Sheridan: A Look At The Impact A James Harden Trade Would Have On NBA Futures

Written By Chris Sheridan on December 8, 2020
NBA Trade Rumors Spurs Sixers Celtics

James Harden is probably going to be traded by the Houston Rockets, and it seems more a matter of when rather than if based on the latest NBA trade rumors.

The buzz has had quite an impact on the sports gambling marketplace involving the Rockets, whose chances of winning the title are tumbling in the legalized US sports marketplace.

Houston has only the ninth-lowest odds to win the Western Conference, with FanDuel Sportsbook listing them at +3600 – ahead of only the Pelicans, Grizzlies, Spurs, Timberwolves, Kings and Thunder.

At William Hill, the Rockets are still listed at +4000 in the championship futures market based upon the belief that if Harden is not dealt, Houston is not all that bad with a starting five of John Wall, Harden, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker/Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins.

But Harden is clearly trying to force a trade, and the wagering opportunity in the legalized US sports gambling market comes from trying to figure out who is going to acquire him and then betting on that team to win its conference or the NBA championship while the odds are high.

“There’s good value out there if you can pick the ‘X’ – where he’s going,” said Johnny Avello, head oddsmaker at DraftKings Sportsbook regarding the latest NBA trade rumors. “If he goes to Indiana they can compete against all the top teams. If he goes to San Antonio it puts them among the top teams. Good enough to win a championship? I don’t know. But the odds in both cases will be cut in half.

“You’ve also got to remember that with Harden, he’s had chances to win but hasn’t got the job done,” Avello added.

Harden is now the fifth choice in the NBA MVP field at PointsBet with odds of +1200. Harden is behind Luka Doncic (+380), Giannis Antetokounmpo (+500), Stephen Curry (+800), Anthony Davis (+800) and LeBron James (+900). The book is only receiving 1% of the MVP action on Harden – the same percentage as Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving – PointsBet spokesman Patrick Eichner told TheLines.

Best James Harden prices

NBA trade rumors: Potential landing spots for Harden

Word leaked out Tuesday that the Rockets want a monumental haul for Harden, but that should be taken with a grain of salt. Teams often posture through the media with NBA trade rumors to create false leverage. Harden finally reported to Houston on Tuesday.

For instance, let’s say the San Antonio Spurs (who have been aggressive but unsuccessful in their efforts to make trades this offseason), are the ones who end up with the bearded one. Well, that suddenly makes them a championship contender – in theory – based upon the fact that Harden is the only player in the league capable of putting up 40 points per game as a single featured scorer.

And the odds on Gregg Popovich’s team to win it all are currently long. William Hill has them at +10000, FanDuel has them at +13000, DraftKings has them at +15000, PointsBet has them at +20000, and BetMGM has them at +25000. But if Popovich and R.C. Buford could get new Rockets general manager Rafael Stone to take an offer along the lines of DeMar DeRozan, Lonnie Walker, Rudy Gay and a future No. 1 pick, those odds would drop significantly.

Boston could package Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and a bunch of first round picks, which would cut their odds from the current +1300 to +1600, depending on the book.

Or let’s say Daryl Morey is able to get his former player moved to his new team in the Philadelphia 76ers, for a package centered around Tobias Harris and numerous future No. 1 picks. Philly would then have a starting five of Ben Simmons, Harden, Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle and either Shake Milton or Danny Green. That lineup would be worthy of championship consideration, and the Sixers current odds of anything from +2000 to +2500 would most likely be cut in half. Philadelphia is currently drawing the fifth-most action of all teams in the championship futures market, trailing the Nets, Lakers, Warriors and Mavericks – Eichner said.

Indiana has a team that has sputtered out in the playoffs quickly over the past few seasons because they do not have a go-to scorer. But if the Rockets would take Victor Oladipo, T.J. Warren, Doug McDermott and a future No. 1 pick, Indiana would not be on the board with the type of long odds they currently hold: +10000 at every major US sportsbook.

The Pacers are drawing only 3% of the bet count and 1% of the handle at FanDuel Sportsbook, spokesman Kevin Hennessy said, noting that the Portland Trail Blazers have accounted for 13% of the bet count and 26% of the handle. The most significant odds drop has been Phoenix to win the West from +5000 to +2800 following the acquisition of Chris Paul, Hennessy said.

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2020-21 NBA season starting soon (fingers crossed)

The NBA futures market is not drawing a ton of action at the moment with the preseason yet to begin, especially with coronavirus concerns making folks wonder whether the league will even be able to complete a 72-game season – which is what Adam Silver is planning. But with no bubble, teams traveling, tight COVID protocols and dozens of other logistical obstacles, there are a considerable amount of skeptics wondering whether the season might end up being scrapped.

Of course, that assumes that 2021 will be an even more horrific year than 2020. And nobody wants to take that bet. We are all too COVID fatigued to endure such a thing.

So the trick is to think positively and think out of the box. And in order to do that, try to envision which NBA team will make Stone – the Rockets GM – the type of offer he cannot turn down. That puts Harden in a different uniform, changes championship odds for numerous teams and adds an extra layer of excitement to the 2020-21 NBA season.

Let’s all bet that something substantive happens for Harden prior to the start of the season on Dec. 22 rather than dragging into the new year.

Like him or not, Harden is one of the most exciting NBA players to watch. And chances are, we’ll eventually be watching him play for a team other than the Rockets.

2021 NBA title odds

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