James Harden would be the best player on maybe 25 of 30 NBA teams. Perhaps that number should be higher.
The Brooklyn Nets have had Harden, unquestionably one of the best players in the world, for 43 seconds against the Milwaukee Bucks. Harden has been out with a hamstring injury since then. It's a Bucks team that was the No. 1 seed in the East two straight seasons, and this year swept a good Miami Heat team in the first round. They aren't bad.
And the Nets have shown over two games against the Bucks why they're going to win a title, and might not even be slowed down on the way there.
Heck, they might not even need Harden to win the title. Think about that for a moment.
Nets are nearly even money to win it all
The Nets are +115 favorites to win the NBA championship at BetMGM. That would normally seem preposterous for any team during the second round of the playoffs.
But the Nets are showing nobody is going to beat them.
The Bucks lost by 8 points in Game 1 (it wasn't that close) and by 39 in Game 2 (which wasn't that close either). In Game 2, somehow, the Nets were 1-point underdogs. That game, against a good Bucks team, should have removed all doubt over who is winning the championship this season.
The Bucks are 4-point favorites in Game 3, and perhaps they take that game with a full Milwaukee crowd for the first time in more than a year. But if you watched the first two games of the series, you know the Bucks aren't going to win four of five to take the series.
The Nets are the best team in the NBA, and that is with or without Harden. Once Harden returns they'll be practically unbeatable. As of Sunday, 40 percent of all money bet on who will win the NBA championship at BetMGM was on the Nets, and that number should keep going higher.
Who can challenge the Nets?
If you disagree with the Nets as such an overwhelming favorite, the next question has to be who is beating them?
The Philadelphia 76ers are going to have trouble with the Atlanta Hawks. In the West, perhaps the Phoenix Suns or Utah Jazz could shoot the lights out four times and pull an upset. But whoever gets the Nets in the NBA Finals — the Nets are -250 to win the East and that doesn't seem unfair — is going to be an enormous underdog. Harden should be back by then, too.
We have seen a Nets team without Harden dismantle the Bucks. You can make a reasonable argument the Bucks are the second-best team left in the playoffs, and it looked like they'd lose by 50 for a while on Tuesday night. At no point in the series have the Bucks looked like they can compete with the Nets.
At this point, a Nets title seems like the only reasonable conclusion to this season. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are great, the Nets have great complimentary pieces like Joe Harris and Blake Griffin. And, again, Harden is presumably going to be back at some point. Not only might the Nets win this title, there's no reason Brooklyn won't win it all next year too. The only thing left is to watch and appreciate the Nets picking apart the rest of the league.
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