It’s not often that an NBA team can add an MVP after the season starts. When things got messy between James Harden and the Houston Rockets, the Brooklyn Nets were ready to pounce.
When the Rockets were blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night and Harden said in his postgame news conference that he didn’t think Houston could be fixed, a trade was inevitable.
Harden, the MVP in 2018, was sent to the Nets on Wednesday afternoon. The Nets already were one of the league’s most intriguing teams with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (when and if he returns to the Nets), and they just added a player who averaged 29.6 points per game over his nine Rockets seasons.
It’s a fun move and the Nets are adding an undeniably talented star. But does that make them a better team from a betting standpoint? If you believe the shift in championship odds after the trade, the Nets are now one of the two best teams in the NBA.
James Harden trade shakes up NBA odds
BetMGM quickly reposted NBA championship odds after the details of the trade were settled. And they were bullish on the Nets.
The Lakers, who are coming off a title and always get plenty of championship bets, are still the favorites at +250. The Nets are now +300 to win the title, which is incredibly low for a 6-6 team. The Nets were +600 to win the title at BetMGM when the season started, and they are the book’s second-biggest liability in that market.
No other team is even close to the Lakers and Nets. The Clippers are next at +600. The Bucks follow at +700 and no other team is less than +1400.
It’s not a big surprise. Big stars get a ton of attention and the Nets have a trio of superstars. They’ll have to figure out chemistry and how to guard anyone, and Harden will have to prove he’s locked in after a lot of negative stories leading up to the season, but BetMGM wasn’t going to give away a big number on the Nets winning it all.
How much will Harden help the Nets?
The Rockets weren’t good this season with Harden. They were 2-6 against the spread when he played. The Rockets won and covered in the only game Harden was out.
Houston isn’t nearly as good as Brooklyn, of course. But the Nets did give up Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and Taurean Price in the trade. LeVert was scoring 18.5 points per game. Allen was averaging 11.4 points and 10.2 rebounds. Prince was chipping in 8.1 points. Brooklyn wasn’t going to balk at giving up any of those players in the deal, but it’s still a lot to lose. And losing Allen makes the Nets even worse in a key way: defensively.
Allen was a solid rim protector on a team that was mediocre at best on defense with him. Harden’s defensive deficiencies might be overstated, but he’s not going to help much on that end of the floor. If Brooklyn doesn’t win the Eastern Conference, defense is likely going to be the reason.
The Nets are already playing at the fourth-fastest pace in the league and might get faster with Harden and Irving both in the lineup. That will mean a lot of points, and a lot of points allowed too. Nets over/under totals are about to go up, and they will still get the over plenty of times.
The Nets will presumably be better with Harden — they’re just 5-7 against the spread this season — but the market is going to adjust too. If you want to bet the new-look Nets to win the title or even on any games in the near future, there won’t be a lot of value.
With one move on Wednesday, expectations have changed a lot for Brooklyn.
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