The Philadelphia 76ers are atop the Eastern Conference. It’s long overdue for Sixers fans, and surprising to many of the Sixers haters. Even as they occupy the top spot in the East, much of the chatter in the Conference this year is still centered around the Nets, Bucks, and the Celtics.
Even with the Sixers holding the top spot, the country still seems convinced the Nets will ultimately come out of the East. Currently, PlaySugarHouse and BetRivers all have both the Nets and Bucks as the two clear frontrunners to win the Eastern Conference title.
Both sites have the Sixers +550 to win the East.
How did the 76ers get here?
From a gameplay perspective, the Sixers appear to be much more consistent and potent this season. They moved on from both Brett Brown at Head Coach and Elton Brand at GM. The Sixers brought in Daryl Morey, the architect of the Houston Rockets, to be the GM and Doc Rivers at Head Coach.
Statistically, there’s not much difference between this year’s team and last year’s team. The big difference we’re seeing is the final score of these games. 18-8 is a great start, but the Sixers have been good when it matters, in close games. The Sixers are 10-2 in games decided by nine or fewer points. The Sixers are a combined 5-0 against Boston, Miami, and the Lakers.
The big difference so far this season has been the health of both Simmons and Embiid. Both have been healthy, Embiid and Tobias Harris have been great. Embiid is currently second in the MVP race, while Harris might be having the best season of his career.
Tyrese Maxey has been surprisingly decent for a 20-year old, announcing his big arrival with 39 points in a spot start against Denver on January 9th. Ben Simmons has steadily increased his free throw percentage each season, but he’s still not a viable shooting option outside the paint.
It may seem incredible, but Simmons’ shooting attempts have actually dropped each year since his rookie year. He’s currently averaging 9.8 attempts per game. Maybe, the reality is that Simmons just isn’t ever going to be a strong offensive player.
Reality or not, the Sixers need to keep up their winning ways if they want to make the kind of playoff run fans have been expecting since their series loss to the Raptors a few years ago.
Are the Sixers a good bet for the East title?
The BetRivers Online Sportsbook currently gives the 76ers odds of +550 to win the division. Is this a good bet?
Just as they were in the early part of last season, the Sixers are again third-favorites to win the East. Unlike last year, there appears to be no clear and obvious team to dominate the East. Most have suggested the Nets are that team, but their defense is so incredibly awful, it would be hard for anyone to believe they can reverse that in the postseason.
Many of the Nets’ believers will say they will be able to step their defense up in the playoffs. Though we have seen both Kyrie and Lebron do that before, they’re both a few years older now than they were when they played great playoff defense the last time.
I expect the Nets will be able to step up their defense in the playoffs to some degree, but I also expect the Sixers will pose a strong contrasting style to the Nets in a potential playoff matchup. The Sixers have length and size at most positions, which could give them a number of advantages in the paint in their series.
At +550 to win the East, I think it’s a bet worth considering. The health of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be critical for a continuation of chemistry. With Daryl Morey at the helm in the front office, anything could happen at the trade deadline to put the Sixers in a more favorable roster situation to make a run.
Morey has made some big moves in the past. Don’t rule out the Sixers just yet, because this roster likely won’t be the same by the end of the season.