March 29, 2021
The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, and we now know what this Sixers team will look like when the playoffs arrive (pending any additions on the buyout market, of course, but those will be minimal moves on the margins anyway). And it's hard to find anything wrong with where Philly is currently sitting in the standings.
Despite not having Joel Embiid for a bit — and there's reason to believe he could be back as early as this weekend — the team has still managed to go 8-2 since the All-Star break (and 6-2 since losing its star center). More importantly, the Sixers managed to keep pace with the Nets and remain atop the Eastern Conference, even as they find themselves in the middle of a tough six-game road trip.
In addition to getting Embiid back, the Sixers could soon get another boost in the form of their only trade deadline acquisition. No, it wasn't the Kyle Lowry trade many fans had hoped for, but the addition of George Hill, who is currently recovering from a thumb injury, will be a big one for Doc Rivers' squad. More so, the addition of someone like Hill rather than Lowry means guys like Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle will remain on the squad and the team won't be sacrificing depth for star power. Instead, they've simply added more depth and given Rivers plenty of options with his rotations down the stretch.
But not everyone is sold that the move was enough to seriously impact their NBA title chances. For example, the Sixers (32-14) still have the sixth-best odds (+1100) to win it all this year, according to Pa.Unibet.com. That puts them behind other Eastern conference teams like the Nets, currently the favorites at +260, and the Bucks (+700), both of whom are behind the Sixers in the standings. In fact, the only team with a better record in the entire league is the Jazz, and despite that they're just fifth in Pa.Unibet.com's latest finals odds, with four other teams ahead of them. Here's a look:
So, why are some of those teams seemingly being slept on by oddsmakers? Obviously there are mitigating factors with several of the teams listed above, like the current injury issues the Lakers are dealing with.
But what about the Sixers, who keep winning despite the absence of a legit MVP candidate in Embiid? Perhaps that's because the oddsmakers — and those compiling the latest batch of NBA power rankings — think some of the other top contenders made more meaningful additions to their rosters at the deadline, like the Nuggets adding Aaron Gordon. Or perhaps they just don't yet trust the Sixers in the playoffs after they were swept out by Boston in the first round a year ago.
Either way, most (but not all) of the power rankings out there had the Sixers falling a spot or more this week, despite a 2-1 week (with their only loss coming against the 31-16 Clippers) in which they were once again without their best player. Sure, those two wins almost weren't wins, but the team still found a way to come out on top on the road. And while they apparently didn't help too much with those ordering these rankings, they all count the same in the standings. And when the regular season ends, that's what matters.
But since the season isn't over yet — and won't be for another month and half — let's take a look at the latest batch of NBA power rankings. And we'll start with a first-place finish, their second in as many weeks after ESPN had the Sixers as their top team last week.
After reportedly balking at the price for Kyle Lowry, Philadelphia acquired George Hill instead. The savvy veteran should provide a huge boost to the 76ers' backcourt depth as another ball-handler. [thescore.com]
Philly finally lost Saturday against the Clippers in Doc Rivers' first game back in L.A. against his former team. But the important news came before the game, with Joel Embiid and recently acquired guard George Hill both being cleared for on-court activities. If the Sixers had known they'd still be in first in the East when Embiid came back, they'd have been ecstatic; they still lead Brooklyn by a game and have a chance to do just that if he gets back in the lineup again soon. -- Bontemps [espn.com]
The Philadelphia 76ers assessed the market for Kyle Lowry and they realized that the price for him was far too high for their liking. They pivoted and added George Hill for a fraction of the price, sending out Tony Bradley and Terrance Ferguson. Bradley had been good for the team in Embiid’s absence but the need for another playmaker trumps all.
Hill has been a valuable role player for many contenders and his place on the Sixers will be no different. Offering Hill as a secondary playmaker next to a point forward worked well for the Milwaukee Bucks a season ago and the Sixers are primed to maximize what he does. He led the league in 3-point shooting last season at 46.0 percent and while he has cooled off this season (38.6 percent) that was on a team that did not draw attention away from him.
The Sixers need to get healthy to see how the entire roster works together. Paul Reed has been a welcome addition in Joel Embiid’s absence and could find himself a fixture of the lineup by the playoffs. Keeping Danny Green past the deadline ended up being an under-celebrated win. He has been solid for the Sixers this season and replacing his role would have been tough on the cheap. [hoopshabit.com]
The wins were not pretty for Philly last week as they blew late leads before finishing the job. But the Sixers will take them however they can get them with Joel Embiid still out. [...]
The Sixers were not able to get Kyle Lowry from Toronto at the deadline but did not come away empty-handed. They were able to acquire George Hill from Oklahoma City in a three-team trade. Hill is no Lowry, but he should be able to provide some more defense along the perimeter, as well as more shooting. [bleacherreport.com]
Over their first nine games after the All-Star break, with Joel Embiid having played just 20 total minutes, the Sixers allowed just 99.5 points per 100 possessions, almost six per 100 fewer than any other team allowed over that stretch. None of those nine opponents scored more than 105 per 100, and the only loss was in overtime to the full-strength Bucks. The Sixers didn’t protect the rim as well without their MVP candidate and they fouled more (see Howard, Dwight), but they forced more turnovers and mid-range shots, while also rebounding better than they did before the break.
That string of elite defense came to an end on Saturday, when the Clippers took advantage of Philly’s lack of size (Howard was ejected for the second straight game) and outscored the Sixers, 38-20, in the restricted area. Without a particularly potent offense themselves, the Sixers are 1-9 when their opponent has scored at least 115 points per 100 possessions and 31-5 otherwise. Having been unable shut down the league’s second-ranked offense, they’ll face the offense ranked third on Tuesday. The Sixers won’t have Embiid, but they’ll have a lot more guys than had in their first meeting with the Nuggets. [nba.com]
The Sixers reportedly held firm on their offer for Kyle Lowry, which apparently wasn't enough for the Raptors, and they ended up with George Hill instead -- a solid consolation prize. Philly beat the Warriors and Lakers this week while losing to the Clippers, and have managed to stay afloat since Joel Embiid's injury. Tobias Harris has taken on the scoring lead, averaging 23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and five assists for the week. Danny Green is in the middle of one of his signature hot streaks, averaging 18.7 points on 55 percent 3-point shooting in the three games. [cbssports.com]
One sentence to sum up the trade deadline for this team: The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t go all-in with an acquisition of Kyle Lowry, but I think it’s possible to justify the idea of keeping their depth, not giving up their young players and managing to acquire George Hill in the process as a better move for Daryl Morey’s squad.
Why are they ranked here? We’ve seen the Sixers look really good since Joel Embiid went down. They almost fall by default this week and not really because of anything they did or didn’t do. It’s just tough to guarantee them a top-five spot until Embiid comes back and proves to be the dominant big man he was before. It’s great to see the Sixers thriving without him, though. That will prove to be big in the minutes he can’t be on the floor in the playoffs. [theathletic.com]
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