January has been one of the best months in recent memory for the surging Philadelphia 76ers. With the help of one Joel Hans Embiid, the Sixers are 7-3 in the new year, hold the league’s best defensive rating of 98.2, and are just 5.5 games back of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The national media is starting to take notice of the team’s exciting run, and (for the most part), have rewarded the Sixers with a substantial jump in their weekly power rankings.
Both CBSSports’ Matt Moore and ESPN’s Marc Stein have Philadelphia in the top half of the league, slotting them in at 15.
There's clearly an element of good fortune that factors into Philly's 8-2 surge. You don't go 4-0 in games decided by three points or fewer, after winning just four of your previous 21 one-possession games dating to the start of the 2014-15 campaign, without a lucky bounce or two. But let's be clear here: Philly is doing plenty of interesting things. Ersan Ilyasova and Robert Covington have combined to drain 51 3s over the past 10 games. The Sixers, as a team, have moved into the league's top 10 in defensive efficiency. And Joel Embiid, of course, continues to make the most of his floor time. Just check out that Portland box score. The Sixers are 2-10 when Embiid sits but a very passable 13-17 when he plays.
Break up the Sixers! They just keep rattling off wins behind Joel Embiid, who might as well pick up Rookie of the Year at All-Star Weekend.
The Sixers were the biggest movers in NBA.com’s John Schuhmann power rankings, jumping six spots up to 19th. USA Today seemed to be the only outlet that was somewhat unkind to America’s favorite new basketball team, bumping them up just two spots to 25th.
For a team that has spent the recent years in the NBA’s cellar, it’s very cool for the Sixers to finally get some national attention for positive things. They’re playing a fun, exciting brand of basketball, and it’s really starting to turn some heads.