Houston Rockets 2021 NBA Win Total Odds & Pick: Does James Harden Stay, or Go?
Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets.
Rockets Win Total Odds
The Case for the Over
Let’s imagine that the Rockets hold firm. They don’t cave to James Harden’s wishes and make him play it out after he made it clear he wants out. (Tilman Fertitta is not a man to be trifled with and he’ll make Harden play out his contract.)
Harden will still want to produce, to compete, to be in the MVP discussion, and hit whatever bonuses are in both his Rockets and shoe contract.
Harden is a 45-win machine. Even in 2016, which was the worst season of his Houston career, he won 41 games. This line is basically asking “does Harden stay with Houston or not?”
I don’t think Harden stays. When a player asks out, that’s usually it. It’s hard to walk that back and keep going. There are very few teams to weather a trade demand and retain the player long-term, even through the season. It also tends to tear teams apart in-season.
However, let’s assume in trade the Rockets get back at least one starter along with picks. They will demand at least one starter no matter how many picks get added.
John Wall, Christian Wood, Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Danuel House, and one more starter with an established system. That’s probably a .500 team. Shooters-around-Wall is a sustainable modern system, even if Wall isn’t the same player he was before.
So either they keep Harden and Harden pulls them over .500 or they trade for pieces and those pieces are still enough to get them there.
The Case for the Under
Harden didn’t show up for the start of individual workouts, but has separate club nights in Atlanta and Las Vegas that were well documented on social media. Since Fertitta took over, the Rockets have lost Daryl Morey, Mike D’Antoni, Robert Covington, Chris Paul, and his replacement, Russell Westbrook.
The well is pretty poisoned at this point.
You don’t get better trading a top-three player like Harden. The return, even if they get a talented young player and picks, is never going to be equal. You’re taking a step back.
Plus, if they don’t trade him, the players know he’s not all the way plugged in. That drains a team. Look at what happened to the Pelicans the year that Anthony Davis asked out, or the Nuggets before Carmelo Anthony was traded.
These disruptions derail entire seasons.
You cannot feel good about this team without knowing what they’ll do with Harden and he’s done nothing to alleviate concerns that he has completely checked out.
There are also some major depth issues. Wood showed absolutely everything in his bag last season. He’s either an unknown name who put up the big numbers that can mark the beginning of a star, or another Hassan Whiteside.
Behind that, the cupboard is not stocked. This is not a team to feel good about without Harden.
Houston Rockets Win Total Bet
You don’t want to tie up your money on a bet for a team without knowing what their roster is going to be when you know there’s an unstable element in play.
Taking the under is perilous; as outlined above the Rockets may be a .500 team after a Harden trade. I have a slight lean to the under, but the situation is too unstable to ascertain value either way.