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April 19, 2021

NBA power rankings roundup: Sixers are on top — but for how long?

The Sixers are riding high right now, sitting atop the Eastern Conference and clear for the moment of the Nets and Bucks with an inside shot at home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

There are still 16 games left — and the Sixers have some tough games just ahead on the schedule so anything could happen. But there's no reason we can't just stop for a moment and take a look at the team's place among the NBA's hierarchy at this point in the season.

First let's look at the sports books, where the Sixers were, about a month ago, looking at +550 odds (third-best) to win the conference. Interestingly, DraftKings (via PicksWise) sees Philly as the third best, still as of April 19:

Eastern Conference Title Odds

TeamRecordUnibet Odds

The Sixers have the best record in the East, are playing the best ball in the conference, finally have a healthy Joel Embiid back and recent addition George Hill nearing health too — and yet sports books still think they're the third-best team. What else is new?

How do the Sixers weigh in amid the hierarchy of the entire NBA? Here's a look at where they are ranked in various power rankings across the NBA media world (plus their NBA finals odds via PicksWise).

NBA Power Rankings

OutletRankTeams ahead
The Athletic1st
Bleacher Report2ndClippers
CBS3rdClippers, Suns
NBC Sports
4thClippers, Suns, Jazz
Suns, Jazz, Clippers 
DraftKings6thNets, Clippers, Lakers
Jazz, Bucks

There are different ways to put together power rankings, and three of the biggest names in the game — The Athletic, ESPN and all credit the Sixers and their current four-game win streak (including wins over the Nets, Clippers and Mavericks) with being the hottest team in the league.

The Athletic, for example, gave Philly an "A" for the first three quarters of their season:

The Philadelphia 76ers have weathered the storm of Joel Embiid missing a big chunk of games, they’ve carved out the second-best defensive rating in the NBA and they’re just good enough offensively to make it work. The Sixers have held strong on the road, after the disaster we saw with this team away from Wells Fargo Center. They have the best record in the East and have been battling Brooklyn for months for it. It feels like the Sixers have finally put it all together, but we’ll judge that more in the postseason.

Goal for final stretch: With Embiid healthy and thriving, see if you can get that middle-of-the-road offensive rating up toward the top eight. Over a 10.0 points per 100 possession difference when Embiid is on the floor than off. [The Athletic]

However, as you can see from DraftKings putting five other clubs ahead of the Sixers, when it comes to NBA title odds (they have a heathy +1200 chance right now, place your bets), "what have you done for me lately?" is a different question than "which team will be able to win four best-of-seven playoff series' and a world championship?"

According to Tankathon, the Sixers have the third-easiest schedule remaining in their last 16 games. Two back-to-back games in Milwaukee against the Bucks, as well as dates with the Suns and the Heat, are really the only four games they have left against contending teams.

For one more perspective on the Sixers' place in the NBA power structure, the analytics website FiveThirtyEight credits the Sixers with a 14% chance of winning a championship, tied with two others (the Nets and Jazz) for second in the league behind the Clippers' 29%. Interestingly, the website predicts the Sixers finish the season with the most wins in the East (50), and the highest percentage chance of making the Finals (33%), aside from the Clippers.

The Sixers are good. And they are getting respect nearly everywhere. But with nothing better than a second-round exit to speak of post 'The Process,' none of this matters if they can't win this summer when it counts.

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