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Sixers Stock Watch: Harden-Embiid notch best win & worst loss of year, drop to 3rd place

The Sixers went 2-1 this week, and jettisoned up the title odds, but dropped in the standings as we near All-Star weekend.

Orlando Magic v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

One week ago the Sixers had just defeated Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. They sat in second place in the conference.

They kicked off the following slate by defeating Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, led by Joel Embiid’s 47-point domination. That one completely upended the MVP race, and vaulted this group up to the top of the power rankings. Our Sixers stock was flying high like an Eagle doo doo, doo, doo all before we sat down to some Sunday NFL action.

But then they followed up their best win of the year with their worst loss. They were up by 21 points over a team with a bottom five record and lost at home. How Sixers! They got revenge on Wednesday over Paolo Banchero, Markelle Fultz and the Wagner brothers. But these awful losses against the five worst teams in the league (four of them now) continue to hurt their chances for a top seed.

Let’s take stock.


When last we checked stock the Sixers possessed a half game lead on the Milwaukee Bucks for second place. Popping on over to we can see the Sixers dip back into third place, just a half game behind Giannis and the gang. The Bucks stock is soaring now as they’ve won five in a row. The Celtics narrowly eclipsed the Los Angeles Lakers in a game they probably didn’t deserve to win. Some home cooking helped them defeat LeBron James’ Lakers so those Lucky Leprechauns still hold three games up over our National Independence group and 2.5 over those Deer from Wisconsin.

There are a million and one reasons it would be difficult to win a road playoff game in Boston. This stuff is one of them.

Your current standings:

And the top 12 teams in the entire league by record:

Philadelphia drops from third overall in win percentage to fourth, league wide.

By the Numbers

The Sixers have the seventh-best offensive rating, scoring 115.2 points per 100 possessions. That’s down from fifth overall (115.4) after the last three contests.

The Sixers now have the sixth overall defensive rating, allowing 111.3 points per 100. The points allowed number is precisely the same as last week but they move up one peg on the leaderboard from their former seventh place rank.

According to they have the fifth-best expected wins per 82 games:

That measure attempts to strip some of the luck factor out and predict what we might expect moving forwards based on their efficiency to date, without accounting for strength of schedule. Interestingly, they move past the Bucks in this ranking just as the Bucks moved past them in the more-important standings column.

The Sixers outscore their opponent by more points per game than Milwaukee. A look at the top of the heap ranked by point differential per outing, Philadelphia ranks fifth:

They had ranked third last week but the Grizzlies and Nuggets sneaked past them.

Over at, the Sixers rank fourth in their percentage chance to win the championship:

Last week they were behind the same three teams but had an 11 percent shot. The ground they lost there apparently comes from some real long shots improving their odds ever so slightly. The top of that leaderboard is mostly unchanged except for the Sixers dipping a bit following the L to the Magic.

The same site has the Sixers finishing with the third seed in the East. That has remained unchanged for about a month now. But they now predict the Bucks to finish with one more win than Philadelphia. Last week they’d predicted a tie. The Sixers, Celtics and Bucks all finished with the same 51-win record a season ago. This one could be close again and come down to seemingly trivial things like free throws, bench rotations, backup centers, injury luck, or what happens at the NBA Trade Deadline next week.

The strength of schedule is not in the Sixers’ favor. They’ve done well despite all of the foot injuries they’ve dealt with to James Harden, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. But now the games get easier for their opponents, and harder for them.

Per, only the Clippers have a more difficult remaining schedule in the whole league:

The good news is that the Bucks and Nets aren’t too far behind. But the Celtics (18th overall) have a much easier road and the Cavaliers (29th) have an absolute cake walk. Not to mention some of those awful teams the Sixers have lost to (e.g. Spurs, Rockets) will likely go belly up completely down the stretch. It’s much better to have the easy portion of your schedule late in the year.

Power Rankings

Over on, the Sixers have overtaken the league’s No. 1 spot! They past by the Celtics and Nuggets in that ranking.

At ESPN they rank second only to the Boston Celtics, Jayson Tatum’s club still clinging to the top spot there, giving up ground quickly to rivals. They surpassed Denver here with their big win led by Embiid’s 47-point explosion over the reigning two-time MVP.


The best news of all comes here.

Back on Jan. 11, they were still +1800 to win the title on DraftKings. By Jan. 18, after three consecutive road wins they’d clawed their way up to +1600. But this week they’ve rocketed up to +1100 on DK. I think odds makers must have watched what Embiid did to Jokic and said “y’know what, if this guy can do that to our MVP, we really can’t label them such long shots anymore.”

We’ve bought up more Sixers shares in two of the last three weeks and we haven’t sold any to date. Let’s see what we’ve got coming down the Pike:

The Sixers are a ghastly 7-4 against the teams with the five worst records in the NBA.

They’ve already lost one to the Spurs earlier in the year when their schedule was supposed to be easier. That cluster should be more like 9-2 at the absolute worst. This playing down to their competition thing reallllly isn’t working for them in the standings, giving precious ground to the Celtics and Bucks, and likely costing Embiid handfuls of MVP votes.

If they’d taken care of business vs. the absolute bottom groups they could be neck-and-neck with the Celtics. And imagine how many of those “best player on the best team” votes might swing from Tatum to Joel if they were.

Embiid and Harden should storm into Daryl Morey’s office and demand that the front office offer more help to the coaching staff like he used to in Houston. There have been too many times this season when both Joel and James sit out at the same time and have to watch the bench relinquish a decent lead.

I think they best San Antonio, and lose to the Boston Celtics on the road. But what about Sunday’s slate vs. the New York Knicks?

Joel provided some bulletin board material for Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle recently:

You know they’ll be looking to stick it to him Sunday. Embiid is 15-1 vs. the Knicks in his career. That’s pretty wild. Is he due for regression? The Sixers are the more talented team. But you just get the sense this one is going to be hotly contested, don’t you? I bet the crowd is going to be wild for that one, with at least an audible chorus of Sixer fans. I assume Harden will have a tough whistle at MSG. Please protect his Hall of Fame ankles by calling landing zone fouls, NBA officials.

I think we’re looking at a coin flip between 1-2 and 2-1 over the next three games before we do this series next. And for that reason, I cannot in good conscience recommend we buy up more shares this week. The talking heads will focus too much on the head-to-head vs. Boston, and Philly will probably lose some ground in the power rankings because of that one. It also seems as if rival teams may be more active this trade deadline. So they may lose ground without even playing a game if say Milwaukee lands Jae Crowder and they can’t find a way to enhance their rotation.

Joel is sporting kinesio tape on his right shoulder, I don’t know what’s up with that.

But I’m still going to gamble a little bit here and suggest we hold. If they go 2-1 over this stretch, we’ll have eked out another profit. If they improve with a trade, we’ll be thrilled we did’t sell. Let’s try to Trust some Process here. But I’ll be just as nervous as you will be over the coming week.

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