Take a good look at this chart from AccuScore, which simulates thousands of games to determine these odds, and then we’ll discuss on the other side:
Hey there. Welcome to the other side. Make it over OK? Good. Because I want to frolic with you in the erogenous zone that is the Sixers having the BEST CHANCE IN THE EAST to win the NBA Championship.
One little wrinkle, however. Check that first round percentage. It’s lower than any of the top six teams except the Warriors, who are playing without Steph Curry in the first round. The Heat actually aren’t a great matchup for the Sixers, as they’re patient and defend well– exactly the sort of team that can give an inexperienced team fits in the playoffs. Still, I think we wind up looking back on the series and laughing at the notion that the Heat ever really had a shot.
No one thought we would be here. Sure, this was always going to be the season where the Sixers turned the page, but even the most hardened process zealous didn’t predict 53 wins and a three seed, let alone arguably being the best team in the East. And certainly no one would’ve even posited that had you told them Embiid would miss the last 10 games of the regular season and Markelle Fultz would play sparingly and miss most of the season with a shoulder injury related to his forgetting how to shoot. Give Sam Hinkie credit, yes, but do give some to Bryan Colangelo, who has rounded out this roster near-brilliantly.
We’ve covered the Sixers’ chances in this series and in the playoffs in general. Kevin wrote about their Vegas odds to win it all yesterday, but I’m here to add some context.
Straight-up: That 11% chance AccuScore gives them is the exact same chance gambling experts gave the Eagles to win the Super Bowl before the playoffs started. In fact, it was actually lower:
How do we place in context the expectations for each team? It’s tough to say. The Eagles were at the low end of their expectations by that point. The season had just ended and Nick Foles looked mostly miserable in relief of Carson Wentz. What once looked like the best team in football now looked like a long shot to even make the Super Bowl. But their 11% chance to win it all along with a roughly 25% chance to win the conference still felt like a gift after seeing their last few games. Maybe Vegas knows something we don’t? Indeed they did. As fans, we get wrapped up in what our teams can’t do, and in Philly our teams always feel like a long shot, and even the most optimistic odds still feel like a statistical necessity, like a 16 seed beating a 1, which also happened this year.
You get it. But things have changed. The Eagles, despite being playoff underdogs, were still given favorable lines by Vegas for a team without its starting quarterback. They were only slight dogs in the Super Bowl, clearly a favorable line. Villanova, meanwhile, was favored in every single game they played this season, including the National Championship. They somehow surpassed expectations. That experience has led to a shift in my mindset. Suddenly, when I see 11% odds, I don’t give the other 89% additional weight. I see the value in what we’re given. There’s a real chance of it happening. Sure, the Rockets or Warriors will likely win it all. A full Warriors squad just has too much (experienced) firepower for the Sixers to handle. But the Sixers have played the Rockets tough the last two seasons. They could beat them in a series.
Regardless, this list emphatically says the Sixers are at least tied for being the best team in the East. Keep in mind, their total record takes into account a slow start with inexperienced players and a season played largely without Markelle Fultz, never mind Ersan Ilysova and Marco Belinelli. They’re good, and we need to accept that. At the very least, prepare your schedules, wallets and, if you so choose, livers for four rounds. Also, we have shirts for that sort of thing: