Nets have second best odds to win 2021 NBA Championship after acquiring Harden
What a difference a day can make.
When the Brooklyn Nets work up on Wednesday, Jan. 13, the team was just 6-6 and was still reeling from sobering back-to-back defeats to the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now, less than 24 hours later, they’re the toast of the NBA after acquiring eight-time All-Star James Harden in a mega four-team deal.
The blockbuster trade caused a seismic shift in futures, with the Nets’ odds of winning the 2021 NBA Championship improving from +500 to +300 in the blink of an eye.
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Harden is an offensive innovator
Although Harden’s fitness and focus were both questionable to begin the season, there’s no questioning his talent. The Beard is a seven-time All-NBA selection, a three-time scoring champ, and a former MVP who averaged 33.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 7.9, assists, and 1.9 steals per game from 2017-20. He’s one of the most innovative offensive players of his – or any – generation, and has been blessed with an almost superhuman ability to get to the line at will.
He’ll now reteam with Kevin Durant, whom he played with in Oklahoma City for three seasons from 2009-12. Together, they powered the Thunder to two division titles and an NBA Finals berth in 2012. OKC lost the series in five games to the Miami Heat, and Harden fled to Houston in the offseason.
Will Irving play nice?
The big question mark in the equation, and the reason why the Nets are not yet favored to win the 2021 NBA Championship, is the availability of Kyrie Irving. The mercurial point guard has been absent without leave since Jan. 5, and has missed Brooklyn’s last five games despite being physically able to perform.
There has been speculation that Irving has been AWOL because he was deeply affected by last week’s U.S. Capitol riot, although neither Irving nor the Nets have confirmed those reports.
Stephen A. Smith was asked if Kyrie Irving is worth the drama;— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 13, 2021
“No, he’s not, he’s not worth it at all...I think Kyrie Irving should retire; I think he should announce his retirement today. Clearly, you don’t want to play basketball bad enough.”
(via @FirstTake) pic.twitter.com/QgXWbojPX9
Do the pieces fit?
There’s also the question of chemistry. Harden and Durant certainly paired well in OKC, both that was nearly a decade ago, and both players were at very different stages of their career. Durant was the clear Alpha, while Harden was a supporting player who understood and embraced his role. The Beard’s ball-dominant ethos may not gel so well with Durant this time around.
And don’t even get us started on Irving, who famously forced his way off an NBA Championship team in Cleveland and repeatedly threw his teammates under the bus during his brief stint in Boston. His inability to share the spotlight has arguably cost him multiple titles.
It will be fascinating to see how all three players coexist when – and if – they eventually share the court. For now, at least, Brooklyn’s new “Big 3” is more concept than reality.