The Brooklyn Nets have seen their odds to win a first NBA Championship cut to
18/5 after landing James Harden but they and the rest of the league could have a hard time matching the standard currently set by the Los Angeles Lakers.
In one of the biggest trade deals in recent history, the Nets are poised to land the NBA’s top point scorer of the last three years from the Houston Rockets after a falling out between Harden and his old team.
The 2018 MVP was told not to show up to practice on Wednesday after criticising the team following Tuesday’s defeat to the Lakers, the 31-year-old claiming the Rockets are “just not good enough – chemistry, talent-wise, just everything” after starting the season 3-6.
The Nets have moved quickly to bring in Harden as part of a four-team deal involving the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers, with Houston receiving Dante Exum, Rodions Kurcus, plus four first-round draft picks, as well as pick swaps in exchange for the face of their franchise.
Harden becomes the latest star name to be added to a Brooklyn roster which already features Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, giving the Nets arguably the best ‘Big 3’ in the NBA if the Californian’s attitude improves.
He’ll join a Nets team currently sat sixth in the Eastern Conference after improving their record to 7-6 on Wednesday night with a 116-109 over near-neighbours the New York Knicks.
Despite being 1.5 games back on Atlantic Division rivals and Conference leaders the Boston Celtics (7-3), the Nets are now the
17/10 favourites to win the East, with the Celtics, who reached the Conference finals last season,
The Milwaukee Bucks are sat in second in the East and look like the biggest threat to the Nets with Giannis Antetokounmpo in fine form, recording his 22nd career triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Wednesday’s 110-101 win over the Detroit Pistons.
The ‘Greek Freak’ is
5/1 to pick up the regular season MVP prize this year, with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks the
Champions in Ominous Form
Not far behind that duo in the MVP betting is LeBron James at
17/2, ‘The King’ having played a leading role in the Los Angeles Lakers’ excellent start to the year.
The reigning NBA champions sit atop the Western Conference at 10-3, racking up a fourth straight win with a dominant 128-99 at Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, a game in which James scored 26 points.
The Lakers are
9/4 favourites to repeat their NBA title win and would appear tough to stop if they can maintain their current levels, with James, Anthony Davis and co holding the second-best points differential and points scored per game average through 13 matches.
Lillard Blazing a Trail for Portland
City rivals the Clippers are the Lakers’ nearest challengers, sitting 1.5 games behind, while the Portland Trail Blazers are one of three teams who are two games back.
Portland brought up their fourth successive win on Wednesday, overhauling a 19-point deficit to beat the Sacramento Kings 132-126. Damian Lillard led the way again for Portland with a season-best 40 points and he’s likely to prove the difference-maker when they welcome the Indiana Pacers to the Moda Center on Thursday.
The Pacers are sat second in the Central Division after getting back to winning ways following a two-game slump with a victory over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. The clash with Portland will be Indiana’s first after trading away guard Victor Oladipo as part of the Harden deal, with Caris Levert arriving from Brooklyn to fill the void.
Oladipo was third for the Pacers in average points scored this year and while Leveret, who is averaging 18.5 ppg, should eventually fill that void, it might take some time, giving Portland a shot at covering the 2.5-point handicap at
Warriors Eye Denver Rally
Golden State have an immediate opportunity to bounce back from their loss to Indiana when they face the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
The Warriors are 4.5-point underdogs at
25/26 despite an encouraging start to the season which has seen Steph Curry make a triumphant return from injury. Curry is averaging the third-highest number of points per game in the NBA, boosted by a career-best 62-point haul at the start of January.
Denver have proven to be inconsistent, dropping to 5-6 with their loss to the Nets on Tuesday, and are without Michael Porter Jr after he was struck down by coronavirus. With Curry in fine form, the Warriors could pull off the upset.
*All odds correct at time of writing.