Despite the indefinite absence of COVID contrarian Kyrie Irving, every major online sportsbook in America still has the Brooklyn Nets, currently sporting a record of 14-6, favored to win the franchise’s first NBA title. (The SuperBook is alone in installing the Golden State Warriors as co-favorites to win it all at odds of 7/2.) Should a Nets title come to fruition, will Kevin Durant, James Harden, and their comrades suddenly become the kings of the Big Apple, or just of their subway-away slice?
“I think that the Nets will always be the Clippers of New York,” WynnBET Senior Trading Manager Alan Berg told NY Online Gambling. “While they will have buzz and excitement, that city will always bleed orange.”
That notion will be put to the test Tuesday night when the 11-9 Knicks visit Barclays Center for the season’s first bing-bong battle between the crosstown rivals, who currently sit atop the Atlantic Division. (The Nets opened as 5.5-point favorites at WynnBET.) But despite such lofty early-season positioning, both squads have experienced enough turbulence to shake up their lineups already, with former all-stars Blake Griffin (Nets) and Kemba Walker (Knicks) not only losing their starting jobs, but being dumped from the rotation entirely.
This has opened the door for LaMarcus Aldridge (Nets) and Alec Burks (Knicks) to fill their veteran teammates’ shoes while not messing with the chemistry of spryer second units. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau told the media Monday that replacing Walker with Burks is all about getting longer on defense, and the fact that neither Burks nor backcourt mate Evan Fournier are true point guards should afford a somewhat stagnant Julius Randle more opportunities to initiate his team’s half-court offense in a quasi-Draymond Green role.
Tom Thibodeau says Kemba Walker will no longer be in the rotation moving forward
"I have great respect for who Kemba is as a person number one and all that he's accomplished in this league, but I have to do what I think is best for the team" pic.twitter.com/ZT3XPzk2bl
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) November 29, 2021
Speaking of stagnant, the same description could be used to describe the Knicks — currently at 35/1 to win the Eastern Conference at WynnBET — after 20 games, which begs the question: How patient will a tortured fan base not known for that particular quality be with Thibodeau & Co., especially after such a high-profile whiff with Walker?
“I can’t speak for Knicks fans, but I would think you have to give Thibs some time,” said Berg. “He just took them to the postseason after missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons. So I can see their odds coming in slightly, especially if we ever get the word that Irving is officially done for the year. But I don’t think they have enough options just yet to make much noise in the Eastern Conference. As their youth develops, they have a lot of potential to grow over the next few seasons.”
Harden a good MVP buy at 30/1?
WynnBET currently has the Nets as 3/1 favorites to win the NBA title, with the Knicks way back in the pack at 75/1, and Berg insists that Brooklyn’s odds don’t anticipate Irving getting vaccinated and rejoining the squad.
“The Nets are still incredibly dangerous with just Durant, Harden, and their supporting cast,” he said. “At this point, we don’t want to move them up that far until we find enough support for other teams to make it worth our while to take some Nets bets at a higher number.”
With Irving out, the Nets have a clear offensive hierarchy with Durant as the primary scoring option and Harden as the team’s main ball handler. Only Steph Curry has shorter odds than Durant (5/1 at WynnBET) to win MVP, while Harden’s 30/1 odds are as fat as his offseason beach bod.
But after a notoriously slow start caused, in part, by a league mandate to not have referees whistle his every flop, Harden has finally nudged his scoring average past 20 points per game while stuffing the rest of the stat sheet. Hence, it could be argued that there’s value at 30/1 — especially if Durant, one of the NBA’s few elite players to compete in this past summer’s Olympic Games, suffers some sort of physical breakdown, leaving Harden to reprise the ball-dominant role he played in Houston.
“The biggest thing for Harden is he has to get his scoring and shooting percentage up for [MVP] to be even be a possibility,” said Berg. “That being said, [Harden’s all-around game] is why he’s not 100/1. He’s more than capable of figuring out how to get to that level again.”
Photo: David Butler II/USA TODAY