The NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone with little activity from your Red, White, and Blue. They traded Matisse Thybulle for Jalen McDaniels in a four-team monstrosity of a trade. They had to give up the Charlotte Hornets’ second-round pick (projected to be 34th overall come June) but they got back a pair of future seconds.
Billionaire’s rejoice, the team accomplished their reported goal of ducking under the luxury tax, which will not help them this season; it arguably hurts if that idea factored in even a little bit to the decision to waive promising young reserves Isaiah Joe and Charles Bassey before the year began.
How much better would fans feel with Joe and Bassey on the bench - for potentially years to come at an affordable price - than say Montrezl Harrell and Dewayne Dedmon for the rest of this season? Honestly, the Sixers should just poll their fan base on tough decisions much more than they seem to do.
Resetting exponentially mounting repeater fees should at least help them retain this core come the offseason. Joel Embiid’s supermax kicks in, James Harden hired an agent for the first time in years, and Tyrese Maxey is rep’d by Klutch’s Rich Paul. So, yeah, Cha-ching.
We’ll have to see what Harden decides to do. He’s almost guaranteed to opt out of his 2023-2024 player option and test free agent waters. If a Doc Rivers led team flames out again in the second...meh, we don’t have to think about this stuff right now.
And oh right, almost forgot, the Nets traded away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and a bunch of picks.
The Sixers really weren’t able to close ground between themselves and the East’s front-runners via acquisition.
Who knows what they might have done with a couple extra second-round picks? Apparently teams around the NBA are finally catching up with Sam Hinkie’s ole view of late-round “currency.” If the Sixers had been able to sign players like P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. without getting penalized for tampering, they would have had more to work with as well.
There were 71 (!) second-round picks traded between Jan. 1 and last week's NBA trade deadline, more than double the amount from that window during each of the last four seasons. A little dive into the league's "currency" that making deals work @YahooSportshttps://t.co/QSmIxiRXJi— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) February 17, 2023
All in all, it was a pretty disappointing use of resources by this front office-coaching collaborative when you zoom out and remember their offseason.
But maybe they’re not done yet? Kevin Love “plans to talk” with the Sixers. They have until March 1st to sign post season eligible players. Patrick Beverley should be a name to keep an eye on as well.
Kevin Love’s wife was sitting courtside on the SIXERS BENCH SIDE at Wednesday’s game. Just sayin. https://t.co/a0rE0cQfa9— Devan Kaney (@Devan_Kaney) February 18, 2023
And here are the top 16 teams, league wide, with Philadelphia possessing an impressive 4th best record overall.
The most encouraging thing of all is that Philly has the best record in the NBA dating back to James Harden’s return from injury. They’re a stellar 26-7 since Dec. 8th.
Here, the league standing over the last 33 games, per NBA.com. Boom:
Glass half full: each of Harden, Maxey, and Embiid have missed chunks of time and somehow they’re still up there with the league leaders. Glaff half empty: their schedule was soft and now gets harder, their injury risk profile is still high, and they’re an older, less athletic group than their top foes.
By the numbers
Scoring 115.7 points per 100 possessions, the Sixers have the 6th ranked offense through 57 (70 percent) out of 82 games. In order, the Nuggets, Kings, Celtics, Jazz, and Blazers are ahead of them. So only Boston has a more efficient offense among Eastern Conference teams.
Defensively, the Sixers have the 6th best defensive rating allowing 111.7 points per 100 possessions. Only the Cavaliers, Bucks, Grizzlies, Celtics, and Heat have a better defense.
Ranking in the top six of each category isn’t too shabby. Although you can see the Celtics have the third best offense and the fourth best defense. That’s quite impressive and partly why they’re significant favorites to win the East (+115) on DraftKings.
Over the stretch we looked at from Dec. 8th, through today, the Sixers actually have the best offensive rating in the entire league, dropping a scorching hot 119 points per 100 possessions. They’re tied with the Blazers there.
But the defense has certainly dipped with Harden and Maxey back in the fold, and Joel Embiid not appearing fully healthy over this most recent stretch.
The team has the 11th best defense (113.3 points allowed per 100) since Dec. 8th.
Cleantheglass.com views the Sixers as a 50ish win team, in terms of their efficiency differential.
Fivethirtyeight.com gives them a seven percent chance of winning the championship.
They’ve slipped down from 11 percent following their big win over the Nuggets, then down to 9 percent a couple weeks ago, and settled at seven percent today.
And as you can see above, the algorithms here still haven’t grasped Kevin Durant is a Sun. I’d be curious to see what Bing’s freaky new AI Sydney thinks of that trade. Someone ask Syndey if a CP3, D-Book, KD, Ayton quartet will go down as a super team or if they need more depth and defense.
"After losing their defensive gems in the trade, the Suns will give up lots of points. The solution will be a white-hot offense. Merely having a great offense won’t be good enough." --@coachthorpe https://t.co/9GEfwX4Gcg— Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) February 15, 2023
According to Tankathon.com, the Sixers have the most difficult schedule remaining in the entire NBA based on opponent win percentage:
Making matters more challenging, they also have the most games remaining, with 25 contests to go. So there’s less rest baked into the schedule for them.
Only the Kings and Thunder have another 25 to go, everyone else has less.
Cleveland, the 76ers’ stiffest competition for the three seed at the moment has 21 games remaining, and the fourth easiest schedule. So if the Sixers have their sights set on a top three seed, they’re going to have to get used to beating great teams on a pretty routine basis the rest of the way.
The Sixers have seen their most volatility here in the NBA.com power rankings.
Per NBA.Com they ranked:
- Third overall on Jan. 23
- up to first overall, Jan. 30 following their big win over Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
- Back down to third by early February, after blowing a pair of 21 point leads to the Magic and Knicks.
- Down to 4th, after losing three out of five games, including a concerning dud against the skeleton crew Celtics (no Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, Al Horford, and only one half from Jaylen Brown) in one of their most important games of the season.
But they’ve won four in a row now, including a high leverage win over the Cavs. We’ll keep our eyes open for the next ranking after a few national tv games post ASB.
Oh and the Sixers come in behind the same three teams (Boston, Milwaukee, Denver) over on ESPN.com’s updated power rankings as well.
For the briefest of windows, despite blowing a couple twenty point leads vs. the Magic and Knicks, just as Kyrie Irving was traded to the Mavericks, the Sixers enjoyed their best title odds of the entire season over on DraftKings at +900, back on Feb. 5th.
Interestingly, when Kevin Durant was traded to the Phoenix Suns, the Sixers’ chances grew incrementally slimmer (+950); although maybe line setters had the recent Knicks game stinker fresh in their minds as well.
In my opinion, the Nets blowing things up increases significantly the odds Philadelphia will make its first Conference Finals of the Joel Embiid era. The bold font is my mic drop.
It’s wasn’t a stretch of the imagination to picture the Sixers losing a first-round war against the likes of the Nets or Cavs. But in the event they survived that, gearing up to then win at Milwaukee, (who’d just pancaked let’s say the Knicks) only to then have to ship up too Boston? Yeesh. We’d been previously faced with a potential murderer’s row path to the finals before the Brooklyn shakeup. Now there’s one less contender equipped with two All-NBA talents in the division.
Sure, the the presence of a potential Suns super team out West might make winning the championship that much more difficult, should Philly reach the big stage. But like Harden leaving, we’ll worry about that stuff later.
Despite all the change in Brooklyn, after getting straight up embarrassed by a depleted Celtics group, the Sixers have continued to see their odds sink a bit as their rivals made upgrades via trade and buyout market.
Bringing in Jalen McDaniels for Matisse Thybulle is a slim-margins-at-best-move for this current season. Milwaukee by contrast, only burned picks to land Crowder, not their best wing defender. So we’ll see how it all plays out.
And perhaps we buried the lede because Joel Embiid just admitted he is not healthy, even if it sounds like he’ll try to push through the pain and play in the All-Star game.
All in all, it’s not surprising they’ve dipped back down to +1100 on DraftKings to win the title.
Five teams (e.g. Celtics, Suns, Bucks, Nuggets, Clippers) are given a better shot by oddsmakers to hoist this year’s most coveted trophy.
A Celtics-Suns Finals is now the most likely single matchup.
Buy, Sell, Hold
The 76ers have won five of seven games since we last checked our portfolio. If Embiid skips the All-Star game, he’ll have had a full seven days off to rest. Based on the way he was talking after beating the Cavs it does’t sound like that will be enough time to completely heal up so he should definitely sit that one out.
Embiid going to Utah probably means there isn’t any chance he misses a couple of games coming out of the break. I think the chances are very high that he’ll suit up vs. Memphis. But how will he look?
If he looks fresh and dominant, and they open with wins vs. the Grizzlies, and Celtics, they’ll be right back atop the leaderboards. But it’s hard to feel great buying stock here, right?
Opening 3-1 or even 4-0 would be awesome. They’d be regarded as one of the best teams in the NBA, in the mix for a top two seed, you’d probably start to hear real MVP buzz for Jo, who’s currently slipping in that race.
On the other end, an 0-4 start would have us in “if they get bounced in Round one will Harden leave this summer, and would they even want him back!?” radio season.
Going 2-2 over their next four, before beginning a lengthy road trip feels more likely than the extremes.
The prudent thing to do here is to sell a few shares or hold. I don’t love the idea of Embiid playing in the All-Star game since he’s been bothered by this foot thing since basically November. But we’re Process Trusters. Let’s really gamble and buy a couple shares, with the idea that Joel is healthy enough and if a suddenly well rested veteran team can win a couple huge home games on national TV, they’ll be the toast of the town before a brutal road trip.