It’s time to take stock of your fourth place (12-6) Philadelphia 76ers. Midway through November, after beating the Boston Celtics, the 76ers were actually in first place in the East. They were clicking on all cylinders and things were exciting in both football with the Eagles and basketball with the Sixers.
Well, not everything is quite as rosy lately, as this Sixers team proceeded to drop five of their next nine. So let’s see where Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and the crew stack up now.
Standings (12-6, 4th place in East)
Not much is separating the top of the standings but technically, the Sixers have dipped down to fourth place. Last we checked in they were in third place in the conference, still only one game behind Boston, and tied with the Milwaukee Bucks. But now here’s how it looks after the lost to the Pelicans, courtesy of ESPN.com:
Not the end of the world by any means. But they have some ground to make up if they have their sights set on a No. 1 seed. Possessing home court vs. a team like the Celtics might be huge come playoff time. They now trail Boston by two games, and even allowed the surging Orlando Magic to eclipse them in the win column.
League wide, they dropped over the week from being tied for third place overall down to now sixth place. Boo.
They did win two in a row vs. the Thunder and Lakers to get off the skid, but Embiid missed the next game vs. the Pelicans and they couldn’t compete with Zion Williamson. Embiid, the reigning MVP, was out sick for that one but he has also been nursing a sore hip that we hope doesn’t linger too much longer.
By the numbers
According to point differential, the Sixers actually have the second-best average margin of victory, outscoring opponents by +7.8 points per game. That was probably buoyed by a massive 44-point win over LeBron James’ Lakers.
Side bar: Still pretty weird LeBron is as competitive as he is but didn’t want to join the Sixers when he was a free agent back in 2018. He realllly blew that one. He and Joel would have been a heck of a combo over the last few years, to say nothing of other names like Jimmy Butler, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey who might have pitched in alongside Process and King’s inevitable reign. But oh well, I guess he just prefers living in Los Angeles to chasing Michael Jordan on the GOAT ladder....to each his own. At least he got the bubble title, I guess. He, Joel and Jimmy woulda net King another chip or three though, let’s be real.
Philadelphia trails only the Indiana Pacers in offensive rating, coming in second overall on that vital metric, (120 points per 100 possessions) per NBA.com.
On the other end of the floor things have not quite been up to Nurse’s standards, as they rank 14th (average) on defense, allowing teams to score 112 points per 100. They’ll need to change things up if they want to creep into the top 10 on defense over time. OG Anonuby or Alex Caruso may not be affordable but that’s the type of defensive specialist they could really use on the wing.
Despite the slippage, ESPN has the Sixers ranked No. 2 in their power rankings, actually gaining ground from their rank last week. Perhaps the respect is due to the fact that people are beginning to see Embiid and Maxey as a true superstar duo.
Here is what Marc Stein wrote via his Substack Newsletter just a few days ago:
“The NBA’s reigning MVP is off to such a well-rounded start in his post-James Harden life: Joel Embiid was averaging 32.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game entering Monday’s home date withe Lakers … before Philly inflicted a 44-point hammering upon LeBron James and his Lakers only one other player over the NBA’s last 60 seasons has hit those averages through his first 15 games: Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo twice (2019-20 and 2022-23). Tyrese Maxey’s presumed return to Earth hasn’t happened yet, either, with Maxey and Embiid each scoring at least 25 points in 10 games already. The last duo to do that so often this early in the season, per Kubatko, is Elgin Baylor and Jerry West twice in the early 1960s.”
Over on NBA.com, the Celtics and Timberwolves hold the top two spots respectively in their power ranking. Philadelphia comes in no.3.
That so many outlets seem to be buying Sixers stock at this point is encouraging. Grading out better than a team like Milwaukee (despite having dropped the head-to-head and getting surpassed in the standings) is pretty cool.
The Miami Heat never seem to push too hard in the regular season, preferring to save their best and their energy for the playoffs. But Jaime Jacquez Jr. and co. are 10-8, seventh in the East.
Last week the Sixers were given +1200 odds over on DraftKings.
Oddsmakers had the Celtics, Nuggets, Bucks and Suns ahead of Philly then. And one week later that hasn’t changed much. Philadelphia’s skid over the last couple weeks has only cost them a dip from +1200 to +1300, and no teams have leapfrogged them per the sports books. The top dogs are still in the same order per Vegas.
I would say the vibes are really good. We’re hopeful that Kelly Oubre Jr. can return to game action at some point soon. Maxey seems like someone had something to say to him, and if you check the quotes and replies to his tweet below, there’s more than a few Philly faithful offering to beat up (or worse) whoever the out-of-pocket-mama-speaking-jerk was.
I don’t lose my cool often … I don’t like when people speak on my mom!— Tyrese Maxey (@TyreseMaxey) November 30, 2023
Fans have your back, Tyrese!
As noted, Joel’s hip has been a little bit of a concern. I know our tendency as fans is to downplay his usual laundry list of ailments. But my rule of thumb is basically never, ever, under any circumstances underestimate a Joel Embiid injury. Hopefully a day of rest here or there can get him back to full health soon.
The team may want to keep an eye on his and Maxey’s minutes so they don’t burn out.
I can’t believe I’m writing this but Maxey is so clearly one of the best shooters in basketball. He’s improved his handle and his shooting with movement. So, even though the team has hit a semi-slump, I’ll continue to buy some stock; particularly because they may have a move or two to make this year.
I’m not holding my breath for Masai Ujiri to make Anunoby available to them, but if someone on the Sixers can convince OG to request Philly... well, that would be something.