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Quantifying effect of NBA stars missing games

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(To view the charts accompanying this report, subscribe to Point Spread Weekly)

One of the most frustrating aspects of following and betting on the NBA is that you often don’t have any idea until shortly before game time which players are unavailable. Whether from injury, a COVID-19 concern or — my personal favorite — load management, the unfortunate reality of the NBA is that no one is trying to break longevity records. When teams’ main players miss games, it becomes a handicapping puzzle. 

This makes it very difficult for those on both sides of the betting counter. Uninformed bettors can lose simply due to lack of knowledge of a situation, while the books can take on unnecessary liability if they aren’t on top of player-availability information the minute it breaks. Knowing who is playing and who isn’t — and, more importantly, what it means — can provide an edge. I’ll demonstrate quantitatively how important the absence of some stars has been for their teams.

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