NBA odds update: Houston, we have a problem
James Harden believes the Houston Rockets are "not good enough" to win an NBA title. Oddsmakers appear to agree.
Houston’s 2021 NBA Championship odds have slipped to a distant +5000 following the Rockets’ lopsided 117-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday evening. Stephen Silas’ squad is now 3-6 and in last place in the Southwest Division.
NBA Championship 2020/2021
Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
Harden vented his frustrations after the defeat. "We're not even close, honestly, to that team -- obviously the defending champions -- and all the other elite teams out there," he told reporters. "I mean, you can tell the difference in these last two games. We're just not good enough -- chemistry, talent-wise, just everything."
Rockets have been misfiring all season
That’s a brutally blunt assessment, but it’s not far from the truth. The Rockets rank 17th in offensive rating after years of owning that metric, and are tied for 15th in points per game at 111.3. Even Harden has been struggling to put the ball in the hoop. The three-time scoring leader is averaging nearly 10 fewer points per game than a year ago and has seen his free-throw attempts plummet. In fact, the only thing that hasn't gone down is his weight.
As bad as the Rockets have been offensively, they’ve been even worse at the other end of the court. Houston ranks 25th or worse in opponent fastbreak points, opponent points in the paint, and opponent second chance points.
Houston's small ball experiment needs to end
Rival big men, in particular, have been setting up shop in the lane with impunity. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic had his best game of the season against the Rockets on Dec. 28 when he posted 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 18 assists in just 34 minutes. Ditto for Lakers pivot Anthony Davis, who averaged 23 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in back-to-back wins on Jan. 10 and 12. It was only a matter of time before the Rockets’ reliance on small ball caught up with them, and that time appears to be now.
Nikola #Jokic was amazing tonight. Serbian 7 footer had 19 points (8-11 FG), 12 rebounds and career high 18 assists for the 43rd triple-double of his career as the Denver Nuggets beat the Rockets 124-111.#Joker #MileHighBasketball #JokicMVP— Daily Nikola Jokic Dose (@JokicDose) December 29, 2020
Between a rock and a Harden place
The next step for the Rockets is an obvious one, but it’s far from easy. General manager Rafael Stone needs to trade Harden and begin a rebuild in earnest. The former MVP has listed Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Miami, Portland, and Milwaukee among his preferred destinations, and Stone is believed to be in advanced discussions with at least six teams on a potential deal.
Should the Rockets give in to James Harden's trade demands?
The Rockets are unlikely to receive a fair exchange in light of Harden’s ardent desire to skip town, but a package including multiple drafts picks and a pair of young stars could help Houston turn the page on what has already become a disastrous season.