to your Twitter account, you may wonder to yourself, “Hmm, just how much did that selfish coaching decision cost me in terms of points to the spread?”
That’s where I come in. Well, not me personally, but a couple of guys I know. I’m fairly knowledgeable when it comes to basketball, but am I capable of making an NBA player spread value list? No, at least not a good one.
Instead, I’ve contacted Scott Cooley, an Odds Consultant, and Mike Young, Sports Wagering and Integrity Analyst (and lover of the NBA), for CG Technology.
Each has his own opinion, and you can be sure that there aren’t two sportsbooks out there that have the exact same feelings on every key player in the league. Despite their differences, they provide a great benchmark of what you can expect when your favorite player is out of the lineup.
Every game is different, so there isn’t an exact spread number set in stone. Star players are generally worth their full value to the spread in key games that are expected to be close, whereas they might not be worth quite as much in games that are expected to be blowouts.
Public perception also plays a large role in how much a spread ends up moving. If a book makes an initial jump of three points following key injury news, that doesn’t mean the betting market won’t move it more.
The line could end up moving two more points, for example, making it five in total. Or, it could move back in the other direction.
According to Cooley, “The betting public always overreacts to superstar absences. The books will adjust the number with even a bit of inflation, and the public action usually prompts even more tweaking. However, you’re always going to see smart players come in on the other side.”
He noted LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry and some of the usual suspects for overreaction.
There is also a phenomenon that occurs when multiple star players on a team are out at the same time. This tends to inflate values even more.
For example, a couple years back, Cleveland rested its entire “Big 3” on the road against the Grizzlies.
Even though the sum of James, Irving and Kevin Love’s individual point-spread values was only eight to nine points at the time, the line moved from Cleveland -7.5 to Memphis -7.
The line had initially moved from -7.5 to +3.5 following the news, but the market came in and hammered it down to move an additional 3.5 points.
These are the general ballparks for each “tier” used in this project, which can essentially move a point in either direction depending on the situation.
Cooley also noted that many of the players in his Tier 5 might not impact the spread at all considering their fringe statuses, so don’t be shocked if Jusuf Nurkic is ruled out and the line doesn’t budge.
- Five points
- Four points
- Three points
- Two points
- One point
Here are the respective lists for this season along with where each player was on their list last season. At the bottom are players who’ve fallen off the list.
An overwhelming list for sure, but here are some discussion points that I found to be the most interesting.
A Tier Above
The first thing you’ll see is that James is in something I’ve coined the “King” tier. Cooley believes that with the Lakers, James is now worth 6-7 points, which is more than any other player has been worth over the past handful of years.
Young of CG Tech said he almost did the same, but kept him in the standard Tier 1 for the time being, citing his teams’ regular-season defense in recent years as a reason why.
I think we can all agree that he flips the switch when it counts, but isn’t always giving 100% during the regular season.
Young did note that in a recent preseason game, the Lakers’ spread opened at +7 and closed +11.5 without LeBron in the lineup, which is a very large move for the preseason and might indicate that he’ll be worth more this season.
Young does, however, believe that playoff LeBron is more valuable than anyone else in the league and is worth at least another point.
The two favorites to make it to the NBA Finals are the Warriors and Celtics, two teams that the two oddsmakers disagreed on quite a bit.
Let’s start with the champs.
- Steph Curry: DSI Tier 3, CG Tech Tier 2
- Kevin Durant: DSI Tier 2, CG Tech Tier 3
- Draymond Green: DSI Tier 3, CG Tech Tier 5
- DeMarcus Cousins: DSI Tier 3, CG Tech N/A
- Klay Thompson: DSI Tier 4, CG Tech Tier 5
Not one of the Warriors’ five stars is in the same tier at these two shops. Young weighed in on why he feels Curry is “the guy” on the Warriors.
“As incredible as Kevin Durant is, Curry’s the engine of that offense. His ability to space the floor, move and get open off ball is at such an elite level, there’s naturally a greater drop-off in play from the team as a whole when, say, Quinn Cook is starting for him in the regular season,” Young said.
He also explained why Cousins was left off his list entirely.
“This is mostly injury-related, as a torn Achilles tendon is a difficult injury to overcome. Based on the history of players who suffered the injury, I believe it will take some time for Cousins to regain his form, and that may not even occur this season,” Young added.
- Kyrie Irving: DSI Tier 3, CG Tech Tier 4
- Gordon Hayward: DSI Tier 3, CG Tech Tier 5
- Jayson Tatum: DSI Tier 5, CG Tech Tier 4
- Al Horford: DSI Tier 5, CG Tech Tier 5
- Jaylen Brown: DSI Tier 5, CG Tech N/A
When Tatum was drafted, I doubt people expected he’d be worth the same amount of points to the spread as Irving after just one season. Well, at least according to CG Tech.
There were a few reasons why Young believed Irving and Tatum are worth a similar amount.
On Irving: “I know his limitations defensively, although he’s bought in more with Brad Stevens than he ever did with Ty Lue. In many respects, especially, creating for others. So Kyrie could be a tier 3 given how he’s expanding his game. Maybe being a bit cautious to start the year since he’s coming off an injury. Though I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
He also noted that Terry Rozier’s strong play in Kyrie’s absence is a factor.
On Tatum: “Can guard multiple positions. Teams aren’t really going to target him like they do Kyrie. Elite spot-up shooter already, though his percentages dipped toward the end of the season. Had a tough playoffs from 3 but still played at such a high level. They surrendered 9.4 points / 100 possessions more with him off the court in the playoffs.”
He’s also a bit cautious on Hayward, but believes he has a chance to move up the list this year.
“Perhaps over-cautious until seeing how he’ll play in Boston, although he’s a tremendous fit on paper. Brown, among others, also played well enough in his absence that he may not be worth more than a point to the spread.”
There were a few players who failed to make one or both lists who caught my eye.
Blake Griffin: “While both of his teams were better with him on the floor, he took a step back offensively. He shot 3.7 more 3-pointers per game last season compared to the 2016-17 season, so his game is evolving, but his effective field goal percentage dropped two points. He didn’t get to the line at the same rate, nor did he get to the rim at the same rate, and took more midrange jumpers. I’m also still unsure of his fit next to Andre Drummond, but interested to see how he fits in Dwane Casey’s offense.” — Young
Goran Dragic: “While he had an All-Star season and is one of the more potent offensive point guards in the league, he is still a net negative defender. Plus, the drop-off to backup Tyler Johnson is not that steep.” — Young
Hassan Whiteside: “Whiteside could be in Tier 6, but pretty down on him.” –Cooley
Marc Gasol: “Gasol’s numbers were down across the board last season. He started shooting threes effectively at a high clip in the 2016-17 season, but took a hit in that area last season with more volume.” — Young
John Wall: Wall is on both lists, but is just a Tier-5 player, according to CG Tech compared to Tier 2.
There you have it. For the timeliest NBA injury news this side of Dixie, follow @FantasyLabsNBA.