Distrust the Process: Don’t Be Fooled by 76ers’ Short Odds

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons
The Sixers have been given surprisingly short odds thanks to the emergence of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License]
  • The 76ers have the fifth shortest odds to win the NBA championship. Can they win their first title since 1983?
  • Can the Sixers leapfrog the Heat in the first round of the playoffs?
  • Should bettors be concerned with Philadelphia’s lack of playoff experience?

Do you trust the process? Vegas certainly does. Numerous sportsbooks have given the Philadelphia 76ers the fifth shortest odds to win the 2018 NBA championship behind only Golden State, Houston, Cleveland, and Toronto.

Team Average Odds
Golden State Warriors +120
Houston Rockets +160
Cleveland Cavaliers +680
Toronto Raptors +850
Philadelphia 76ers +1,700

Philadelphia’s short odds are largely a reflection of the recent 16-game winning streak as well as their favorable playoff seeding. By virtue of finishing third in the Eastern conference, Philly will be able to avoid playing either Cleveland or Toronto until the conference finals. That’s a big bullet to dodge, and it clears the way for a far less daunting second round series against the injury-depleted Celtics or the wildly inconsistent Bucks.

The Sixers have a lot working in their favor, but there are four reasons why bettors should be leery of their odds.

1. The Sixers’ Win Streak is Overinflated

Philly’s historic 16-game winning streak was certainly impressive, but it’s worth taking a closer look at the numbers. 13 of those games were against non-playoff teams that were actively tanking and had zero incentive to win. The line-ups the Sixers faced during their streak were littered with G League call-ups and guys who aren’t even household names in their own households.

The line-ups the Sixers faced during their streak were littered with G League call-ups and guys who aren’t even household names in their own households.

Philadelphia’s three wins against playoff-bound opponents should also be marked with an asterisk. Minnesota was without Jimmy Butler in Philly’s 120-108 victory on March 24th, and Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe played a combined 33 minutes in their final victory of the year on April 11th.

The one team they played at full strength was the Cavaliers, but the Sixers nearly blew a 30-point lead in that match-up and managed to win by just one basket. It was a memorable win for a young team, but it exposed plenty of flaws.

2. Joel Embiid is MIA

Philadelphia has confirmed Joel Embiid will not be ready for game one against the Heat after fracturing the orbital bone of his left eye in a collision with Markelle Fultz. The team has yet to establish a timetable for his return, which is significant, since he’s so critical to their success.

The Sixers have outscored opponents by 11.6 points per 100 possessions when the self-proclaimed Phantom of the Process is on the court, and have been thoroughly outplayed against quality opponents when he sits.

Embiid’s absence could be especially costly against the Heat, who will be able to play through Hassan Whiteside with impunity. The 7’0” center had one of his best games of the season against Philadelphia on March 8th when he went off for 26 points, eight boards, and two blocks in just 29 minutes.

3. Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz Still Can’t Shoot

Ben Simmons is unquestionably the Rookie of the Year and Fultz has been a pleasant surprise over the past two weeks, but neither player can hit the broadside of a barn.

The two rookies have taken a combined 12 three-pointers this season and have less range than a $5 cell phone.

The two rookies have taken a combined 12 three-pointers this season and have less range than a $5 cell phone. Their poor marksmanship will be a major issue in the playoffs when teams pack the lane and dare them to shoot.

4. The Sixers are Shy on Playoff Experience

Simmons, Embiid, Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and T.J. McConnell, have never been to the postseason. By contrast, LeBron James has been to the playoffs 12 times and has logged 9,127 minutes during those appearances. Even Kyle Korver has played 2,717 minutes in May and June.

It seems cliché to suggest the playoffs are different than the regular season, but they really are. The game slows down, the defense tightens up, and every single possession matters. That’s particularly problematic for Philly since they led the league in turnovers in 2017-18 at 16.5 per game.

Distrust the Process

The Sixers are talented enough to defeat the Heat and may squeak past the Celtics or Bucks in the second round, but they aren’t on par yet with the Cavs or Raptors. Both teams have far more playoff experience and can counter Philadelphia’s many strengths.  Enjoy watching Philly’s foray into the postseason, but eye their +1700 odds with a healthy dose of skepticism.