NBA Betting: Check Regular Season Minutes Before Any Title WagersBy: Allen James
Recent statistical history said the Oklahoma City Thunder were not going to win the 2013 NBA title. That went for the Los Angeles Lakers as well. Milwaukee Bucks too. Almost assuredly the Chicago Bulls. The Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors didn't make the 2013 playoffs, but they also had no shot.
If you want a winning basketball betting strategy when it comes to those NBA championship futures odds, just take a look at the minutes played leaders in basketball during the regular season. If a team has a player who played 3,000, move on.
Compiling 3,000 regular-season minutes averages out to not missing a game while playing 37 minutes a night. This used to not be a big deal. Michael Jordan did it all the time. In fact, players have reached the 3,000-minute barrier more than 320 times in the past 20 years.
Starting in 1991 when Jordan's Bulls won their first of six NBA titles, 11 team champions over the next 13 seasons included at least one player who spent at least 3,000 minutes on the court. It was almost a badge of honor. However, the 2004 Detroit Pistons — generally regarded as the last team to win it all without a true superstar — were the last team to win a championship with a player reaching that magic number: Ben Wallace.
Nowadays, coaches (and team doctors) are much more cognizant of a star player's minutes. Certainly bigger contracts have played a role in this as owners don't want to be paying tens of millions of dollars to a superstar who broke down injured because of a heavy workload.
Maybe Next Year KD
Portland's Damian Lillard, the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year, led the league with 3,167 minutes played, an average 38.6 per game.
Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant was No. 2 with 3,119 minutes in one fewer game. That should have set off warning bells for Thunder bettors in the playoffs. OKC had traded James Harden before the 2012-13 season and thus the team had no realistic scoring option to replace Durant when he was taking a breather. It appeared that Durant wore down in the 2013 playoffs in the Thunder's five-game Western Conference semifinals upset loss to Memphis. His shooting dropped precipitously late in games.
By comparison, Thunder star point guard Russell Westbrook played 2,861 minutes this season, or 34.9 per game. Thus it would seem that his season-ending injury couldn't be blamed on overuse.
Thibodeau Rides Bulls Too Hard
Lillard didn't actually lead the NBA in 2012-13 in minutes played per game, that went to Chicago's Luol Deng. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is known for riding his stars hard, even when the game is in hand. Former MVP Derrick Rose was still in a 2012 opening-round playoff game that was in the bag for Chicago against Philadelphia when Rose went down with an injury that would cost him the rest of those playoffs and all of the 2012-13 season.
Largely because Rose was out, Thibodeau had to ride Deng to the tune of 38.7 minutes per game. Joakim Noah averaged 36.8 during the season. Thus both players were totally worn down and beaten up by the time the 2013 playoffs rolled around. Deng eventually was hospitalized with an illness and missed all of Chicago's Eastern Conference semifinals five-game loss to Miami. Will Thibodeau let up next season? It might affect a few NBA wagers (i.e. covers against the spread) during the year but could pay off down the line.
Blessing In Disguise For Kobe
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant averaged 38.6 minutes in the 2012-13 regular season at age 34, which is almost unheard of. Is it such a big surprise that Bryant suffered a season-ending torn Achilles' tendon late in the regular season? That of course torpedoed L.A.'s NBA title hopes.
Kobe will be returning for an 18th and possibly final season in 2013-14. He wants nothing more than to win a sixth NBA championship ring to tie Jordan's mark, the player to whom Kobe is most compared. The smart betting strategy might be to take a Lakers future wager on next season's championship. That's because Bryant is assured of missing the start of the season and thus won't approach that 3,000 number.
Sometimes coaches have to be the parent to a superstar and rest him for his own good or risk bigger things. The 3,000-minute title curse lives on.