It’s the Championship or bust for the 76ers. They went through the pain of trusting “the process,” and they lived through “the shot” that took four bounces before dropping in 2019. In 2021 they were the top seed in the Eastern Conference before a game 7 flameout in round 2. Last year they exorcized some playoff demons by beating the Raptors, but again lost out in the 2nd round.
At the conclusion of the 2001/2022 NBA season, the Sixers had the 13th best odds (+1400) of winning the NBA title. So, a diehard Sixers fan who bet $100 at one of the legal PA sportsbooks – as of 2023 there are 14 of these – could have expected to win $1500.
Judging by their place in the standings, the 76ers living up to these odds. As they are currently the 3rd seed in the east and 5th overall. Let’s take a look at how the second half has gone for the team.
Considering the adversity they’ve faced in the first half of the season, they are playing very well. James Harden came back in December, but they really missed his ball control and 3-point shooting. All world center Joel Embiid has missed 10 games with various ailments and load management as well. They also missed guard Tyrese Maxey for a stint.
Luckily for them, they had strong play from the replacements, especially Tobias Harris. He helped stabilize the offense and stepped up his outside shooting. Since Harden was so strong at that aspect of the game, it allowed the team to play a similar style without much disruption. Now that Harden is back, they form a lethal backcourt combo that’s able to shoot from the outside as well as take it to the basket.
Of course, they are getting their usual All-Star play from Embiid. He is averaging over 33 points a game and 10 rebounds, and is the game’s true force under the basket. He has especially started to pick it up as of late, averaging well over 30 points a game in January. He is making a strong case for MVP.
The Sixers play a high-tempo game on offense, especially with Harden at the helm. They take a lot of three-pointers, with the rest of their shots mostly coming close to the basket from Embiid. When the rim is too well protected, Embiid has been able to make the mid-range shot, which makes this offense particularly hard to defend. They should be able to do the same in the 2nd half.
The Sixers have good defensive results, ranking 4th in the NBA, but there are some question marks there. Strangely, they have played defense the opposite of how they play offense. They give up a lot of three point shots, which is not a good thing. However, their opponents have overall not shot well from three, so it’s worked so far. The league average is 35.7 percent, and the Sixers opponents are averaging 34.7. When they can funnel opposing ball handlers to the rim, they have great success with Embiid anchoring things in the paint. However, when he sits down for a breather, they have no one to defend down low or mid-range, and opponents take advantage. However, with the amount of threes they give up, there is bound to be some regression to the mean, which could spell trouble. For now though, they are making it work.
At the trade deadline, the 76ers could make some tweaks that could improve this team in interesting ways. They are very strong in backcourt, but could use some help up front, especially for when Embiid is off the floor. They have been linked to defensive wiz Jonathan Isaac to backup Embiid. They’re also rumored to be in on John Collins, who is adequate defensively, and does provide some offensive punch.
So, where does that leave the Sixers for the rest of the season? With everyone healthy again, this team is as good as any. The sportsbooks still have them around 7th or 8th in odds to win it all. The line is currently +1600 at most sportsbooks, but expect it to move if the Sixers keep paying well.