Load Management Complicates Clippers' Betting Appeal
Los Angeles' cautious approach has made life tough for bettors on a day-to-day basis
- The Los Angeles Clippers are clearly one of the frontrunners to win the NBA championship. According to DraftKings, the Clippers are listed at +330 to win the NBA title, behind the Milwaukee Bucks (+240) and Los Angeles Lakers (+300).
- The Clippers have a record of 37-19 and an ATS record of 28-28.
- Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have rested due to load management, along with some other key players, which makes betting on the Clippers difficult on a day-to-day basis.
- Leonard’s absence completely alters Los Angeles’ effectiveness on the court.
- Come playoff time, expect LA to be much more straightforward to bet on.
The 2018-2019 Los Angeles Clippers were a team that was lauded for their competitive spirit. They were a team that many considered undermanned, but they were able to make the most of the pieces they had. Those Clippers surprised many NBA observers by going 48-34 and making the playoffs. They were even able to win two games against the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
This offseason, the Clippers decided they were going to put all of their chips to the middle of the table and make a run for the title. Los Angeles was able to sign Kawhi Leonard and trade for Paul George. These acquisitions instantly put them among the favorites in the Western Conference. However, both of these players had a recent history of injury issues. When Leonard was with the Raptors, Toronto allowed him to have a lot of rest so he could manage his previously injured right quadriceps. We all know how that worked out. This season, the Clippers have decided to take that same course. Paul George was recovering from shoulder surgery as the season began. He missed the first 11 games of the year. He would go on to play in 25 straight games, before missing 10 of the next 11.
It has been quite difficult to give a proper evaluation on the 2019-2020 Clippers on a day-to-day basis from a betting perspective. This isn't necessarily a critique on Doc Rivers' handling of load management, though. While, as a fan, I would love superstars to play every night, I understand that the goal of every NBA team is to win championships. Coaches and organizations should do whatever they feel best puts them in a position to reach their end goal.
How This Approach Affects Bettors
However, bettors are hesitant to lay money on a team if they're not sure when the stars are going to show up or play the whole game. Of the Clippers' 56 games, Ivica Zubac has played in all 56, Montrezl Harrell has played in 55, and Lou Williams has played in 53. On the other hand, Kawhi Leonard has played in 43, Patrick Beverly has played in 40, Landry Shamet has played in 39, and Paul George has played in 34. Both Leonard and George have sat out games or had their minutes limited at various times in the hopes of preserving them for the playoffs.
The player on the Clippers whose absence has the most significant impact on the movement of lines is Leonard. The Clippers are 9.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the floor than when he is off. Los Angeles is 24-19 against the spread in games where Leonard plays. They are 4-9 ATS in games where he sits the game out. George's absences haven't had the same effect on the Clippers, up to this point. Los Angeles is 2.4 points better when Paul George is on the court than when he is off. When Paul George plays, the Clippers are 17-17 against the spread. When he doesn't play, the Clippers are 11-11 against the spread. When Leonard and George both play in the same game, Los Angeles is 14-10 against the spread.
One thing to keep in mind is that Kawhi Leonard never plays on both nights of a back-to-back. He hasn't played both ends of a back-to-back since becoming a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. If the Clippers have two games on back-to-back nights, you can be sure that Kawhi will miss at least one of those two games. Sometimes he misses the first end of the back-to-back and sometimes he misses the second end. Be sure to keep track of the Clippers' schedule to stay aware of upcoming back-to-backs and Kawhi's status in the lineup.
When betting on the Clippers, it’s essential to monitor the injury report and make sure you're comfortable with the players that will eventually be out on the floor. Bettors generally want to get ahead of the lines because the market is the softest when the odds have just been posted. However, you don't want to be in a situation where you place a bet, and the line eventually moves against you because guys are resting. This can happen with any team, but this especially the case with a team like the Clippers who have made it clear that achieving a 60-win regular season isn't something that means that much to them. In general, jumping on lines early is recommended. But it’s more important to be more cautious when it comes to a load managing team like Los Angeles.
When the playoffs arrive, we will be able to treat the Clippers differently, though. All of the guys who have had rest in the regular season should be ready for the postseason, including Kawhi. Just because they may end up with the third or fourth seed in the West, it doesn't necessarily mean they are a lesser team than Denver or Utah. The regular season may not be their primary concern, but they should be operating at peak capacity come playoff time.