On Wednesday night the NBA exploded and it’s time to take advantage of the madness in the futures market! A highly disgruntled James Harden was finally traded, creating a new “Big Three” in Brooklyn. Here are the full details of the four-team trade:
Brooklyn Nets receive: James Harden
Indiana Pacers receive: Caris LeVert & 2023 2nd round pick (via Houston)
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince
Houston Rockets receive: Victor Oladpio, Rodions Kurucs, Dante Exum, Nets 1st round pick (2022, 2024, 2026), 1st round pick swap w/ Nets (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027), Milwaukee 2022 1st round pick (via Cleveland)
This trade is a lot to unpack and that is an understatement. Let’s start with the Pacers and Cavs:
The Pacers made a great move to pick up Caris LeVert. Victor Oladipo never reached his ceiling in Indiana and that’s largely due to injury. LeVert provides an immediate upgrade to an Indiana backcourt that is in need of shot-creators. When playing his best, Caris LeVert provides the Pacers with a similar presence to TJ Warren, albeit with more 3-point range. When Jeremy Lamb and Warren return this will be a deep Pacers team that can perhaps win a playoff series in 2021. Unfortunately, I don’t think this trade really moves the needle for the Pacers in terms of the futures market. This is a well put together team that still lacks the star-power to achieve more than a four seed in the East.
For the Cavaliers, they continue to add to their stockpile of young talent as they work out their rotation of the future. The Nets and Rockets needed a place for a salary dump and the Cleveland Cavaliers answered the call. The Cavs front-court is certainly packed between Larry Nance Jr., Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, and Jarrett Allen. However, this might be a temporary problem as the Cavs didn’t have to give up many of their assets to make a significant improvement. Andre Drummond and Kevin Love are premier trade candidates, with Drummond being the easier one to move. It’s quite possible that Kevin Love has played his last game as a Cavalier, as he’s currently sidelined with a “calf strain.” It’s likely that the Cavs will find a way to rid themselves of both him and Drummond by the start of next season, leaving Allen wide open to become the league’s premier rim protector (see performance vs. Rudy Gobert.) Again, this trade doesn’t warrant immediate action on the Cavs, but they are a prime candidate to make some noise in 2022.
Call me crazy but the Rockets improved their team with this move. James Harden clearly didn’t want to be there and his on-court effort showed. Christian Wood has the potential to be a top-ten big-man in the NBA and was one of my favorite signings of the offseason. The Rockets 3&D style of basketball lives on without Mike D’Antoni and James Harden. When healthy, John Wall is one of the most capable pick and roll or drive and kick point guards in the league. PJ Tucker, Danuel House, and David Nwaba are pesky, tough-nosed defenders, all capable of knocking down triples. Oladipo should fit in nicely with this team that has the potentital to have elite perimeter defense and ball movement. The Rockets aren’t destined for the Western Conference Championship, but they do have the core that can make a playoff appearance or further should they find their star in 2022.
Alright folks, now on to the meat and potatoes:
Brooklyn Nets +125 (odds to win Eastern Conference)
Let me first say: NO THANK YOU! This is way too short of a shot on a Nets team that we haven’t, and may require months to mesh. Kyrie Irving is a problem for this Nets team. If you’ve listened to The Noise Podcast, I’ve went to great lengths to describe how the Nets could have paired KD with literally anyone else…including James Harden. Chemistry, ball movement, and lack of leadership are all obvious problems that the Nets can incur over the next few months. The Nets moved a ton of their depth and most of their defense away. Brooklyn has actually been one of the better defensive units in the NBA, but Allen, Prince, and LeVert represent three of their top five defensive players in terms of DWS (defensive win shares). One of the five is also DeAndre Jordan. Anyone who’s followed DeAndre Jordan’s career knows he is not an elite rim protector and should no longer be considered an NBA-caliber starter. To win in the playoffs the Nets will need to protect the rim. I’m not convinced that DJ and Uncle Jeff (Green) will be able to take on that responsibility. That being said, this article doesn’t mean to say there is no way that the Nets can make the Eastern Conference Finals. But at a price of +125, it just makes little sense to tie up your capital in a bet like that. We won’t be talking about them as a -200 favorite in those finals, should they make it there.
Milwaukee Bucks +350 (odds to win Eastern Conference)
Enough about bets you shouldn’t make, let’s move on to some you should. I understand that Milwaukee has not looked as dominant in 2021 as they have in years passed. We also know that playoff basketball is a different animal than the regular season and Giannis’ Bucks have been stifled before. That being said, when I look at this Bucks roster, I see improvement in 2021. (Bogdan Bogdanovic would have been perfect but that’s neither here nor there) Jrue Holiday is a legitimate leader on and off the court and is still playing high level basketball in his 11th season. Donte DiVincenzo has blossomed into a quality NBA starter, while Khris Middleton and Pat Cannaughton are among the league leaders in 3pt%. Don’t be surprised to see the Bucks add depth at the trade deadline and make another run towards an NBA Championship.
Boston Celtics +700 (odds to win Eastern Conference)
Does the loss of Gordon Hayward really mean it’s time to write off the Celtics? This is a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals with essentially the same roster in 2019-20. However, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have BOTH raised their games with the added touches with the departure of Hayward. Tatum is slowing becoming a better passer and has improved his three-point accuracy. Kaylen Brown has taken his scoring ability to a new level and remains one of the premier high-motor and high-IQ players in the league. Jeff Teague has yet to play up to his ability but I don’t think the Celtics made a mistake in signing him. When Kemba Walker returns to the lineup, Teague will take the traditional PG role, to allow Kemba to score as a combo-guard, the role he plays best in the NBA. Tristan Thompson is another great signing to combat the Celtic’s biggest flaw: rebounding. However, Thompson is someone the Celtics can actually keep on the floor in late game situations (if they’re not going with Theis.) While Thompson doesn’t have the interior scoring chops that Enes Kanter does, he fits this roster much better. Coming off the COVID shutdown, the Celtics might have to shake off some rust, but I make them a perfect buy-low candidate.
I am currently holding a Nets season win total UNDER 45.5 ticket and a Rockets season win total OVER 35 ticket from the pre-season. I like both these plays even more after this deal.