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How the James Harden Trade Shifted NBA Betting Futures for 2021

After acquiring James Harden in a trade with the Houston Rockets, are the Brooklyn Nets the new favorites to win the East?
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Wednesday's blockbuster trade not only shook up the NBA, but the league's futures betting market across multiple sportsbooks as well. 

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (for now) will be joined in Brooklyn by eight-time NBA All-Star and 2018 MVP James Harden. Harden successfully forced himself out of Houston and into the Eastern Conference title hunt; possibly the NBA title hunt. 

In exchange, the Nets traded three unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026. The Rockets, who acquired Caris LeVert and shipped in to Indiana in the Victor Oladipo deal will also have the opportunity to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027. Center Jarrett Allen was also moved in the deal and is now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

In a statement to Sports Illustrated, DraftKings director of race and sportsbook operations, Johnny Avello, discussed how their team had prepared for the possibility of Harden being traded to Brooklyn. The Nets' futures odds to win the Eastern Conference moved from +225 to +140.

Jan. 14, 2020—Following the Brooklyn Nets’ acquisition of former MVP James Harden, the team’s Eastern Conference Championship futures moved from 9 to 4 prior to the deal down to 7 to 5 in the aftermath. While the Nets odds now top the East, the Lakers still edge them out as the NBA Finals favorite—today the Nets are at 3 to 1 to win the league championship compared to 5 to 2 for the Lake Show.

“We realized there was a good chance Harden would be dealt to the Nets, which coupled with the fact Brooklyn has Durant and Irving, meant the team was already at short odds,” said Avello. “To date, the Nets’ longest championship odds this season were still an impressive 9 to 1 back in October, and this trade only enhances their chances while becoming the new Eastern Conference favorite.”

Additionally, this move has shifted some MVP odds among the new trio of stars Brooklyn. While Kevin Durant remains unchanged at 8 to 1 for being crowned league MVP, James Harden’s odds moved from 25 to 1 pre-trade to 40 to 1 post-trade while Kyrie Irving’s odds became longer too. Before the trade Irving was 60 to 1 for MVP and is now 100 to 1. 

Let's take a look at how the betting markets have adjusted to this news over at DraftKings Sportsbook.

2021 NBA Championship Futures Odds

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Despite Brooklyn's acquisition of Harden, the Los Angeles Lakers remain the favorite to win the title this summer. LeBron James and crew made all their moves during the offseason and look to be in cruise control. Right now the Lakers are +250 favorites to win the NBA Championship. 

At the beginning of the season, I wrote about how the Lakers are the only team that I would bet on to win it all. They happen to have all the pieces in place with the rest of the league trying to catch them. 

The Nets however, have closed the gap according to the bookmaker. Brooklyn is now +300 to win the championship after starting the season at +600. Before the trade was announced, DK Sportsbook had the Nets at +500 odds to win it all.

I'm surprised to see them close the gap this much considering Brooklyn gave up a couple of key pieces in the deal and point guard Spencer Dinwiddie is already out for the season. Personally, I think it's a lot of hype behind this number and I would not touch it.

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Additionally, the Milwaukee Bucks entered the 2021 NBA season with the second lowest odds to win the Finals at +550. Since Wednesday's trade, they have since moved up to +600, tied for the third lowest odds with the Los Angeles Clippers.


2021 Eastern Conference Futures Odds

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

This is where things get interesting as the Nets have passed the Bucks as the favorite in the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn is now +140 to win the East while the Bucks are +320. The Nets' futures odds to win the East was previously set at +225. 

Most of the shift is based on Harden joining the Nets but I'm confident that a lot of it also involves the Bucks not living to preseason expectations in the early portion of the season. I just don't see the Bucks advancing past the second round in the Eastern Conference playoffs as long as they remain this inconsistent. 

The Nets main issue remains Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant came to Brooklyn ready to make a title run, but Kyrie seems to be into everything but basketball. I think the Nets saw that they could not rely on Irving and instead chose to overpay for Harden. If they win a title because of it, then the result will speak for itself. Kevin Durant learned the championship blueprint in Golden State, but it's clear that Brooklyn hasn't caught on yet. Harden gives them a hungry All-Star looking to win his first title. I think these two guys will be good together, yet Irving remains the wild card. A Nets ticket at +140 odds is not enough juice for me, but the odds remain fair towards the market.


Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami round out the top five in the East respectively. 

Philadelphia at +650 is the bet I would make. The Sixers have looked good to start the season, Joel Embiid is playing like an early MVP candidate, Ben Simmons is doing his thing as well, Doc Rivers has taken over and the Sixers look like a serious contender in the East. If they make the conference finals a +650 future ticket gives you good hedge equity. I would expect Philadelphia and Boston to both make attempts to strengthen their rosters.

2021 NBA Futures Movement

The Indiana Pacers moved on from shooting guard Victor Oladipo as part of yesterday's deal, swapping him for fellow swingman Caris LeVert. The Pacers have looked strong to start the season and I think they can compete with the Bucks for the Central Division crown. Currently, Indiana is +700 at DK Sportsbook to win the Central which presents a very solid value.

Kevin Durant is now sitting at +800 to win the NBA MVP. He is going to have to carry the Nets while they get the pieces worked out.

Unrelated to the Harden trade, other NBA futures movement includes Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball at -200 to win the Rookie of the Year. I wouldn't jump on this play yet considering the number will bounce around all season. For now, the play I like best is Kings guardTyrese Haliburton at +350 to win the award. While likely being overlooked, I think he's been the best looking rookie so far this season.