John Wall (2) walks off the after a basketball game against the Miami Heat, Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in Washington. The Wizards won 117-113. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
- The Houston Rockets’ odds to win both the NBA and Western Conference championships took a big hit Wednesday following the trade of James Harden
- Harden won three NBA scoring titles with Houston and has been selected to seven All-Star Games
- Can the Rockets have any success led by John Wall, Victor Oladipo and DeMarcus Cousins?
James Harden is gone and, in the eyes of the oddsmakers, so are the chances of the Houston Rockets winning the NBA championship or even the Western Conference title this season.
The Rockets traded the eight-time All-Star guard and three-time league scoring champion to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday as part of a four-team trade that included the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The main player coming back to the Rockets is former Pacers guard Victor Oladipo.
Harden’s subtraction has greatly reduced Houston’s odds to win its first NBA title since 1995, which were +5250 before the trade.
Rockets 2021 Championship & Western Conference Odds
|Team||NBA Championship Odds||Western Conference Odds|
Odds taken Jan. 13 from FanDuel
Coaching Change Signals End
Harden seemed to say his goodbyes to Houston on Tuesday night when meeting with the media via teleconference following the Rockets’ 117-100 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers.
“I love this city. I’ve literally done everything I can. This situation is crazy. It’s something I don’t think can be fixed. Thanks.”
—James Harden on the Rockets pic.twitter.com/LcPLn09TgE
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2021
While he had not spoken publicly on the subject, it was a poorly kept secret that Harden was unhappy about the Rockets not bringing back Mike D’Antoni as coach this season.
Harden reported a day late to training camp. He was also fined $50,000 early in the season for conduct detrimental to the league related to him not following the health and safety protocols put into place by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association in dealing with the pandemic.
Harden thrived in D’Antoni’s freewheeling system. Harden averaged 32.4 points over D’Antoni’s four seasons from 2016-20, including leading the NBA in scoring three straight seasons from 2017-20 with averages of 30.4, 36.1 and 34.3.
Scoring champ @JHarden13 !!! #Houston #Justsayingg!! 🤘🏽 #StickyPromo #StickySavageAF #SetTONIGHT @sethouston pic.twitter.com/g2XgK1Pu8s
— IG @stickypromo (@stickypromo) April 12, 2018
With Stephen Silas taking over as coach, Harden’s scoring average dipped to 24.8 in eight games this season.
Harden averaged 37.0 in his first three games, but that figure dipped to 17.4 in his last five contests after missing a game with an ankle injury.
Less than 24 hours following a lackluster 16-point performance, Harden got his wish and was traded.
The New-Look Rockets
Trading Harden continues the Rockets makeover under new general manager Rafael Stone, who replaced Daryl Morey prior to this season. Stone traded the Rockets’ other superstar guard, Russell Westbrook, to the Washington Wizards in December.
Stone is getting early high marks from the experts, especially with the draft pick haul he got in Wednesday’s trade.
Houston GM’s Rafael Stone’s return of picks — including four unprotected first and four unprotected pick swaps — is one of the strongest draft packages in league history. Oladipo’s on an expiring contract and Rockets can make a decision on moving forward with him.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 13, 2021
The Rockets are now built primarily around the trio of Wall, Oladipo and center DeMarcus Cousins, who was signed as a free agent in November.
So far, the new-look Rockets are 3-6 and have lost four of their last five games. They are 20th in the NBA in offensive rating and 21st in defensive rating.
Wall has been solid so far after missing all last season while recovering from surgeries on his left foot and Achilles tendon. He is averaging 18.6 points and 5.1 assists a game, which are below his career figures of 19.0 and 9.2
JOHN WALL finished with a team-high 28 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK
2nd 28-point game in 3 games pic.twitter.com/gQfjuR4xDs
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 7, 2021
While he cannot be expected to score at a Harden-type level, Oladipo can put the ball in the basket. The two-time All-Star has scored at a 17.4 PPG clip in his eight seasons and his average was a career-high 20 points through his first nine games with the Pacers this season.
The mercurial Cousins is a wild card with outstanding talent and, at times, a questionable attitude. Like Wall, he sat out all last season because of a torn ACL in his left knee. In seven games with the Rockets, Cousins is scoring 6.9 points and pulling down 6.1 rebounds a game.
Cousins doesn’t sound too disappointed with Harden being dealt.
“I don’t feel betrayed at all. My interest was with playing with John Wall, to be brutally honest.”
DeMarcus Cousins on if he feels betrayed by James Harden. pic.twitter.com/yRlyOFw0In
— ESPN (@espn) January 13, 2021
Yet another newcomer, forward Christian Wood, is off to a strong start after being acquired in offseason trade with the Detroit Pistons. Wood supplants Harden as Houston’s top scorer with his 22.3 average and is also its top rebounder at 9.5 a game.
Do Rockets Provide Betting Value?
The Rockets will certainly be a different team without Harden.
On the positive side, the locker room is likely to be more harmonious with the subtractions of an unhappy player. On the negative side, it is hard to replace one of the best players in the NBA and the Rockets had not built a powerhouse roster around Harden this season.
There was not a whole lot of value betting on the Rockets to win a championship with Harden and there is even less now that they are without him.
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.