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Philadelphia 76ers Are Far From Safe Bet

This NBA betting season has felt like swimming through shark infested waters. All of the teams that garner big time news also represent cavernous pitfalls when it comes to covering the spread. It’s been a tough year to find any traction with teams, and that includes the Philadelphia 76ers.

As a distant third in the Atlantic division behind Boston and Toronto, the Sixers are fighting with the rest of the best in the east for a solid place in the standings. Right now they’re sixth, which would put them on a crash course with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs.

And guess who they happen to play on Thursday night?

Next Games (76ers): at Cleveland (3/1), Charlotte (3/2), at Milwaukee (3/4), at Charlotte (3/6), at Miami (3/8)

One of the reasons Philly is worth pointing out is that they have a great schedule coming up. They can feast on Charlotte twice, and play Miami mid-week with a stop in Milwaukee along the way. At 32-25-2 ATS on the season, they also own one of the best betting records in the NBA but a recent run of 1-3-1 ATS over their last 5 games has sort of spoiled the pot.

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We’re not here to discuss the 76ers as a long term championship play. They’re a respectable +1600 to win the Eastern Conference, and a distant +6600 longshot to some how claim the title, but this is a young team that hasn’t played that far in to May yet. Generally speaking, they don’t have their sea legs underneath them yet.

That’s not simply an attack on Embiid’s wobbly appendages either. The man who has awesomely named himself “The Process” is putting up MVP caliber numbers with 23.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game to go along with 1.8 blocks and a ridiculously high 23.8 PER. If you’re wondering why the Sixers are parading around as one of the top rebounding teams in the league, Embiid is the reason.

In other words, all hail The Process. We know this. There’s no point in me spouting off 1,000 words about how great Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are. The question is whether or not the Philadelphia 76ers can maintain their reputation as a worthy bet-on team.

Philadelphia ranks 15th in points against defensively, but are the 4th best team in the NBA when you factor in adjusted defensive rating. That’s offset by the fact that they’re a pitifully average scoring team, ranking just 15th in offensive net rating. One of the reasons that that’s the case is because Philadelphia scores an obnoxious amount of points simply based off of effort.

What the 76ers lack in general is shooting, which is something they really attempted to address by adding veteran sniper JJ Redick. The Duke product is one of the better team veterans in the league, and offers the type of leadership and anchor point that the Sixers also required in the locker room. He’s putting up 16.6 points per game which is great, but he’s no longer the uncatchable scamp that used to zip through defences and spot-up whenever he wanted to. He hasn’t been that for a while.

It feels like there’s a shooting epidemic in Philadelphia when you think about what’s happened to Markelle “It’s Not Your” Fultz. Compounding this issue is that Ben Simmons can’t really shoot that well either. If opponents were scared of Simmons from any type of range, it would completely alter the way defences approach this team. The Sixers would actually be a legitimate threat.

Nothing is going to change regarding the complexion of this team in the immediate future. They are what they are, and they’re very limited by the fact that their young guns simply have to mature in to more versatile NBA players. Making matters even more harrowing from a betting standpoint is the franchise’s smart-yet-frustrating use of Embiid in terms of back-to-backs and games played. He’s an asset that requires managing and they know it.

I’m sure the team is willing to pay him $150M over the course of his extension if he can keep putting up prodigal numbers, but ensuring that he lasts another five years is critical to the team’s success. He is as much the heir apparent to Hakeem Olajuwon as we all hoped. As his own nickname suggest, Embiid just has to trust the process the Sixers have implemented to keep him healthy for a full season.

Why am I really only talking about Embiid and Simmons? Because this team is two players deep and everyone knows it. You do. I do. Opponents realize it as well, and the sheer limitations of Embiid’s health factor and Simmons’ inability to shoot from distance have become known quantities in the league. There are ways to undo what Philadelphia seeks to accomplish in a game. That’s why this team is struggling against middling competition. Good coaching is finding ways to expose the weaknesses of Embiid and Simmons.

They’ll be able to do it for this season, but it won’t be a long lasting strategy. The Sixers are going to be one of the best Eastern Conference teams of the immediate future whether or not LeBron James gets lured to the city of Brotherly Love. I love what they’re doing, and I am so excited to see what they can become.

My problem is that I feel like they’ve hit some sort of glass ceiling in terms of what they’re capable of doing this particular season. Even herculean efforts by the likes of Saric and Covington are just inflating the idea of “hustle” before “actual strategy”. This might be a coaching thing. It’s more likely a situation regarding the age of this team overall.

Until we see some real returns on what Philadelphia is producing on the court, they’re a bet-off commodity until further notice. Watch their games. Marvel at their potential. Just stop losing money on them. They’re more flash than substance for handicapping purposes at this very moment. And I hope that changes. I’m just more pessimistic about this team in the second half than most.

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