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Trust the Prophesy: where are the Simmons-less Sixers headed?

Turning to the wisdom of the LB Crowds to predict the future

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

This “Trust the Prophecy” poll will look to tap into the collective wisdom of the Liberty Ballers community. Wisdom of the crowds is often more powerful than the guess of an individual. One example is the old “guess how many jellybeans are in the jar” contest. It’s been demonstrated that the average of every carnival-goer’s guess is often surprisingly close to the precise amount of candy beans, and much better than most random participants’ guess. Let’s try our hand as a community at some forecasting...even if there’s a chance we’ll never get to know if we were right.

The Sixers (12-11) find themselves in a tie for 9th place in the Eastern Conference. The middle is vast and expansive. On the one hand, the Sixers are just 1.5 games behind the fourth seed Miami Heat who sit at 16-8. But Erik Spoelstra’s group will now be without the services of All-Star caliber big man Bam Adebayo (thumb surgery). They’re just four games out of first place behind the Kyrie Irving-less Brooklyn Nets (16-7), who don’t look unbeatable by any stretch.

On the other hand, the Sixers would currently be a lottery team, projected to land the 14th overall pick and are just four games ahead of the Indiana Pacers (9-16), who hold the 3rd worst record in the conference.

Four games from splendor, four games from squalor, in the .500 purgatory Sam Hinkie always cautioned was the worst place to be. Cleaningtheglass.com projects them to win 46.6 total games. That algo-derived win total might well be higher if the machine knew Joel Embiid missed nearly half the season.

Still, this is prompting some fans and analysts to wonder if the old sneak tank strategy might not be a viable play.

Teams like the 2019 Los Angeles Lakers, the 2020 Golden State Warriors or the 2021 Toronto Raptors have each recently found themselves in surprise lottery waters. The 2019 Pelicans probably didn’t expect to leap so many teams for the chance to select Zion Williamson, but the flattened lottery odds have added even more unpredictability to the whole process. Another day we can debate the merits of being a 9th seed with an outside shot at a top four pick or an 8th seed with an outside shot at a title.

The age old adage applies, the draft is no guarantee for success (ask the Warriors who selected James Wiseman). But it can alter things in a big way (ask the Lakers who landed the fourth pick which helped them acquire Anthony Davis who helped win them a title a year later). Get the 7th seed, then just tank two Play-In Games, bring a good luck charm to the lottery, land a top four pick and voila!

Of course, the Sixers would have a better record if they hadn’t been ravaged by injury and illness. Embiid has missed ten games, including nine in a row with a break through COVID infection that sounded severe. Tobias Harris has appeared in 14 of 23 games. Danny Green has missed seven games with a hamstring issue. Shake Milton didn’t play in five of their games. And Ben Simmons has of course missed all of the games with being not mentally ready to play as well as seeking trade.

Through one quarter of the way the theme has been the Skeleton crew Sixers. The question then is what might we expect moving forward if there is no major news on the Ben Simmons front?

Will the team get back to the top of the standings like they were before all of the setbacks? Through the first ten games of the season the Sixers went 8-2. They had the fourth best point differential, outscoring opponents by 8.5 points per evening. Doc Rivers had his team playing with passion, and clicking offensively. They had the highest rated offense scoring 115.4 points per 100 possessions during the first ten games of the year.

But could we realistically have expected those trends to hold? In the four games since Embiid’s return, the team has the 27th (101.8) rated offense, only the Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, and Oklahoma City Thunder have scored less per play over that brief span.

Now neither that scorching hot start nor the recent stretch (with Embiid healthy but not in peak form yet) seems like the best representation of this team moving forwards. Tobias Harris is in a slump, likely related to having been sick and banged up as well.

They’ll probably settle in to some groove that’s comfortably in between the 8-2 start and the subsequent 4-9 illness-ravaged stretch. But where exactly? Will they win 39 games, 42, 46, or 51? If they were somehow headed for 39 wins and Embiid’s knee was bothering him would they opt for the type of minor surgery they likely considered last spring and hope the draft lottery brings them the type of pick which might tip the scale on a Simmons trade that isn’t currently available? Will they push no matter what?

So we would have to do a bit of projection here. It’s more difficult to project future setbacks. The latest news makes it sound like Sixers trade target Damian Lillard is open to giving his franchise the Portland Trailblazers a chance to find new leadership and would like to play with Sixers’ Ben Simmons. The same article from The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick noted that the Sixers have asked for guard CJ McCollum plus multiple picks and pick-swaps.

But let’s take trades off of the table for this exercise. So here we go. If Simmons did not suit up for the Sixers all season long, and was not traded, where do you predict this team, as currently constructed finishes?

Poll

Where do the Sixers, as currently constructed, wind up?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    A top 3 seed
    (55 votes)
  • 68%
    A 4-6 seed
    (394 votes)
  • 19%
    A Play-In tourney team
    (110 votes)
  • 3%
    Lottery bound, hunting top 4 picks
    (18 votes)
577 votes total Vote Now

Don’t forget to check in on the results when the poll closes in a few days.