The Sixers have 9,999-1 odds to win the NBA championship this season, according to Las Vegas' Sportsbook. In other words, if I were to bet $10 on the Sixers winning the title, I would be $99,990 richer.
To put things in perspective: Monta Ellis is over 66 times more likely to win the MVP award this season than the Sixers are to win it all (150/1).
This is more than indicative of low expectations. This blows the concept of expectations out of the water. There are no expectations, which is largely the reason why Sixers fans spent this past summer watching Andrew Wiggins highlight reels on YouTube rather than paying attention to the actual team itself.
I was, and still am, a large proponent of the Sixers' tanking strategy. It's undoubtedly the quickest and most efficient path they could find to NBA contention, as the 2014 NBA Draft Class assures us.
But the most damning reason why most people have supported #RigginForWiggins, #DubiousForJulius, #SorryForJabari or #RestEmForExum is because any one of these highly talented players with superstar potential is a consolation for how bad the Sixers will be this year. That's exactly the purpose of tanking: Put a horrible team on the floor and be rewarded with a potential future building block through the draft.
But if the Sixers were to be good, wouldn't the purpose of the team's tanking strategy become moot?
The team has already cleared out all long-term cap-killers and have, essentially, infinite cap space. They have worthless salary fillers that can be used for trades like Kwame Brown, and with the exception of Jason Richardson, (who may or may not be alive), players on short-term and reasonable contracts. There are five players and about $17.4 million guaranteed on the books for next year, which is about $40 million under the cap.
The front office over the past couple years has gradually relieved the roster of overpaid veterans (see: Elton Brand) and other useless veterans with nothing to offer but a back rub to Doug Collins (see: Ivey, Wilkins).
After a summer-long coaching search, they've netted a coach from the most respected NBA coaching tree of the past decade or two. A coach that landed clearly has, at the very least, potential, if not the ability to be a fantastic NBA coach. One who can take the inexperienced scraps he's been given and turn it into something not only exciting, but poised and threatening.
Their new, young, brilliant and lauded GM drafted a point guard who's turnover-prone and can't shoot, yet hasn't hesitated to take threes when given the opportunity and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost 4 through his first three games of his career.
The bench is an assortment of young high-energy and "upsidey" players looking to prove their worth in the NBA.
Isn't this what we wanted all along? Yes. Does winning make everything worse? Not necessarily.
If the Sixers exceed expectations and win more games than expected, then what happens?
Their current veterans tout boosted trade value; Their young point guard turns out to be much better than widely expected; Their coach gains valuable head coaching experience in the NBA during a season with no expectations; they head into the summer with two likely lottery picks and infinite cap space.
That is the worst case scenario. Not too shabby.
This is likely just a huge overreaction to a fluky win streak, though. This success is absolutely unsustainable for a team with this level of talent.
Spencer Hawes has had hot starts before. Through the first six games last season he averaged fifteen and eleven, including five double-doubles, before he plummeted back to his typical mediocre production.
It's no secret that Doug Collins' "system" - deprived of substantive plays yet comprised of dribble-handoffs and pick-and-pops for 20 foot jumpers - held Evan Turner back. But he's most certainly not a 23 points per game guy sporting an efficiency rating of over 22.5. That's just not practical or retainable for a player who, yes, still dribbles to the middle part of his chest moving around aimlessly and makes dumb decisions with the ball.
No team has exceeded a pace of 100 possessions per game since the '09 Warriors. This Sixers team - no matter how well they've played defensively and in the half-court offense - can not sustain a pace of 103. Their current pace is five possessions higher than last year's league-fastest, high-maintenance run-all-over-you Rockets.
Hot streaks happen. They're a part of sports. They come to an end.
After all, a .300 team will have a 3-game winning streak 89% of the time, per ESPN's Dean Oliver.
But, let's say we're all wrong, and this is a 30 win team (somehow)? Don't sweat it. Having, say, the 8th and the 12th pick in a loaded draft is not the end of the world, especially if you think you have a franchise point guard in place and a franchise forward/center coming into the equation next season.
You don't need to root for them lose night in and night out, that's incredibly draining and uninteresting. So enjoy it. Forget the expectations, they don't exist. A loss is more ping balls and a win is encouraging on all cylinders.
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