- James Harden is in line for his Brooklyn Nets debut on Saturday
- Brooklyn matches up with the injury-hit Orlando Magic
- Get the latest odds, betting preview and a pick below
The Brooklyn Nets meet the Orlando Magic on January 16th, 2021. James Harden is expected to play his first game in a Brooklyn uniform after this week’s blockbuster trade which saw the Nets relinquish control of their draft picks for the next seven years. Harden got the trade he wanted – he is reunited with Kevin Durant and on a team with legitimate title ambitions.
The Nets are nine-point favorites for Saturday’s game, but still without Kyrie Irving, who is quarantining following his unexplained absence from the team. Harden is listed as questionable on the injury report as the trade is pending – should it go through in time, head coach Steve Nash said Harden will start.
Magic vs Nets Odds
|Orlando Magic||+9 (-110)||+350||N/A|
|Brooklyn Nets||-9 (-110)||-450||N/A|
Odds taken on Jan 16 from FanDuel
The availability of Harden is obviously a game-altering factor. Even beyond the former MVP, though, there’s a lot of uncertainty with these Nets. Four players who were due for over 25 minutes per game at the start of the season are not playing this one (Spencer Dinwiddie is injured, Kyrie Irving is quarantining and Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen were traded). Taurean Prince was also dealt.
Brooklyn beat the Knicks on Wednesday. Bruce Brown and Jeff Green started and played over 30 minutes. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Chris Chiozza are going to be rotation stalwarts in the medium-term. DeAndre Jordan is the only recognized center available. James Harden and Kevin Durant playing together is enough to make the Nets heavy favorites over Orlando, but it is no guarantee of a heavy victory with the turnover of role players.
James Harden is listed as questionable (trade pending) on the Nets injury report for Saturday’s game against the Magic.
Steve Nash said earlier today that as soon as he is available, Harden will start for the Nets.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) January 15, 2021
Such change to the roster makes the Nets a difficult team to predict. Their 7-6 record or +5.5 net rating doesn’t tell us anything about this group. Harden’s disengaged performances with Houston are unlikely to carry over to Brooklyn, though even his production isn’t easy to project given his poor conditioning at this stage. The former MVP averaged 17.4 points per game over his last five with the Rockets and shot 28-for-74 from the field.
Orlando was one of the last unbeaten teams in the NBA. That came crumbling down with a heavy loss to the Sixers to end 2020. The loss started a 2-6 run, a period which has seen Markelle Fultz ruled out for the season with a knee injury. Evan Fournier, Chuma Okeke, Mo Bamba, Al-Farouq Aminu and Michael Carter-Williams are out for this game, joining out-for-the-season Jonathan Isaac.
It’s also the second night of a back-to-back for Steve Clifford’s team. They were thumped by the Boston Celtics on Friday – the silver lining of such a heavy loss was that no starter played more than 28 minutes and Nikola Vucevic sat for the entire fourth quarter.
Vucevic is the center of the offense. He’s averaging a career-high in shot attempts (17.7) and prior to the blowout against Boston, he got up 48 shots in two games against the Mavericks and Bucks. With no Fultz or Fournier, Vucevic is shouldering an even greater burden, and the Nets are a good opponent for him to flourish against given their weakness at the five spot.
Orlando To Cover
Backing the Magic to cover might seem reckless after four losses in a row. They are 2-5 ATS as underdogs, too. Their defense is ranked 22nd in the NBA. Combine those factors with the possibility of facing Durant and Harden, and being on the second night of a back-to-back and another blowout seems probable.
AARON GORDON POSTER ON GIANNIS pic.twitter.com/WBCESMj7Ns
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 12, 2021
Friday’s game wasn’t the most strenuous for Orlando’s key players, though. Brooklyn’s interior defense is going to be flimsy – Aaron Gordon is going to be able to attack the rim and DeAndre Jordan is going to struggle guarding Vucevic.
Nine points is enough to make the Magic a good bet here. Brooklyn are weakened too, and Harden is a long way from the level he needs to be to put up big numbers.
Pick: Orlando Magic +9 (-110)