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May 18, 2021

What they're saying: Sixers have easiest path to an NBA title

The regular season is in the rearview and the Sixers, according to some, are the team to beat in the NBA playoffs, boasting first place in the East, home court advantage against nearly every team in basketball and a fully healthy roster.

But according to others, they're not.

For whatever reason, there is absolutely no confidence from the sports betting community that the Sixers have an inside track to win the title, despite the fact that their No. 1 seed assures they'll only need to defeat one of the Bucks, Nets, Heat trio to make it to the NBA Finals. 

Here's how the NBA title betting odds currently shake out, via Pickswise:

OutletTitle OddsFinals odds
Bet MGM+800 (5th best)+325 (2nd best)
DraftKings+1100 (6th best)+380 (3rd best)
FanDuel+1200 (6th best)+390 (3rd best)

Do what you will with that information (the return on investment is really high, you know, if you like to bet on things like this). According to pretty much everyone who doesn't run a sports book, however, the Sixers should be considered as a favorite to make the finals. 

Here's what they're saying about the Sixers:

Best case scenario?

David Murphy | Philadelphia Inquirer

It might not be possible for things to have fallen into a better place for the Sixers as they wait to start their playoff journey. But it wasn't just dumb good luck. The Sixers did what they had to do during the regular season to set up an optimal situation within the playoff field:

This isn’t 2019, when the Sixers entered the playoffs knowing they needed to get past Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo to reach the Finals. This isn’t 2001, when the Eastern Conference playoffs were mostly a competition for the right to lose to the Lakers or the Spurs. This isn’t 1990, when the Bulls and the Pistons owned the East and the West featured five teams that won at least 54 games. For the first time since their early-‘80s glory days, the Sixers are looking at a playoff bracket that they can absolutely win.

Are they the “best” team in the field? No, they probably are not. They are a very good regular-season team with one all-world player and a bunch of steady complements. They cared more about winning in the regular season than most of their counterparts, and they took advantage of it. They beat the Nets in a pair of games in which Brooklyn was missing two of its three superstars. They beat the Heat in a couple of games in which Miami’s best player was out. They played the second-easiest schedule in the NBA, and finished with the second-best Net Rating in the Eastern Conference, and that was enough to win the most games. None of that gives us any reason to think that the Sixers are a dramatically different team from previous No. 1 seeds that were really good at winning in the regular season and really bad at doing it thereafter. []

Who should they want?

Kevin Kinkead | Crossing Broad

Our own Sixers beat writer Kyle Neubeck already dove deep into which teams the Sixers should want to face not only in the first round, but in all four rounds they'll need to advance through to clinch a title. But is there a consensus? The Sixers happen to be 11-1 against their four potential first round foes, but there is a hierarchy. Here's more on the top two teams Philly will be hoping to welcome to the Wells Fargo Center later this week:

1. Charlotte

The Hornets finished 33-39 and lost six of seven down the stretch.

They’ve got a couple of decent perimeter players but nobody on the interior, and they’re a young squad lacking in legitimate playoff experience beyond Terry Rozier. This one could very easily go down as a Sixers sweep.

2. Boston

You really want the Sixers to play the Celtics in the playoffs?


Jaylen Brown is out for the season, injured. They lost five of six to finish the season and do not have anybody that can guard Joel Embiid. All the Sixers have to do is keep Jayson Tatum in check and they should roll to an easy series win. Beating a team like the Celtics, which eliminated the Sixers twice in three years, would be a nice confidence boost to kick off the postseason. [Crossing Broad]

It doesn't matter

Lucas Johnson | The Sixer Sense

On paper, Charlotte and Boston are the weakest, but honestly, it might not be worth your effort to root for them. As we mentioned briefly, none of the play-in teams are any good. Here's more on the other two teams in the field, the Pacers and Wizards, and why neither is a threat to Philadelphia:

The Wizards have a dynamic duo at the guard positions in Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. While this duo and team could possibly make for an interesting first round matchup, the Washington lack of depth outside of those two and Rui Hachimura. Without quality role players, they won’t make it very far in a series against Philly.

If the Indiana Pacers were healthier and had a better head coach who appears on his way out, then they may have a shot of making an interesting first round opponent for the Sixers. However, that’s not the case and the Pacers are struggling in some major ways this year and could see changes this offseason. [Fansided]

Stop and appreciate

Steve Lipman | Liberty Ballers

The Sixers clinched the 1-seed after having one of the most successful offseasons in franchise history. They hired Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers, made some key trades and drafted extremely well. So perhaps it's time to just pause and reflect on the turnaround from a year ago, when the team barely even bothered to show up in the Orlando playoff bubble before falling apart. What a difference a year makes:

This Sixers team was a joy to watch from start to finish. Not only did they win more games, but they seemed to gel off the court better than any Sixers team in recent memory. There also seemed to be a noticeable increase in the amount of connective tissue between Embiid and Ben Simmons on and off the court than ever before. Potentially most important: they will arrive at the Playoffs fully healthy.

In a strange year amid a global pandemic (one the Sixers were unable to fully avoid, mind you), the team stuck together and won more games than any team in the East — including star-studded Brooklyn and perennial league-wrecking Milwaukee. Only two teams in all of the NBA eclipsed Philadelphia’s win total. They fought for and earned the first seed in the East, and that substantial accomplishment ought to be appreciated.

Very soon, it will be time to turn our collective attention to the games that really matter. It will be nerve-wrecking as all hell. Who knows how it will turn out. Maybe they’ll disappoint. Maybe they’ll win it all. But just know that the confidence you feel in the 2020-21 Sixers was hard won from the top down, and you should take a moment to appreciate this regular season for all it was. [SB Nation]

Can they score?

Jose De Leon | ESPN

It wouldn't be an accurate cross section of media coverage if we didn't also give voice to some negativity, of which there is some for the No. 1-seeded Sixers. Over at ESPN, they list one concern for each of the playoff teams as the postseason kicks off, and for Philly, it's their offense. Is this something to worry about?

Biggest concern along their playoff path

Can this team score enough? Setting aside the obvious potential for injury, no one questions Philadelphia's ability to play suffocating defense when it is whole. But the 76ers' second-ranked defense is superior to the team's 13th-ranked offense, which can tend to get bogged down, especially when its streaky 3-point shooters start missing. Then there's the issue of scoring late in games -- that has been a problem in Philly for years -- and it remains to be seen whether this season's team will solve it.

Their playoff ceiling is ...

NBA champion. The Sixers are one of the handful of teams that should enter the postseason feeling like they have a legitimate chance to win. And with Brooklyn and Milwaukee on course to duke it out in the Eastern Conference semifinals, it will be unacceptable for Philadelphia to fail to at least reach the Eastern Conference finals, a feat the 76ers haven't done in 20 years. [ESPN]

All about Embiid

Zach Harper | The Athletic

And finally, the key to this entire thing: Joel Embiid. The Sixers' MVP candidate, who may wind up as a second team All-NBA choice due to Nikola Jokic blocking him at center (and voting purists refusing to put him at forward, rightly or wrongly), will single-handedly determine how far Philly goes in the playoffs. According to The Athletic, which positions Philadelphia second in their final NBA Power Rankings (behind the Jazz), he has a lot to prove this postseason.

Player you want more from: Joel Embiid

Until we see him dominate a couple of playoff rounds and lead his team deep into the postseason, a lot of people are going to continue to question Embiid’s place among the elites in the NBA. Maybe some of that is the Giannis Antetokounmpo hangover this season. It can spread to any star who seems to disappoint in the postseason. Now that the Sixers are the 1-seed and Embiid is a viable MVP candidate, it’s time for him to carry that dominance to at least the Eastern Conference finals, if not further. [The Athletic]

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