How Much is an MVP Worth? A Lesson on Overvaluing Superstars

Although most sports fans are in NCAA tournament mode with no regard for other sports, there is a valuable lesson to take away from last night’s NBA game between title-favorites Miami and Chicago. In this game the hometown Bulls opened as 2.5-point favorites at the market-setting Cris sportsbook and, according to Sports Insights’ NBA Betting Trends, were receiving just 26% of spread wagers at 6:12 PM eastern time yesterday.

That lop-sided betting pushed the line down to 1.5; however news that Derrick Rose would miss the game with a groin injury quickly altered the line even further. The betting percentages remained the same despite a 4.5-point move that left the Bulls as 3-point underdogs.

Ultimately Chicago won the game 106-102, covering both the pre and post-injury spreads. What is fascinating here is the drastic shift in the line based on Rose’s injury. Obviously the loss of an MVP-caliber player is significant, but earlier in the season when Rose was injured the line dropped only two points. For this game, his absence was worth 4.5 to 5.5 points. This goes to show you that the public often overvalues star players and that sharp bettors can capitalize by not overreacting to an injury.

The following table shows how the betting percentage and line shifted throughout the day:

Time Bulls Betting % Bulls Line Heat Line
3/13/12 11:04 PM 38% -3.5 +3.5
3/14/12  1:39 PM 22% -2 +2
3/14/12 9:25 PM 26% +3 -3

As you can see from this table, public betting along with uncertainty surrounding Derrick Rose’s status pushed the line on Chicago down from -3.5 to -2. You can also see that a shrewd bettor could have given themselves a 6.5-point middle.

This was a game our staff was monitoring prior to the Rose injury due to the lop-sided betting percentages, and once again exemplifies the value in betting against the public.

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