By Mark Strotman | | 5 mins
James Harden Trade Jolts Nets’ Odds; Now Eastern Favorites
The NBA has a new Big Three and the Eastern Conference has a new NBA odds betting favorite.
According to multiple sources on Wednesday, former MVP and three-time reigning scoring champion James Harden was being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, where he would team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The trade included a third team – the Cleveland Cavaliers – and later the Rockets and Pacers made a deal, but for now we’re only focused on the Nets, the league’s best trio, and what it means for the NBA betting landscape.
Oddsmakers wasted no time shifting Brooklyn’s NBA Finals betting odds, which went from +500 to +300 on BetMGM. The Nets now trail only the 9-3 Lakers, the defending champs who have won seven of their last eight and remain the favorites at +250.
The Nets overtook the Bucks as the favorites in the East, with their odds slashed from +250 to +125. The Bucks lengthened to +350 to win the East and +700 to win the NBA Finals.
What Brooklyn Nets Now Have
The Nets’ Big Three has a combined three championships, seven scoring titles, 24 All-Star appearances, and are each in the top-31 all time in career points per game. Durant hasn’t skipped a beat since returning from his torn Achilles, suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals. Irving has looked spectacular in the games he has played, and Harden wowed in Houston before effectively zoning out and forcing his way out of Houston.
There’s only one basketball for the three to share, but if they can sync up, defenses won’t have a prayer of keeping the Nets under 125 points each night.
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And though they traded away almost all of their depth – and all of their draft picks – the Nets still have solid perimeter talent in Joe Harris, Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot, Landry Shamet, and Jeff Green. Superteams of the past have thrived on putting shooters around their elite talent, and Brooklyn still has plenty of that even after trading away Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince.
What the Nets Are Lacking
Let’s address the ego – err, elephant – in the room. Kyrie Irving is currently away from the Nets for personal reasons. The star point guard has missed the last four games with no indication that he’s close to returning. It’s slightly possible that Irving doesn’t play again this season for the Nets.
And even if he does return, how will the locker room treat him? He wanted out of Cleveland to be his own superstar and to lead his team, and he’s now third fiddle behind Durant and Harden. If Irving shuts it down or doesn’t mesh, the Nets are in trouble.
Like many superteams, Brooklyn’s bench is depleted. Those aforementioned shooters don’t do much ball handling, and the frontcourt depth after Durant current looks like this: Green, DeAndre Jordan, Nic Claxton and Reggie Perry. Not exactly Anthony Davis stoppers.
Betting Value in Bucks and Lakers?
The Nets’ Big Three has as many question marks as it does career points (that’s 56,371, in case you were wondering).
This could go one of two ways: The stars all mesh, opponents can’t keep up with the scoring barrage, and win a title under first-year coach Steve Nash. Or, three of the most unique and unpredictable minds in the NBA fail to co-exist, locker room drama ensues, and Brooklyn bows out with an uninspiring postseason loss. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.
If we knew how it would play out, we’d be at our sportsbook of choice placing money on the Nets to win the title (PointsBet offered a “price freeze” on Wednesday afternoon, keeping the Nets at +600 to win their first NBA championship). There still seems to be plenty of value on the Bucks and Lakers, two other legitimate title contenders.
Consider: The Lakers are defending champs and won the offseason with their acquisitions. They’re 9-3, including 6-0 on the road, and will always be the favorite as long as LeBron James and Anthony Davis are standing on two feet.
The Western Conference feels weaker than it did a year ago and this red-hot Lakers group has championship experience. James and Davis don’t have a third star as a teammate, but the team’s depth is laughably better than Brooklyn’s wasteland of a depth chart.
Perhaps their lack of playoff success has made us overlook their regular-season dominance, but the Bucks entered Wednesday’s games with the league’s best net rating (+11.1) by more than two points (Lakers, +8.8) – the Nets are third at +5.2 and were always better than their record suggested.
By just about any statistical metric, the Bucks are the NBA’s best team now. If you don’t believe in either Harden’s ability to mesh with two other superstars, or in Irving’s commitment to basketball in 2021, there is a heap of value on a Bucks team this talented with these kinds of NBA futures betting odds.