Joel Embiid is setting the pace for the MVP race once again, but he can certainly use more help these days.
The Sixers have been on a tear, and since we last checked in they won two of their last three. That said, they dropped a gag-worthy game to the now 11-17 (12th place in the East) Chicago Bulls led by DeMar DeRozan. Chicago didn’t even have their Sixers’ potential trade target and two-time All-Star Zach LaVine available, and still managed to prevent the Wells DJ from playing “Here they Come.” Maybe the Sixers should let moral support dogs come into the arena for an additional boost?
A gigantic dog sitting courtside at the Lakers game pic.twitter.com/uW6hRmcXdc— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) December 19, 2023
Lean into the identity, no?
Kelly Oubre Jr. on why he’s so comfortable playing for the @sixers in Philly:— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) December 18, 2023
“It’s just a place for dogs, honestly.”
Nonetheless, the Sixers hold steady among the power rankings, and their recent surge has them stealing third place overall in the Eastern Conference. Let’s take stock.
Here are the top 10 teams in the Sixers’ Conference, per ESPN.com, above. You can see that Philadelphia has taken advantage of a relatively easy stretch of the schedule, vaulting past the Orlando Magic in the standings from a week ago. They were in fourth place last week, and now they’re in third.
A look at the league-wide standings, the Sixers sit in fourth place overall:
They’re just 1-2 vs. the Boston Celtics, and 0-1 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, so you get the sense that winning home court vs. either top unit might become paramount during the playoffs next Spring. They’ve crushed most of their lesser competition but struggled to beat the top dogs.
But you may have expected that heading into the eason knowing that James Hardn was gone.
Really can't remember the last time James Harden looked this spry and bouncy on stepback 3s.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) December 19, 2023
Not to say he hasn't been very good the past few years, but the movement and pop on these is scary good. pic.twitter.com/j2zvIp5kfh
The Beard once provided the Sixers’ best shot to beat a team like Boston in his brief Philly sting, even if they came up a few points short during a tough home closeout game last playoffs.
By the numbers
Offensively, things continue to click. Now nearing one-third’s worth of the full season, Philadelphia still has the second-best offensive rating (121.4), trailing only the Indiana Pacers (13-12), who score a league-best 121.9 points per 100 possessions.
On the defensive idea of the ball, Nick Nurse’s team ranks fifth overall, holding teams to a stingy 109.9 points per 100.
That they’re second in one major category and fifth in the other bodes well. They still possess the top differential per game, outscoring teams by a league-best 11.3 points per outing, the only team in the league that can boast a double-digit net rating.
Not too shabby.
Over on NBA.com, the Sixers hold steady in third place in the power rankings. They have recently eclipsed the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder. If every team had to play each other on neutral terrain next week, I’d pick Boston over the Sixers. And I might pick Milwaukee also. But the Sixers may have one more big trade in their bag waiting to go.
The Sixers odds per DraftKings now sit at +1100, the fifth-best odds overall. Only the Celtics (+360), Bucks (+400), Nuggets (+425) and Phoenix Suns (+800) are given better chances per bookmakers. The Sixers were +1200 one week ago, so their odds decreasing (in a positive way) this week could be a testament to Joel Embiid’s dominant ways.
It’s tough to argue the Sixers don’t have a shot at a chip when the big man is balling the way he is. And who knows, maybe Vegas is factoring in the odds Philadelphia adds more help before the 2024 NBA Trade deadline?
You have to figure the Sixers may be feeling a bit down after blowing an easy game vs. Chicago at home Monday night. But I still couldn’t piece together an argument that the vibes have been anything but damn good.
There should be plenty for Nick Nurse and the gang to dissect during the next film sesh.
Looking back, Embiid was right about the spacing. Oubre was in for Batum and that might’ve messed things up. Seems clear Harris should be in the corner and Oubre in the dunker. https://t.co/w9gG8RJAiL— Paul Hudrick (@PaulHudrick) December 19, 2023
On the slate, the Sixers next have Anthony Edwards and the second-overall power-ranked Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ll have a great shot at home to wash the taste out of their mouths from the loss to Chicago. If they win, maybe they’ll bump out the Wolves for another spot up on the power rankings. After that, they have another home game vs. Toronto, followed by road games in Miami and Orlando.
We’ll know a lot more about these Sixers after that upcoing slate. And so will Daryl Morey and Elton Brand as they weigh trade targets.