clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sixers Stock Watch: Maxey, Morey, Embiid, Nurse headline 76ers surprisingly hot start

Our first time taking stock of Joel Embiid and the 76ers this season in what will be an ongoing weekly column once again this season.

Philadelphia 76ers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Last season we ran the Sixers Stock Watch on a weekly basis so why not track their progress once again this season? As of now, since we’re doing more of a year-to-date just for the first round of this, the Sixers stock is up.

(If we were doing our normal weekly column, we’d have to spend a bit more time talking about the team having lost three of their last five games, now heading to Minnesota, perhaps even shorthanded but this is our first stock watch of the season so we have more to cover).

It felt important to zoom out a little given all that’s happened so far.

Coming into this season, it seemed as if fan apathy was sky-high as our Sixers faithful braced themselves for a second annoying, frustrating and stressful trade stalemate saga.

Daryl Morey, having already made headlines a couple of years ago — by telling us all the Ben Simmons thing could go on for four more years — avoided a similar path this time because L.A. apparently met an asking price for Harden that the long-time exec was willing to accept, long before the NBA trade deadline. That’s enabled Nick Nurse to avoid one ongoing distraction and focus on incorporating names like Robert Covington and Nico Batum into the rotation. That depth has proven especially valuable with Kelly Oubre Jr.’s absence.

Joel Embiid is his usual MVP-race self, and Tyrese Maxey spent the summer working on his weaknesses and it’s already catapulted the 23-year-old into rarefied air.

So Morey’s trade, Embiid’s consistency, Maxey’s ascendance, and the upgrade the team made from Doc Rivers to Nick Nurse have been by far the biggest storylines so far.

Let’s take stock.

Standings (10-4, third place in the East)

This is the surprising part... heading into the season, we really were prepared for a win percentage significantly lower than their current .714. Vegas predicted they’d win 49.5 games in total this season, and no doubt oddsmakers baked into their calculus a potential Harden holdout, trade and perhaps even a scenario where he played for the team — and the return he could provide this group. That (49.5) number would have led to a .604 win percentage and Nurse has easily paced that rate thus far.

Unfortunately, the team just squandered two golden opportunities.

They got to host the Boston Celtics missing Kristaps Porzingis and Jaylen Brown. But that game was on the second of a back-to-back for Philly and they lost by 10 to the shorthanded Celtics.

Maybe Philadelphia should have load managed either end of that two-game b2b vs. Indiana and Boston. The way they played it might well have cost them first place, plus a shot at locking up at least a tie in the season series vs. Boston.

They also had the chance to take down the Cleveland Cavaliers missing Donovan Mitchell at the crib, and dropped that overtime game as well.

Those losses are why they’ve recently relinquished first and even second place in the East to the Celtcics (league’s best record) and Milwaukee (also 10-4, possessing tie-breaker).

The top-10 teams in the East, courtesy of ESPN.com’s standings:

And league wide standings:

Still, they’re better than where I would have guessed before the season tipped off. And they have their assets in hand to play with.

By the Numbers

The Sixers have the third-best offensive rating. Their 119.3 points per 100 possessions trails only the Pacers then Mavericks, in order. They grade out just ahead of the Hawks, followed by the Bucks, Celtics, then Suns.

Defensively, the Sixers have the 11th-best rating (111.3 points per 100 possessions allowed). They’re not quite in the top 10 so you know coach Nurse is likely unsettled on this end of the ball.

Power rankings

According to ESPN, the Tyreses continue their ascent.

ESPN ranks the Sixers third overall in their power ranking. We didn’t expect that coming into the season. If you told us Harden wouldn’t suit up at all and that the team wouldn’t land Terance Mann from the Clippers we would have confidently guessed they’d be lower in the standings by this point.

They trail only the Boston Celtics (Joel recently called Jayson Tatum’s group the best team in the league, and he was right at the time and today, at least record-wise).

The Sixers gave up one power ranking spot over the last few days, per Tim Bontemps. But the NBA insider recently wrote the following about Philadelphia:

“The 76ers continue their Eastern conference dominance despite their elimination from the In-season tournament on Tuesday with a loss to the Cavaliers in overtime. Philly remains the top offense in the league led by breakout point guard Tyrese Maxey (26.8 ppg) and reigning MVP Joel Embiid (31.9 ppg, 1st in the league). Kelly Oubre Jr. participated in on-court workouts Monday and a return from the veteran guard could be the extra boost Philly is looking to gain as they open a two-game road trip against Minnesota on Wednesday night.”

Basketball-Reference.com’s algorithm gives the Sixers the best shot to secure a No. 2 seed when the year is finished.

B-Ball ref says the Sixers have approximately a 20% shot at the East’s No. 1 seed, a 52.2% shot at the No. 2 seed, and a 16% shot at the No. 3 seed.

Odds

Our friends at DraftKings give the Sixers the fifth-best title odds (+1200). Oddsmakers have both the Celtics (+380) and Bucks (+425) ahead of Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid’s squad in the East. Out West, the defending-champion Denver Nuggets (+400) and Phoenix Suns (+750) also have shorter odds than the Sixers.

Fortunately, Embiid and co. have narrowed their preseason title odds from somewhere between +1400 to +1800 depending on the book.

Vibes Check

The honeymoon period without James Harden, with Nick Nurse, may already be nearing an end. The team is hitting a rocky patch of the schedule when they’re bouncing around from town to town without a ton of time to practice in between key games.

Fans are finding themselves in a familiar place rooting for the team to not push the pace too hard.

But on the year the vibes have been right and they get a ton of extra credit points for avoiding any lengthy hold outs (or on-court loafer) from Harden. You can hear the players giving each other props lately.

“Vibes” is the most difficult to measure but arguably more important than anything at least at times during a long season’s grind.

But just listen to these guys praise each other.

Nurse, Embiid give due props to Nico Batum

“He’s just kind of a real glue guy for us as far as his versatility,” said Nick Nurse before the Nets game last weekend. “Obviously, he can shoot the three, he’s a really good passer, a good defender of multiple positions, and he plays the game the right way.”

Nurse recently added that he is hopeful and thinks that Batum won’t have to spend quite as much time away from the team moving forward.

“I think — I’m not super definitive on it, but I think it is getting closer to the end of the back and forth,” said Nurse. “But I don’t wanna like say it is for sure, but I think it is.”

And that might just be music to Embiid’s ears. Joel calls Nico the “key.”

“He’s the key. He’s special,” Embiid recently told reporters. “With the way we play, he just fits everything we need. Great shooter, good defender, great passer, great basketball IQ, he just fits everything we need.”

Maxey praises and teases his buddy Melton

More fun vibes.

“We knew it was coming,” Tyrese Maxey told reporters about Melton finding the range from deep after a cold start to the season. “He was struggling early, but Melt’s a great shooter. A great basketball player. I’m just excited that he can dunk. He made some dunks. He made some layups. We’re not worried about his shot. Some of his layups is a little shaky (he said jokingly), but he did great. He’s great defensively. We know what he brings to the table there and when he’s making shots, it just takes it to a whole new level.”

I love that Maxey can sneak in a playful shot about Melt blowing a layup or two without anyone getting mad. It sounds like Melton appreciates Maxey’s support as well.

“I had to go back to the basics,” Melton recently told reporters. “I had to go back to the basics and my teammates just kept instilling confidence in me. They just kept telling me to shoot. They was making fun of me for not shooting.”

We’ll see how long things can stay so upbeat. Perhaps the most exciting thing now is that the team is better than we expected, they now have a big trade or two to make should another stud player become available, and there’s no Harden-as-mopey-bearded-lockerroom-anchor weighing things down.

And all of that means on the whole, despite a few really tough losses last week, the Sixers stock is up since the year began. And there’s room to grow if they can find help before the trade deadline.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Liberty Ballers Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Philadelphia 76ers news from Liberty Ballers