The NBA preseason has begun!
Begin the prognostication. Begin the hot takes. Begin the irrational beliefs! (I’m looking at you on that one, Cavaliers fans.)
The Philadelphia 76ers had another tornado of an off-season. It started with the losses of JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler, but it ended with the additions of Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, Raul Neto, and Trey Burke. (That last one is a nod to Trey Burke Loyalist, Kevin Rice.)
I have been known to put some green on some sports-related gambling from time to time. I didn’t put any money on “Fleabag” to win that Emmy, and looking back, that was a grave mistake. (I am not paid by Amazon, but I will say that show is amazing. Watch it, ya’ll. I’m serious.)
There are a few futures bets related to the Sixers that I will be outlining until the start of the NBA season later this month. If you are so moved to go to Parx or Sugar House to place money one way or the other, please note that I am not responsible for what happens after the fact. I’m just stating my argument. (Also, do yourself a favor and go to Parx or Sugar House or whatever sportsbook is closest to you. I’ve never been a fan of online sportsbooks for various reasons.)
Ok. The legal mumbo-jumbo and disclaimers are out. Let’s start with the Sixers over/under number for total wins for the upcoming season which is 53.5 according to Sugar House.
The case for the Sixers going over is simple.
Joel Embiid takes yet another leap, somehow, after his 2018-2019 season where he finished with the following numbers:
- 27.5 PPG (career high)
- 13.6 RPG (career high)
- .484 FG% (career high)
- .194 WS/48 (career high)
- 26.4 PER (career high)
- 5.0 turnovers/100 possessions (career low) – which is extremely important)
Yes, Embiid only played in 64 games last year after 63 the year prior, but that’s where Al Horford comes in. In the new era of load management, Horford should be the perfect plug in when Embiid is given a breather against the Charlotte Hornets and Phoenix Suns of the world.
The Sixers could go way over 53.5, but that would require a few more “ifs” to take place. The yearly debate returns, and we wonder IF this is the year that Ben Simmons finally starts taking shots outside of six feet from the basket. You’ve been reading content from me long enough to know that I’m not in “Ben Simmons needs a jump shot” camp. I don’t believe that. I’ve never believed that. I don’t think I ever will believe that. Giannis Antetoukounmpo won the MVP last year with a rather inconsistent jumper.
Simmons, reportedly, has been working a lot on his jump shot. (Stop me when you’ve heard that, before.) There was a lot of positives to take out of “Grainy Video SZN” over the last few months, and the half-court shot contest video that was tweeted out last week makes me do the Homer Simpson drool. Do I expect Simmons to take his defender off the dribble and pull up from 30-feet like Steph Curry, James Harden, or Damian Lillard? Good god, no. Do I expect, nay hope, that he ATTEMPTS a wide open three pointer? Yes.
If there was ever a season where Simmons needs to try to shoot an open three, it would be this season, right?
Now that the choice has been made between Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, what do the Sixers need from Harris to help get the Sixers over 53.5 wins? For starters, it would be nice for him to shake off his 2018-2019 playoff run. It wasn’t bad for Harris, but it was far less than what was expected: 15.5 PPG, 34.9% from three. During the regular season, he only shot 32.6% from three after the trade from Los Angeles.
Maybe that was a result of the offensive system with an iso/pick-and-roll guy like Butler, but whatever the reason, that number has to be closer to 40% than 30%.
Then, there are a bunch of “ifs” that are bunched together.
- How will Zhaire Smith fare in year two?
- Can Matisse Thybulle contribute immediately in a meaningful way – assuming he doesn’t get hurt during training camp or the pre-season, which we know is very on brand for this team?
- Is Josh Richardson as good as underground Sixers Twitter feels he is? (Our own Tom West did a deep dive on Richardson that has me feeling REALLY GOOD, by the way.)
Those “ifs” can become reality because of one important concept: a full training camp with head coach Brett Brown and assistants Kevin Young, John Bryant, Joseph Blair, and Ime Udoka. Blair and Udoka are newcomers to the staff and come over from the Gregg Popovich tree like Brett Brown. Since there are so many new parts (i.e. Horford, Richardson, Smith, Thybulle, etc.), a full, healthy training camp is paramount.
The Sixers play in the Eastern Conference, and it’s not a bad conference. It’s not as much of a murderer’s row as the Western Conference. That’s the other factor in the Sixers having more than 53.5 wins this season.
There are four teams in the East, right now, that I feel confident stamping and notarizing as “good”: Milwaukee, Boston, Indiana, and the Sixers. Then there is the team that I can write “good” in pen: Brooklyn. (Even without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving – broken face and all – plus the rest of that roster makes them a playoff team.) After that are teams with “good” written in pencil: Toronto (how bad will the dropoff be), Orlando and Detroit (technically playoff teams last year), Atlanta (who I think could be the 8-seed this year), and Miami (because another move is always looming with this team).
What’s left is Charlotte, Chicago, the Knicks, Cleveland, and the Washington ex-Bullets. The Sixers will feast off those five teams and get a lot of wins against that pen and pencil group. Their talent is simply better. If the Sixers at least split with the stamped and notarized group, they’ll hit the over handily.
The case for under 53.5 wins is tricky because it could go one of two ways.
Way number one is the Sixers playing for the post-season. In this scenario, the Sixers play Embiid for a maximum of 60-65 games to save him for the playoffs where he’ll be more important. I can’t say I’m against this because the Golden State Warriors won 73 games in one year, but not the NBA title. You want rings, not regular season win titles. Look at the NHL. No one is proud just getting the President’s Trophy if some wild card team wins the Stanley Cup.
The second way the Sixers win less than 53.5 games is far sadder and more catastrophic. Embiid suffers some kind of serious injury that keeps him out for months instead of weeks or days. Ben Simmons regresses. Harris never comes out of his shooting slump in a Sixers jersey (32.6% in the regular season, last year, remember?). There’s no cohesion with new parts Richardson, Horford, etc. Thybulle and Zhaire Smith are unusable making the bench a GIANT liability.
Ok. I’m going to stop right there before my PTSD really sets in.
At that point, it turns into “fire Brett Brown” all over again, and we have to talk about this for a whole nother off-season. The first case for under 53.5 is more likely because the Sixers want a ring. They have the talent for a ring. They have the coaching staff for a ring. Just get a ring.
Having the 1-seed would be nice, but does anyone really think the Sixers can’t win ONE GAME in Milwaukee with this squad?
That’s the route my heart of hearts tells me this is going, so my educated guess tells me under (but only slightly under). 52 or 53 wins with a 100% healthy Embiid going into the playoffs makes the most sense.
What say you all?
Will the Sixers Regular Season Win Total be Over or Under 53.5?
This poll is closed
Absurdly Over (60+)
Comfortably Over (57-60)
Just Over (54-57)
Just Under (50-53)
Kinda Sadly Under (45-50)
Tragically Under (<44) .. (Stop hating on our page, Boston fans!)