76ers vs. Pelicans Odds & Picks for 76ers vs. Pelicans: Joel Embiid Gives Sixers Value, Even Without Ben Simmons
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Joel Embiid.
76ers vs. Pelicans Odds
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Everything has changed for the Philadelphia 76ers entering the 2021-22 season, but at the same time, nothing has changed.
Philly did its best to retain its core, sans one left-handed point-guard, and enters the season with lofty expectations once again in the Eastern Conference. The New Orleans Pelicans, meanwhile, just let Lonzo Ball go and need another big step forward from Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
While the Sixers are down a star, the Pelicans are as well with the news last week that Zion Williamson would miss the start of the season.
The absences on both sides mean the scale won’t tip too much either way, but should the Sixers be a heavier favorite in this spot? Let’s take a look at the numbers and see what they say.
Sixers Begin Life Without Simmons
The talk of the basketball world just 32 or so hours before the Sixers would take the floor to start their season on Wednesday was the status of Ben Simmons, who has been suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team on Tuesday. This means he won’t play in this one, which affects a lot on the offensive side of the ball.
With Simmons on the floor last season, the 76ers scored 4.9 more points per 100 possessions and improved incrementally on defense by 0.4 points per 100 possessions. For all the talk about Simmons’ inability to shoot, the Sixers’ offense was still objectively better with him in there, and their assist rate climbed from 53.9% to 60%.
Simmons will be replaced by Tyrese Maxey, an exciting second-year guard who averaged 18.8 points per 36 minutes last season but shot just 30.1%. Still, he had his moments, including two 30-point games in his rookie year and four double-digit scoring outputs in the playoffs. Generally speaking, when Maxey had the ball in his hands, good things happened on offense.
One thing of note here is that the Sixers covered the spread in 54.3% of their games last year, but went just 19-20-2 against the spread (ATS) on the road. This was decidedly a different team at the Wells Fargo Center, where they dominated almost every time they stepped on the floor.
No Zion to Start Season
Williamson will miss this game as he continues to recover from a stress fracture in his right foot. That will be disappointing in so many areas of the game, but one specific place they are going to miss Williamson is in the paint, where the Sixers were somewhat susceptible last year with a 62% field goal percentage allowed.
A big narrative here will be rebounding, considering the Sixers have a big body inside in Joel Embiid and another behind him in Andre Drummond. The Pelicans ranked third in rebounding a season ago and were known for bodying up the opposition behind some solid play from Steven Adams and Williamson.
Jonas Valanciunas will add some post scoring, having been acquired in a trade that sent Adams to Memphis. Valanciunas ranked eighth a season ago in rebounding rate, so he should fit right in here and make up for the loss of Williamson.
The Pelicans were a brutal 34-38 against the spread (ATS) last year and 16-20 at home, but will hope their new-look lineup brings different results this season. New Orleans dealt with numerous injuries last year, too, including one to Alexander-Walker, who could take this team to new heights offensively.
I don’t think the Sixers’ offense should miss a beat with Maxey at the helm, and with most players returning this stout defense should be strong, with the possible exception of inside six feet. New Orleans is well-equipped to score inside, though plugging in Naji Marshall for Williamson isn’t as sexy as Maxey for Simmons.
The Sixers were top-10 in rebounding last year as well and they should be one of the few teams which can match the physicality New Orleans brings. I see value in backing a strong roster looking for a statement win over one which will be trying to make some new parts fit.
As of Tuesday night, you can still get Philadelphia -3 at PointsBet.
Pick: Sixers -3