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July 01, 2019

What they're saying: Sixers' NBA title odds improve despite mixed reviews for offseason moves

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020819-TobiasHarris-USAToday Bill Streicher/USA Today

Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (33) reacts after a score against the Denver Nuggets during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center.

If you were away from the world of sports on Sunday — say, at a music festival on the beach in New Jersey — and are trying to make sense of the NBA right now, good luck.

Even those who have been staring at a screen for most of the last 18 hours can't really fully understand or grasp one of the most eventful free agent Day 1's in any sport in American history.

We have detailed all of the Sixers' moves here, from Jimmy Butler's sign and trade to the Heat to the decision to sign Tobias Harris to a near super-max deal. But what is everyone else saying about the new look Sixers, with several moves no doubt still to come over the ensuing days and weeks?

All over the board

In Atlantic City Sunday morning, I stood in front of the NBA futures odds at William Hill Sportsbook in the Ocean Resort Casino and scratched my head. And then I texted every NBA enthusiast in my phone asking them "who the heck should I bet on before free agency? There has to be an edge here..."

And after hastily placing a few hard earned bucks on the Lakers (who better get Kawhi for my wallet's sake), the odds went all over the place as the day continued.

Here's a look at the teams expected to be players in free agency according to William Hill, as an example, and where it's NBA championship odds have gone over the last 24 hours:

 Team11 AM on 6/3011 AM on 7/1
Warriors+800+850
Bucks+600+650
Sixers+1400+1000
Celtics+1800+2200
Rockets+850+1000
Raptors+850+900
Clippers+750+650
Lakers+350+220
Nets+2500+3000
Knicks+4000+15000

Some takeaways:
• The Sixers appear to be the only team whose odds have gone up based on free agent acquisitions.
• The Lakers and Clippers have slightly better title odds as each waits for a decision from Kawhi Leonard.
• The Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Bucks are all contenders who seem to be falling off a bit, but not a lot.

'Extremely high price'

Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo wrote about Harris' five-year, $180 million deal Sunday night and seemed pretty adamant that the Sixers overpaid. Here's some of what he had to say:

The issue here has less to do with Harris’s talent than it does with the operational logic for the Sixers, who were on the precipice of the Eastern Conference finals this spring. Watching Butler walk after all that is going to sting. Paying Harris this much money—just $10 million less than the Warriors are paying Klay Thompson, and more than the Mavericks are paying Kristaps Porzingis over the same time period, for contrast—could hurt even more, limiting Philadelphia’s flexibility to build around Embiid and Simmons (the latter of whom is reportedly moving toward a long-term extension with the team). Harris is versatile and fits with those guys, but what the Sixers really need is another dribble-centric shot-creator to help Simmons when things stall, and they might be hard-pressed to find that guy... Essentially, they might shifting a lot of weight onto Simmons’ young shoulders in crunch time going forward even with Richardson inbound. That’s a gamble unto itself, given his jump shooting woes. [Sports Illustrated]

For what it's worth, Woo gave the move a 'B-'.

Overall, Sports Illustrated gave Philly an 'A' for the first day of NBA free agency, with Andrew Sharp writing that: "What Sunday did, though, was ensure that the Sixers will have a shot at a title if the franchise players can check the requisite boxes."

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for a minute there.

Contenders for a title

NJ.com did its own grades, with the Sixers' receiving a 'B' for their moves to open free agency. Brian Fonseca didn't really expand much on why he didn't give them an 'A,' like SI did, but he seemed pretty optimistic about the team's lineup after their franchise-altering decisions Sunday:

At the end of the day, the Sixers’ projected starting line-up next season — Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Joel Embiid — is arguably the most talented in the Eastern Conference. They’ll be contenders out of the East and challenge for a title. [NJ.com]

High hopes for Horford

Over at NBC Sports Philly, Noah Levick attempted to make sense of the Sixers' big moves Sunday night. Among other points, he made two interesting ones about the Horford signing, which I'll include here:

• We talked a ton about Butler's fit last year, and that's going to again be an interesting question with Horford. Will Brett Brown use him primarily as a traditional power forward, given Horford's three-point shooting ability (37.1 percent from long range on 3.2 attempts per game over the last four seasons)? Will Brown stagger his minutes with Embiid, making Horford the de facto backup center? Does that mean a backup big guy should now be a lower priority in free agency? Regardless, the Sixers got an excellent player who does a lot of things well. 
• It's worth noting that Horford is 33 years old. There's a chance the Sixers are paying Horford a lot more than he's worth in the last two years of his deal, and the odds of decline are perhaps higher than they would have been with a five-year deal for Butler, who turns 30 in September. It will be worth it if Horford helps the team win a title at age 33 or 34. [NBCSP]

On the fly

John Gonzalez from The Ringer, a former Philly sportswriter himself, seemed pretty optimistic about the Sixers' moves Sunday. From his analysis, worried fans can expect to get a young 3-and-D with potential in 25-year-old Josh Richardson as a respectable replacement for the departed Butler. Here's a little slice of what else he had to say:

Optics aside, Brand and the Sixers have to feel pretty good. They overhauled the roster on the fly—again—and remain in position as Eastern Conference contenders for the foreseeable future. Considering all the variables, that’s a win—especially because there was a real chance they’d come out of free agency with two max slots to offer and nobody willing to take their money. That would have been a disaster. Who wants that? Nobody wants that. [The Ringer]

Apologies again to our Knick fan friends, who got fried with links to Knick-related tweets in the last three sentences above.

Team to beat

And finally, our favorite former Sixer Charles Barkley thinks this team is "the team to beat" not only in the East, but in the entire NBA. Take a look here at what he had to say via skype on ESPN Monday:

"I think they're the team to beat in the entire NBA, no matter what Kawhi does. They're the team that came the closest to beating [the Raptors]. But with the additions of Josh Richardson and Al Horford, the 76ers, to me, became the team to beat. But it depends on two things. Joel Embiid has to get his fat butt in shape, and secondly, Ben Simmons has to work on his game. If those two things happen, the Philadelphia 76ers are the team to beat in the NBA." [ESPN]

Of course, immediately after, Stephen A. Smith shouts " I wouldn't go that far..." Smith does, however, think they will get to the Finals in the East.


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