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James Harden trade makes Nets a top contender to win NBA title

Updated January 13, 2021 - 8:36 pm

One megatrade changed the Brooklyn Nets from a .500 team to the top contender to challenge the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA title.

The Nets acquired Houston superstar James Harden in a four-way deal Wednesday that also involved Cleveland and Indiana. When the dust cleared, Brooklyn was the +350 second choice behind the defending champion Lakers (+200) to win the title at the Westgate.

The Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee are next at 8-1, followed by Boston, Miami and Philadelphia at 20-1. The Nets (6-6) were 12-1 to win the title at the start of the day after a middling start to the season.

“Things weren’t looking good at all for them,” Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Jeff Sherman said. “Plus, ever since the season had started, we really weren’t writing much on them, so we kept easing their odds up.”

The Westgate has ridden a roller coaster with Nets futures before and during the season. Brooklyn opened at 14-1, but moved steadily down. Sherman said the Westgate took $20,000 on the Nets to win the title at 14-1 (to win $280,000), then later took $7,000 on Brooklyn at 10-1 (to win $70,000).

The sportsbook moved the Nets all the way to 5-1 before the season started in anticipation of a deal for Harden or another superstar to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Brooklyn’s odds slowly climbed amid its slow start.

The roller coaster continued during the trade chatter Wednesday, Sherman said. When reports indicated that Harden would be traded to either the Nets or Philadelphia 76ers, the Westgate dropped the Nets from 12-1 to 8-1 and the 76ers from 14-1 to 8-1. The Westgate took some more Nets money at 8-1 and moved them and 76ers each to 6-1, Sherman said.

When the deal was finalized, the Westgate finally settled on the Nets at +350 and moved the other contenders accordingly. The Lakers went from +175 to 2-1; the Bucks and Clippers went from 6-1 to 8-1; the Celtics and 76ers went from 14-1 to 20-1; and the Heat went from 18-1 to 20-1.

The Rockets moved from 80-1 to 100-1.

Sherman said the Nets’ odds reflect their public perception more than their true odds and that he does not actually rate them so far ahead of the other Eastern Conference contenders.

He also said he’s skeptical of the ability of Durant, Harden and Irving to share the ball and play well together.

“Kyrie Irving and Harden, they both need the ball in their hands to operate at their top capacity,” Sherman said. “I don’t know how it’s going to work.”

Sherman said to expect high totals on the Nets’ games with a new lineup that’s “all offense, no defense.”

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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