Already considered as one of the major contenders for the NBA championship, the blockbuster trade that took James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets from the Houston Rockets elevated them to the bookmaker’s second favorites behind the defending title holders, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The megadeal that saw the Nets acquire the three-time scoring champion Harden sees him team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving provides coach Steve Nash with an embarrassment of offensive riches. The Nets can now call upon a level of firepower that could rival any ‘Big Three’ in recent years.
The 31-year old Harden, an eight-time NBA All-Star and the 2018 league MVP, is due $41.3 million this season and $44.3 million in 2021-22. This season he is currently averaging 24.0 PPG, 11.3 APG and 6.8 RPG.
At the time of writing, Brooklyn already has the highest PPG average in the NBA with 122.3. That shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone given the offensive qualities available to the Nets in their star trio. This is a team that can outscore anyone and have proven more than capable of putting 130 or 140 points on the board.
It’s the other basket where the problems lie, with the Nets sitting 28th of the 30 teams in opponent PPG in allowing 117.8. That’s far higher than any of the other leading contenders for the championship.
A sign of their defensive issues came when they recently scored 146 points against the Washington Wizards and still lost. No team should be scoring 146 points and losing the game. At the very least you certainly shouldn’t be scoring 146 points and losing to the Wizards!
It’s against the lesser lights that the Nets have a tendency to lack consistency and concentration. They gave up 123 points in losing to the Wizards earlier in the season, 141 points in just shading the Atlanta Braves, 147 points in double overtime in losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers and 129 and 125 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The defense was reinforced with the return of Iman Shumpert and Center DeAndre Johnson is still capable of playing to an elite level on his day, but neither player is a long-term solution.
There’s nobody really left for them to trade for a top-level defender after the Harden trade, so what Nash really needs is for his three star players to step up and expand the same energy on defense as they do on offense.
There were encouraging signs in the recent 124-120 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, where they held their opponents scoreless for one near three-minute stretch in the fourth-quarter.
Such is their enviable offensive power, that Brooklyn are unlikely to have too many problems in navigating their way through the regular NBA season. Things could get an awful lot tougher in the postseason though, where their ability to simply outscore the opposition in games will prove increasingly difficult.
The good news for the Nets is that the contracts of Harden, Durant and Irving all continue though next season. so they have a minimum of two seasons to claim an NBA championship. In addition, all three also have a player option for the 2022-23 season.
Whether they succeed in their quest for the NBA championship or not, only time will tell. Whatever transpires, it should provide some great entertainment watching them try.
What’s the Betting Odds?
While we agree with BetFinder.co.uk that the LA Lakers look a good bet to win the NBA championship once again at betting odds of around +250 (3.50), the Brooklyn Nets can now provide a realistic challenge to the defending champions.
Odds of +400 (5.00) for the Brooklyn Nets to take advantage of any slip-ups from the Lakers looks an interesting wager or as a saver bet if you have backed the Lakers.
Next in the NBA championship betting comes the LA Clippers (+550), Milwaukee Bucks (+750), Philadelphia 76ers (+1600), Utah Jazz (+2000), Boston Celtics (+2500), Denver Nuggets (+2500), Miami Heat (+3000), Dallas Mavericks (+5000) and Phoenix Suns (+5000). Big odds the rest.