The James Harden Trade From a Betting Perspective
Finally, after an embarrassing blowout loss at home against the Lakers, the Houston Rockets organization waved the white flag, surrendering to James Harden’s offseason trade demand. In the end, a four-team transaction sent Harden to from an eccentric super team in Brooklyn, while Houston amassed a ton of draft capital and former All-Star Victor Oladipo. Quality youngsters Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen were jettisoned from Brooklyn, landing in Indiana and Cleveland, respectively. Let’s take a look at what has been created in the wake of this blockbuster deal, and how it may impact bettors, particularly in the first stretch of games after the move.
Brooklyn Nets: Fade
Brooklyn acquired the crown jewel of this deal, bringing in Harden, one of the greatest offensive players in the history of the game. To be sure, Houston had decided the time had come to deal the former MVP, and the Nets felt they couldn’t afford to miss out. One does wonder if this organization needed something so seismic, however, at this precise juncture. The Nets have had so much turnover of late, with a new coaching staff, and a new roster headlined by the returning Kevin Durant and the enigmatic Kyrie Irving. The early returns had shown flashes of potential, but a 7-6 SU and 6-7 ATS start has been underwhelming in the main. Add to that, the strange disappearance of Irving, and rumors that the organization has lost patience with the star, and that he was not particularly keen on the idea of becoming the third wheel to Durant and Harden’s cute little reunion. All of these egos, all of the expectations, and now even more pressure. Irving is expected to return against Orlando, but the stakes are now that much higher. The Nets have mortgaged their future, sent out two well-liked young players in LeVert and Allen, and the idea of the super team is clear, but how it actually functions is another matter entirely.
While Durant can be a monster in a thousand ways, Harden and Irving have made their careers on being high-usage, ball dominant scorers. Can this possibly work? Maybe eventually, with real buy-in from these two mercurial players. But, will Irving even stick around? Will he give it a chance to work? Out of the gates, the Nets seem a team to look to fade in the first five to ten games of this grand experiment. There are plenty of questions about the rotation, even more about the defense, and all of this turmoil and change is taking place during the strangest season in league history.
This is a team already down Spencer Dinwiddie. The value of Jarrett Allen should not be underestimated in this transition. The young center had made real improvements, and the team’s net rating was 10.3 points higher with Allen on the floor. He had been able to paper over some of the cracks of the front-court, in particular, the diminishing returns of an aging DeAndre Jordan. Jordan is playing only 18.1 MPG and doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank. The likes of Durant (coming back from Achilles injury) Jeff Green, and rookie Reggie Perry playing minutes at the 5 will be intriguing, but could create some real inconsistency. Caris LeVert was showing real potential of being a game-changing, volume-scorer off the bench. With them gone, the reserves will probably be lacking in terms of any type of consistent offensive output.
The Nets are almost certainly not done building out this now top-heavy roster, so it remains to be seen what this team looks like come the second half of the season. For now, there’s just so much going on here, and bettors should be on the lookout for spots to fade Brooklyn while they try to figure this thing out.
Houston Rockets: Play
For starters, it almost has to get better no matter what. The Rockets were 1-4 SU and ATS in Harden’s last five games with the team, with the only win coming against a comically short-handed Orlando Magic team. On the one hand, the coaching staff and players are making all the right noise, underlying how much they all want to be there, how the team wants to come together, and showing plenty of optimism that they can remain competitive now that Harden is gone. While some of that is just mediaspeak, there is reason to believe this team can at least be less than bad. In the first game since the trade, the team showed real spirit in a fourth-quarter comeback in San Antonio. There’s enough talent here, in the form of John Wall, Christian Wood, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and the newly-acquired Victor Oladipo, that should they carry a chip on their shoulder, the Rockets can be a tough out. Oladipo has played solid offensive basketball of late, although with the Pacers this year, his team’s defensive rating was 11.2 points higher with him off the floor. Christian Wood looks to be on the cusp of a breakout season. Head coach Stephen Silas remains very highly-regarded in league circles, and will certainly want to put his stamp on this new team. With an underrated group and a bit of a revenge tour looming for a group of solid players, look for the Rockets to perform well in the immediate aftermath of the deal. There is some real talent on the offensive side of the ball in Houston, and the defense is clearly still a work in progress. As such, OVER plays deserve consideration too, as there may be an overreaction to the loss of offensive virtuoso Harden.
Play: Indiana Pacers
There’s plenty of positive energy surrounding this Pacers club. The team has clearly bought in to the new style of play brought by first-time Head Coach Nate Bjorkgren. Indiana is 8-4 SU and ATS. Perhaps the only question mark surrounding Indiana was the future of Victor Oladipo. Instead of navigating that possibly uncomfortable situation throughout the year, the Pacers wisely decided to make somewhat of a lateral move by acquiring Caris LeVert in the Harden deal. While the young wing should provide very similar offensive production to that of Oladipo, he should be an upgrade defensively, as he now joins what should be a settled core who are all locked for a couple years to come. The Pacers seem to have been able to offset the transition to a new coach and style with a high level of continuity and chemistry. LeVert will take time to get up to speed, but his versatility will only increase the options afforded Bjorkgren. The former Brooklyn prospect may even start his Indiana career as a reserve, giving the Pacers a much-needed scoring boost for a second unit that currently ranks 27th in bench scoring, at only 30.7 PPG. Indiana faces the Clippers and Mavericks in the next two games, before a run of five games against Orlando, Toronto, and Charlotte.