NBA Futures Update: How The Rockets–Thunder Trade Impacts NBA Finals Betting Odds

The first week of NBA free agency shook the landscape of the NBA and NBA futures markets after Kawhi Leonard joined the Los Angeles Clippers along with Paul George, who was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The moves stunned pundits and spectators, while oddsmakers worked to quickly adjust their NBA futures odds at online sports betting sites. (Also read: NBA Futures: How a Wild Week Rocked the Basketball Betting Board)

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That alone established the 2019 NBA offseason as historic, but the Thunder weren’t finished. Shortly after dealing George to the Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and two future first-round draft picks, Sam Presti, the Thunder GM who drafted Russell Westbrook and James Harden a decade ago, traded Westbrook — the last pillar of Oklahoma City’s 2012 NBA Finals squad — to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and two future first-round picks.

Just as they did five days prior, oddsmakers returned to their offices to adjust NBA futures prices, limiting their sportsbooks’ liability following the news. Like Leonard and George pairing up in L.A., Harden and Westbrook reuniting in Houston impacted NBA betting odds to win the 2019-20 NBA Finals.

NBA Futures Impact — 2019-20 NBA Finals

Houston Rockets +1000 (use our PointsBet promo code to get these odds)

The Houston Rockets stand to benefit the most from the trade in the short term, well, at least that’s what Rockets GM Daryl Morey hopes. It’s still a question whether Westbrook is truly an upgrade from Paul, who is arguably one of the top 5 point guards of all time. Aside from Paul’s age (the veteran point guard turned 34 in May), the primary catalyst for the trade stemmed from issues between 2019 MVP James Harden and Paul.

Many are skeptical that the Harden-Westbrook experiment will work. It’s true; the two are long-time friends. They’ve known each other since they were 10 years old. They were seen in Vegas together earlier this summer. And there was no problem between the two when they were teammates in Oklahoma City. But that was when Harden was Sixth Man of the Year, not an MVP winner coming off back-to-back scoring titles. Who will be the dominant ball-handler this time around?

In 2016-17, Westbrook posted the highest usage rate (41.7 percent) in NBA history. The following year, Harden posted the second-highest recorded usage rate (40.5 percent) in NBA history. As The Ringer’s Zach Kram points out, Westbrook’s career-usage ranks behind only Michael Jordan, and Harden’s usage is higher than Westbook’s if you count only his time in Houston. It’s a good thing the pair have been friends for almost 20 years. That’s what it might take to figure this thing out.

On the flip side, Kevin Durant won the MVP alongside Westbrook, while George just completed one of the best (if not the best) seasons of his career, finishing third in the MV — actually, more on MVPs next week.

Regardless, oddsmakers have taken their stance. In response to the trade, William Hill adjusted the Rockets’ NBA futures odds to win the 2019-20 Finals from +1200 to +850. And if you believe in the Rockets’ new look, you can back them as high as +1000 at PointsBet.

Oklahoma City Thunder +50000 (use the William Hill promo code to get these odds)

The Thunder may have acquired one of the best point guards in NBA history, but oddsmakers see the writing on the wall. William Hill moved Oklahoma City’s odds to win the NBA Finals from +10000 to +50000. Odds adjusted very little for other Western Conference teams.

The Thunder might have more moves to make as they ask their fanbase — fans that, at one time, watched Kevin Durant, Westbook and Harden wear their city’s jersey — to trust the process. Off-loading Paul, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are all possibilities.

Where could Paul end up and how will it effect the market?

To no one’s surprise, Paul wants out of the situation in Oklahoma City. Lucky for him, the Thunder, who clearly have no interest in winning in the short term, would benefit from trading Paul’s expensive contract for assets. Among teams being explored as the next destination for Paul, the Miami Heat seem most likely. But as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Monday, Oklahoma City isn’t desperate to trade Paul and they’re slow-playing the trade market to ensure they can get the most from a deal.

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If a deal is made, Paul would join Jimmy Butler in South Beach, and consequently, the Heat would move up the NBA futures betting board. Currently, Miami can be found as high as +7500 to win the NBA Finals, which isn’t bad relative to +5000 at other sportsbooks. But don’t bother with that. If you want to make a play based on the prospect of Paul joining forces with Butler, consider backing NBA futures odds for Miami +2700 to win the Eastern Conference (use our FanDuel Sportsbook promo code to get these odds). The Heat are as low as +1400 to win the conference at some shops.

Winning a conference championship would still be an uphill battle considering the two teams at the top of the East: Milwaukee +163 and Philadelphia +250 (use BetStars promo code to get these odds).

Paul’s contract isn’t great for front offices to take on, which is why there’s hardly a market for Paul outside of Miami.

With that said, the Los Angeles Lakers, who are already +300 favorites to win the NBA Finals at William Hill, are a dark horse candidate to acquire Paul. The Lakers sit behind only the Clippers at DraftKings, FanDuel and BetStars. Surprisingly, you can back the Lakers +500 at PointsBet, where they are behind the Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks. There’s value in that price tag today, and especially so if the Lakers can somehow snag Paul. Don’t count on the latter, though.

The Lakers traded for Paul in a three-team trade between the Rockets and Hornets in 2011 before being rejected by the NBA Commisioner’s Office. Paul wearing purple and gold is still highly unlikely, as it would take a buy-out to do so.

For more general NBA betting picks strategy and past NBA betting articles, please refer to our NBA basketball getting tips guide.

(Top Photo Credit: Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

About the Author

  • Matt Schmitto (schmitto)

  • Matt Schmitto is a staff writer for RotoGrinders Sports Betting. He grew up in Texas, graduating from Texas Tech University. He has played high stakes DFS since 2013, and enjoys betting on golf, basketball and football – and whatever else is put in front of him. Schmitto is an advocate of The Bettor’s Oath.