76ers Are The Best Bet To Win NBA Finals Right Now

76ers Are The Best Bet To Win NBA Finals Right Now article feature image

Last week, something that could shift everything in the NBA title race happened, and hardly anyone noticed.

Joel Embiid returned to practice with the Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid is seven weeks removed from the meniscus tear that required a procedure. There was ongoing speculation that Embiid might not return this season at all. But he returned to practice and traveled with the team on their road trip this weekend, and coach Nick Nurse said there is a "good likelihood" Embiid will return before the playoffs.

On the Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN's Tim Bontemps said that Embiid could return any day, whenever he feels ready to go.

Meanwhile, the Sixers are +2000 at BetMGM to win the Eastern Conference. They are priced behind the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. The price must account for their status as a play-in tournament team.

Best Bet to Win NBA Finals: Philadelphia 76ers (+2000)

First, a few concerns.

Certainly, Embiid is unlikely to return at 100% or anything close to it. Can a lesser version of Embiid really lead a better playoff run than the previous two seasons that have ended in such disappointment?

Furthermore, the path is likely to be tough. There's a good chance that Embiid returns, but the Sixers still finish in the play-in and wind up having to go on the road for three series, including a first-round series against likely either the Celtics or the Bucks. An 8th-place finish for the Sixers would guarantee a matchup with Boston.

Only six teams in the last 30 years of NBA history have made the Finals with a seed lower than third.

But this is where it's important to consider what the Sixers were before Embiid's injury. Embiid first started missing games on Christmas. Prior to that, the Sixers were 20-8, on track for a top-three seed and to finish with 40 wins before 20 losses (a key metric in determining championship viability).

At that point, the Sixers had the No.1 net rating in the league at +11.4, higher even than the Boston Celtics. That's not to say they would have continued at that pace. But the key point is that with Embiid fully healthy, the Sixers profile as a title contender, and they are currently priced as a dangerous play-in team.

The path matters here as well. If Embiid does return and the Sixers slip out of the play-in and into the sixth seed, they'll face either the Cleveland Cavaliers or New York Knicks, with an outside chance at the Milwaukee Bucks or Orlando Magic. All of those teams will face problems with the Sixers, whether it's keeping up with their outside shooting and offense (Cavaliers, Magic), dealing with Embiid's size (Knicks), or just their overall defensive issues (Milwaukee).

If the Sixers land sixth or fall to seventh in the play-in but win the first play-in game, they stay out of Boston's bracket until the conference finals, giving Embiid more time to improve his health (if they can finish series with some time to spare). The nightmare scenario for this bet is they fall to eighth and face Boston first out of the gate. They almost definitely lose that series if that's the case, but I will say the Sixers seem better prepared to give Boston trouble than in previous matchups.

The other key factor in all this is coaching. I've been skeptical of the Sixers for years due to how easy it has been for teams to neutralize Embiid, either through double-teams or by adjusting pick-and-roll coverage like the Celtics did in the final two games vs. Philadelphia last postseason.

But Nick Nurse is such a monumental upgrade in coaching that he presents an opportunity for the Sixers to be the one giving other teams problems. He's built in more reads for Embiid, more counters, and has shown a willingness to change defensive strategies to what the team needs. I have more confidence in his ability to build a scheme vs. the Knicks, for example, that doesn't just result in Embiid giving Jalen Brunson space to shoot floaters countless times per game as Trae Young did in 2021 when Doc Rivers coached the Sixers.

Nurse won a title in 2019 specifically by adapting each series to what the Raptors needed, including in an Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. He's the x-factor for this team.

Embiid may not return at a high enough percent to lift the Sixers. So they may fall to 8, and bow out to Boston in five or six games. Maybe the Bucks have too much offense, or the Cavaliers find some magic with Donovan Mitchell and shooters.

But the Sixers are live, and certainly at better than a 4.76% implied mark currently in the market.

The phrases "sleeper" and "dark horse" are often forced, especially in the NBA. But currently the Sixers truly are a sleeping giant — and that giant just started practicing, signaling a return for Philadelphia to true contender status, while the market is unable to price them accordingly.

The best North Carolina sports betting apps are now live! Learn more and register for the best bonus offers.

Phone With the Action App Open
The must-have app for NBA bettors
The best NBA betting scoreboard
Free picks from proven pros
Live win probabilities for your bets

How would you rate this article?

This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.

Sportsbook Promos
See All
Legal Online Sports Betting

North Carolina Sports Betting Promos: Top 8 Welcome Offers & Sign-Up Bonuses in NC

Nick Sterling
Apr 16, 2024 UTC