October 26, 2020
The nightmare 2019-20 Sixers season feels like a distant memory at this point, and upcoming league meetings are expected to determine when the 2020-21 NBA season can get started. That means you can bet on your favorite contenders soon enough, and it doesn't look like the Sixers are being treated as a very serious threat to win.
Online sportsbooks are beginning to offer 2021 title odds to the general public, and it should surprise no one that the Lakers are at or near the top of most odds charts right now, with DraftKings offering the reigning champs at +350 to repeat next seasonvia TheLines.com. The Sixers are, well, lagging behind by quite a bit.
It's fair to note that if preseason title odds were indicative of your actual chances to win a title, the Sixers would have had a much better time on the floor last season. They also routinely miss on sleepers who find themselves in the mix when the playoffs roll around — the Miami Heat came in at +6500 to start last season at FanDuel, and if not for some unfortunate injuries in the Finals, perhaps they would have offered a stiffer challenge to the Lakers.
But the odds are a useful measurement of a team's general standing in the eyes of the public and a reflection of which teams Vegas is afraid to lose money on. Sitting between the Rockets and Jazz is not a good place for Philly to be from that perspective — the Rockets just parted ways with their coach and GM, the Jazz were a first-round out with no real path to a title. Not exactly great company.
It is a precipitous drop from where Philadelphia sat about a year ago, when they were one of the early favorites to go out and win the title, and not just in the minds of local fans. In late September last season, the Sixers were sitting at +750 to win the title at FanDuel, trailing only the Clippers (+330), Lakers (+440), and Bucks (+600). They actually had slightly better odds at DraftKings in early December, with Philadelphia up to +700 to win the title behind that same group of frontrunners, sitting at 15-6 at that point of the season.
(Hard to even remember that far back at this stage of the pandemic, but yes, the Sixers were on about a 58-win pace in early December. Turns out beating the Pistons, Hawks, and Cavaliers in tight games wasn't necessarily the best indicator of future success.)
The public has soured on the Sixers over the last year for good reason. While Doc Rivers brings credibility to the coach's chair and front office changes should help out a beleaguered front office, they still have the same fundamental problems that caused them to unravel last season. The Al Horford problem is still waiting to be solved, and while Tobias Harris played his best basketball under Rivers in L.A., he did so in an ecosystem where he was the focal point, surrounded by excellent spacing he'll likely never see here.
Another critical factor — the further we get into the careers of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the less likely it seems either player is poised for a leap from talented All-Star to a title-winning leader. Embiid regressed on several fronts last season, openly unhappy with how the team had changed around him, and while Simmons' defensive progress is hard to argue, his offensive shortcomings continue to hang over the team, with no significant change in sight.
What's interesting about where Philadelphia sits today, is that they sit there despite sportsbooks having to consider a multitude of factors, including the possibility of roster changes before the 2020-21 season is up. The Sixers have to rank among the most likely teams in the league to make a major trade. But they're in as tough a spot as you can be on the trade front — the guys they want to trade have depreciated in value, they would never get fair value back for the guys they don't want to trade, and the players in the middle (e.g. Josh Richardson) likely aren't enough on their own to return an impact player.
There's plenty of time to change their trajectory, but the Sixers find themselves in the middle group "The Process" was meant to lift them out of for the foreseeable future, as Philadelphia banks on a coaching change and internal development to avoid that fate for the time being.
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