How players affect NBA point spreads

By Vikas Chokshi  () 

Welcome to the NBA playoffs, bubble edition.
We have a plethora of fun storylines and exciting variables as the playoffs begin. But from a bettor’s perspective, potential COVID-19 complications still loom like a dreary rain cloud.
What happens if a star player tests positive or has to be quarantined for leaving the bubble? The NBA even created a new box-score listing for a player who is out due to the coronavirus: NWT-Self Isolating. While there have been zero positive tests so far, numerous players have had to leave due to family-related issues.
Because of all these variables, bookmakers are dealing with one of the most unpredictable  handicapping situations in sports history. The absence of real fans, games on a neutral court
and an AAU-style atmosphere bring about a whole host of questions for gamblers and oddsmakers alike.
What happens to the spread if a star has to miss a game? Every player is given a value toward the point spread on a game-by-game basis. While we all have our thoughts on how valuable each player is to his team, you are likely to be surprised by how oddsmakers perceive their values when determining lines. 
Since the NBA is the most star-driven league, the true superstars are the only guys who truly affect the lines. For example, LeBron James missing a game can alter a spread drastically. On the other hand, most role players generally have no effect or alter only the juice or the vig.
To find out just how much this season’s All-Stars can impact the point spread if they miss a game, I turned to Andrew Mannino from the PointsBet trading team for his insight. To show how much each superstar is worth toward the point spread if they are out, Mannino put together this chart:
Player Value toward Point Spread Notes
LeBron James 5.5 Dependent on AD playing
Anthony Davis 4.5 Dependent on LBJ playing
James Harden 6 Would move more currently as Westbrook also out
Russell Westbrook 2
Kawhi Leonard 5.5 Dependent on PG
Luka Doncic 5.5
Chris Paul 3.5
Damian Lillard 4.5
Nikola Jokic 4
Donovan Mitchell 1.5
Rudy Gobert 4.5 His defense adds about 3.5 points alone. Offense contributes only 1 point
Giannis Antetokounmpo 8 Completely different team without him
Khris Middleton 3
Joel Embiid 5 Would be more valuable now with no Simmons 
Pascal Siakim 3.5
Kyle Lowry 3.5
Kemba Walker 2.5
Jayson Tatum 3.5
Bam Adebayo 3
Jimmy Butler 3.5
Also, Jeff Sherman of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook discussed how home-court advantage lines will differ from the norm. Asked how he prices in home-court advantage, Sherman replied:
“We’ve equated home-court advantage to 1.5 to two points, not the traditional three points.
The lines are priced in as if the teams are playing at home.”
But Sherman said the uncertainty had had little effect on his thought process when creating lines.
“It hasn’t affected us that much,” he said, “but that is because we now have a good eight-game
sample set before the playoffs. That has helped. We understand the bettors’ tendencies to take the favorites, so that part of it has not changed. We will keep making adjustments as needed.”
Asked whether he puts values per player during the playoffs, Sherman explained: “I don’t have assigned values. Every game, situation and matchup is different. It changes from game to game, player to player for us.”
He did confirm that James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden are up there as most valuable but also threw one more name into the mix.
“Luka Doncic is another player I would add to your list,” Sherman said.
Hopefully the bubble holds strong and we don’t see any players miss games due to the pandemic. For now, it’s wait and see.
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