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How to approach James Harden injury for Game 5 vs. Bucks [UPDATE]

Nets guard will play in Game 5, so we’re taking a look at the odds, spread and fantasy implications of his potential return.

James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets looks on from the sideline against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game Two of the Second Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center on June 07, 2021 in New York City.  Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets may be getting some reinforcements to help Kevin Durant in Game 5 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night. All-Star guard James Harden, who was injured in Game 1 of the second round, plans on returning to the lineup on Tuesday night barring a setback, per reports. Harden tweaked his hamstring in Game 1, though the Nets went on to win both games at home. Brooklyn has now lost two in a row and Kyrie Irving (ankle) is out for Game 5. Here we’re going to look at the betting lines for Game 5 and the fantasy basketball implications of Harden’s potential return.

Update: Harden has been announced as a starter in Game 5 vs. the Bucks.

Nets vs. Bucks Game 5 odds

The spread for Game 5 has moved a full point since the Harden news broke, going from Nets +4 to +3 with the series 2-2. With Brooklyn back at home, the Nets were getting 35 percent of the spread bets and 45 percent of the ML bets for Game 5. This was of course with the expectation that Harden would be out along with Kyrie. Now, Harden’s potential return is making the public money head in that direction.

You would think if Harden is going to play, he’s not going to be a decoy or see some type of minutes restriction. This decision seems very rushed and it could blow up in the Nets faces in the end. With all the risk, if Harden thinks he can play and be effective in such a crucial game, we have to think he will give a ton of effort with the season in the balance.

If I were approaching the lines tonight, there’s value in the Nets assuming Harden plays. The smart play may be to bet in-game and see how Harden looks early on. There’s a chance the Bucks go up big and Harden re-injures his hamstring. We’ve seen the Nets come back down big in this series, though it was with Kevin Durant and Kyrie healthy. The point total has jumped up to 221. I’d still lean on the under with what we know about Harden and the Nets struggles the past few games. Milwaukee has been much better defensively.

James Harden fantasy basketball impact

Harden ($16,500 CP/$11,000) is going to dictate how ownership goes in the Showdown contest on DraftKings. If he plays, you’ll see some of the ownership come off of KD and some of the role players on Brooklyn. You’re either going to have to take the stance of fading Harden or going all-in on him being the hero in Game 5. My lean would be on the fade because it feels like he’s being rushed back and hamstrings are very tricky. My guess is Harden won’t do much scoring if he makes it through the game and will be more of a facilitator.

There’s some value in guys like Bruce Brown ($6,200), Landry Shamet ($5,600) and Mike James ($4,800). Jeff Green ($4,000) is also an interesting value option for the Nets. The team is going to need all of those guys to step up even with Harden back, assuming he will be held back from his usual production to an extent. James will be popular given he could start at PG for Kyrie. Green really needs to show up and play big minutes on defense to try and slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo.

In GPPs, there’s risk/reward with playing Harden. Enough reward that it would be unwise to fade him entirely. Most of the ownership will be on KD and Giannis. Crafting a lineup that fades one of them and opts for Harden will give you some leverage, but will it pay off? That’s a tough question to answer. In cash games, playing Harden doesn’t seem like a good idea.

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