Surprise! The Philadelphia 76ers have started off hot, much better than many expected. They rest in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-2 record, having notched five straight wins. Is Philadelphia now the team to beat?
A few days ago, we praised the Miami Heat for their hot start. Then, reality set in. The very next night, the Heat got destroyed by the Boston Celtics, losing by 17 points at home.
Mover over, Miami. There's a real pro basketball team at the top – and it's the Philadelphia 76ers.
How did this happen? Dave Early, at SB Nation writes:
You’d be forgiven for doubting your Broad Street Bullies just a little bit here. The ongoing Ben Simmons situation may have cast a pall in the media (or on your text-chains with pals) but it doesn’t seem to have pervaded Doc Rivers’ locker room much through the early portion of the season.
On a per game basis Philadelphia leads the NBA in field goal percentage (49.3%), they rank 3rd overall in free throw percent (82.4%), 4th in blocks (6.1), and they’re 4th in plus-minus, outscoring teams by an impressive 8.4 points per outing.
New addition Georges Niang spoke about the team’s early-season successes:
“I mean we just have gritty guys that are here regardless of the circumstances, we’re gonna go out there and give it our all and compete to win. I think nobody on this team has egos, we’re here to win basketball games. And thats been our M.O. from the beginning since I been here and it’s a lot of fun grinding with these guys.”
When Minivan says “regardless of the circumstances,” he’s probably referring to the assortment of challenges the team has faced; from the void in the rotation left by Simmons’ absence, to any accompanying distraction that presents, to injuries, to some recent positive COVID tests.
THE ODDS SPEAK
Prior to the Ben Simmons situation (bad for the Sixers, one would think), they were listed at +1200 odds to win the NBA title. Now, those odds have now gone up to +2200.
They now have the same odds to win the NBA championship as the Miami Heat.
As for Simmons, there was a slight change in odds about 10 days ago. Oddsmakers still don’t believe a trade is the likeliest outcome, but if a trade were to occur, here’s the odds:
Trail Blazers: +900
It’s interesting oddsmakers don’t believe a trade is likely to happen at this point. The Timberwolves continue to be the most probable landing spot, a trend that’s mostly held for months now.
But let’s face it, few expected the Sixers to sit in first place through nine games. There are still so many questions surrounding this team. But if they can continue to eke out victories maybe some of the bigger dominoes will fall into place.