So let me get this straight. Back in 2021, Joel Embiid was the favorite to win the NBA MVP award when he injured his knee, then missed enough games to allow Nikola Jokic to blow past Joel, Steph Curry, and LeBron James and win his first ever MVP award.
And while Embiid finished second in MVP voting that year, he couldn’t crack the NBA’s First Team All-NBA Squad. Something about “positional eligibility” or “availability,” or “technically we would vote for him but we really hate the process?”
Then in 2022 the whole thing happened again, but this time without Embiid getting hurt and something about VORB or BLORP or BlORG data or advanced HatetheProcessalytics? Dude gets runner up MVP for the second year in a row, voter’s near-consensus second best player in the game, first big to lead the league in scoring since Shaq, but can’t crack that dang First Team All-NBA top five either. Tough crowd!
Fast forward today. Embiid is third overall in the NBA KIA MVP Ladder ranking. The third most valuable player in the sport. He’s second in the entire league in points per game, while helping to anchor a top seven defense. And somehow he’s not even worthy of a starting All-Star spot?
The fan’s got one thing right. Embiid earned the fourth highest vote total, more than both starting backcourt members of Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell. But since Jayson Tatum (who is eligible as a guard or forward on All-NBA ballots) isn’t eligible as a guard for All-Star voting, it’s apparently Joel (fourth in votes of the front court leader) who gets bumped.
The theme being that some odd positional flexibility quirk works against him both ways on both All-NBA and All-Star teams.
All-NBA voting: no positional flexibility, Jo gets screwed by it— Francis Parker (@franciszomes) January 27, 2023
All-star voting: limited positional flexibility, Jo gets screwed by that, too https://t.co/Td3v6bSD9j
Somehow, someway... say it with me... they really hate the process!
But never mind that. There’s a title to be won. We’re onto the Sixers Stock Watch.
Following their lackluster performance vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this month, the Sixers have won six in a row. Momentum is surging for the red, white, and blue, as the team’s stars are all mostly in the lineup these days.
When we checked in on their stock price two weeks ago, they’d just sneaked from fifth place up to 4th. And last week they’d moved up into third. Well don’t look now but in case you hadn’t noticed, the Sixers are pretty good and they’re now in second.
The top of the Eastern Conference, in a snap shot, per ESPN.com:
The Sixers hold a narrow half game lead on the Milwaukee Bucks in second, and after last night’s 137-133 barnburner victory over Kyrie Irving, Nic Claxton Ben Simmons and the Brooklyn Nets, they hold two games over Jacques Vaughn’s crew. They’ve won both meetings against the Nets so far. But suuuure, vote for Kevin Durant and make sure to squeeze Irving in the starting unit over Joel!
(They should just hold an actual draft, and let the players pick. You know Embiid would be one of the first five names off the board in his Conference if it was more about winning than popularity with built in positional quirks and restrictions).
Kuz gets it.
Ngl .@JoelEmbiid not starting is nuts— kuz (@kylekuzma) January 27, 2023
Not that anyone’s thinking about this stuff yet, but if the season were to end today, the Sixers would kick back and wait to see who won a Play-In game between the 7th seeded New York Knicks and the 8th seeded Atlanta Hawks.
We’re not likely to see that precise scenario, but it would be pretty nice if that’s how it shook out. League wide, the 76ers have the third best win percentage, trailing only the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets:
For those who like to track trades, the 2023 76ers’ pick he shipped over to Brooklyn (who then shipped it over to Utah) in the James Harden-Ben Simmons blockbuster last February would be 28th overall if the NBA Draft were tomorrow.
Losing that pick would hurt a lot more if somehow, tragically the Sixers were lottery bound. But a top three record in the whole league? Whooo.
Task for fact checking nerds. Has a second-in-points-per-game-leader on a team with one of the three best winning percentages in the NBA ever not started in an All-Star game? Has the All-Star game ever not even had a center on one of the starting fives?
#SuckIt https://t.co/rVpradzgkW pic.twitter.com/xP8uJ3T6IA— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) January 26, 2023
By the numbers
The Sixers have the 5th best offense, scoring 115.4 points per 100 possessions according to NBA.com. The offense is white hot, up from 6th best a week ago.
Joel Embiid not starting in the All-Star game is an embarrassment for the NBA— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) January 27, 2023
On defense, they rank 7th, allowing 111.3 points per 100 to the opposition. The defense drops down from 4th overall, after giving up 127 and 133 to the Kings (they were without James Harden and Joel Embiid) and Nets (who somehow still scored at will despite missing Kevin Durant).
So the offense is on an upswing the more games they stack with all of Harden, Maxey and Embiid in the lineup. And the defense appears to be sliding a bit. Maybe it’s more of these three-guard lineups they’re closing with, and in part the fact that Embiid continues to nurse foot issues.
According to Cleaningtheglass.com, the Sixers have the 6th best “efficiency differential,” a measure of how many games we’d expect a team like them to win in a given 82 game season. I think that’s a way to strip out a bit of randomness to the whole equation.
Ranked by point differential per game (by how many points do you outscore your opponent on a per game basis), they rank behind only the Cavaliers and Celtics:
The Sixers outscore their opponent on average by more than twice as many points as Milwaukee for example, yet they’re only a half game ahead of Giannis and co. But suuuuure, vote for Giannis over him!
Over on Fivethirtyeight.com the algorithms ballpark the Sixers for the 4th best (11 percent) shot to win the title:
The same website has the Sixers finishing with the three-seed by regular season’s end, tying in the win column with, but losing a tie-breaker to the Bucks. That would be a bummer, imagine? Netting the same record as Milwaukee but having to potentially play in their gym for the second round.
Popping over to Tankathon.com, there’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is that the Sixers have the hardest schedule remaining of any team they’re competing with. The good news is that they don’t literally have the hardest remaining schedule in the league in front of them like they did the last couple weeks. Woo-hoo?
Boston ranks 15th, and the Cavaliers, just three games behind Philadelphia in the East, has the 2nd easiest strength of schedule remaining. So watch out for Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell to make a late season push for home court.
According to ESPN power rankings, the Sixers are now the third best team in the sport. They ranked 5th a week ago. So they’ve leaped past the Grizzlies and Nets in this one. Over on NBA.Com, they’re also 3rd, passing by the same two teams plus Milwaukee. But I guess the voters didn’t see this stuff in time.
The Sixers made some headway here in the odds. A week ago they were still +1600 on DraftKings. After their recent heater, they’ve now inched their way up to +1400. It’s still only the 8th best overall, and they likely won’t crack the single digits (+950 or better), without a splash trade.
Roughly four out of five champions begin the season with single-digit odds. So the odds aren’t yet in their favor here in terms of the odds. Considering how high their power rankings are, that’s arguably a bit odd. Maybe they truly do Hate the Process.
Buy, Sell, Hold
I apologize for not earning us more money over the last couple of weeks. I recommended narrowly buying two weeks ago, and they went 3-1 that week. And then I recommended we merely hold our shares last week, before they rattled off another three in a row. What I should have said was “put your entire nest egg on the Sixers” both weeks. But hey, at least we still made money, or jellybeans, or steak sandwiches, or NFT’s or whatever we’re pretending this stock is worth.
We’ll do this again in the middle of next week. So here’s the upcoming schedule:
Eyeballing that, I love the Sixers’ chances to rattle off three in a row, and yet I just can’t suggest you risk everything on it. Embiid certainly didn’t look himself on that sore left foot vs. Brooklyn and at times the camera caught him nursing that nagging right shoulder too.
Handling the top team in the West the Denver Nuggets isn’t going to be easy. The Nuggets stole a super winnable game in Philadelphia last March.
(Side bar: had the 2022 Sixers figured out that Paul Reed is better than DeAndre Jordan as quickly as the fans did, they might have played Reed that night and they might have won that game, and in my heart of hearts, I think Embiid wins at least another handful of MVP votes if he won both late-season head-to-head national TV games vs. Jokic and Giannis; playing Paul Millsap over Reed vs. Milwaukee may have cost them that crucial game as well... and you wonder why we talk about backup big around here so much.)
So they have some revenge to think about here as many fans across the league will be looking at the head-to-head matchup between two of the game’s great big men. Hopefully everyone comes out of that healthy enough to take care of business vs. the Magic and Spurs and help them chase ping pong balls. With Joel not making an All-Star team, you know he’s going to be amped up for this one. But hopefully he plays his game and doesn’t try to make any personal statements.
The Taking It Personal Game never goes well for Embiid.— Andrew Unterberger (@AUgetoffmygold) January 26, 2023
Remember back to when Joel missed an All-Star game, and wanted to prove a bit too much, and got injured in Washington.
Ramona Shelburne reported about the 2021 season:
“At that time he was the favorite to win the MVP, and he wanted to go and dominate the All-Star Game so he could prove that he was the best player in the world,” Hanlen says.
“That opportunity got taken away from him. That, obviously, was out of his control. But something he could control in the second half of the season was making sure everybody realized that he was the best player in the world.”
And then he forgot to fall like a tree on the night of March 12.”
So we don’t want anything out of the ordinary. The ordinary has been pretty damn good.
You know what, let’s get some revenge and buy some more Sixers shares. As long as the injury report stays clean and they make an upgrade or two at the trade deadline, you gotta like your chances here. Buy more.