Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) and guard Ben Simmons (25) (right) and guard JJ Redick (17) react late in the fourth quarter of their 117-101 loss to the Boston Celtics in game one of the second round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden.
- The pick: Under 54.5
- Confidence: 2 out of 10
The case for the under: The Sixers rode a 16-game winning streak to finish third last in the East last season, buoyed by unsustainable shooting from Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, both of whom were unlikely candidates to spark such a surge and both of whom have left the Sixers in free agency.
If we balance out that winning streak a bit, even having the Sixers finish 12-4, that tracks them back to 48 wins. Internal improvement probably gets them back to 52-53, but under the 54.5 even in an optimistic result.
The Embiid factor makes this incredibly difficult. The Sixers were 40-22 when Embiid played more than 10 minutes last season. That’s a 52-win pace, which is right where they finished.
So even if you think Embiid is healthy all season, they’d have to match that mark, and then exceed it by three wins to hit the over.
Could internal improvement do that?
Finally, there’s the China problem. The Warriors talked a lot last season about how the China trip messed a lot up for them early on. Conditioning, rhythm, fatigue, all these things were impacted by the trip to China, not only because of the travel, but because China loves the NBA and there were so many media and fan events to attend.
I was curious if that had any sort of effect, so I checked and it turns out that the under on win totals for teams that went to China in preseason went 13-8-1 since 2007, and 8-3-1 since 2013. That’s a stressful number to throw in.
The case for the over: They won 52 games last season and the young guys will be better. That’s about it. Their core remains intact, with J.J. Redick re-signing. Markelle Fultz will actually play games and may actually make jump shots.
Embiid and Ben Simmons will be better, even if Simmons’ shooting remains the same.
There’s continuity, great coaching, and they play in the East. Their Pythagorean expectation was actually 55 wins last season.
They should have been better, by the numbers. That should be enough to get them there. Supposedly.
The margin is so thin on both sides.