Updated NBA Championship Odds: The Loaded Sixers
At last, the Warriors have retaken their throne atop the Western Conference after a seven-game winning streak that included a dismantling of the Nuggets in Denver. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 62 points on their own, proving once again that Golden State’s offense is a force to be reckoned with. DeMarcus Cousins made his debut in a victory over the Clippers with 14 points in 15 minutes, giving a preview of the Warriors’ new improved death lineup.
Meanwhile, in the East, the usual suspects remain as the top seeds, including the Sixers, who’ve won seven of their last ten games. Joel Embiid has been on a tear recently, averaging 29.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game in January. However, the Sixers haven’t reached a new level as some thought after trading for Jimmy Butler; Butler has only been a minor upgrade over Robert Covington, per ESPN’s real plus-minus.
Philadelphia’s odds to win the East are the same as Milwaukee’s, despite being four games behind the Bucks in the standings. The Sixers are loaded on paper, but their level of talent hasn’t translated to the standings yet. Let’s examine the updated odds for Philadelphia to win the championship, according to the FanDuel Sportsbook, and determine whether or not they’re a good bet to win.
numberFire Title Probability: 5.4%
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +1700
Besides Embiid and Butler, Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick round out the Sixers’ core that averages at least 30 minutes per game, and each has an effective field goal percentage of 51.5% or higher. Therefore, Philly ranks ninth in offensive efficiency, only behind Milwaukee and Toronto in the East. However, the young stars have struggled with turnovers; both Embiid and Simmons average a combined 3.5 turnovers per game and the team as a whole rank 26th in the league according to Basketball Reference.
Philly also struggles to force turnovers; thus, despite holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 50.4%, the Sixers only rank 11th in defensive efficiency. Even though they lost one of the best defenders in Covington in the trade to Minnesota, they’re an above average defensive team. The trade for Butler improved their offense, while sacrificing some talent on defense.
Despite some added drama, Butler’s scoring ability has put the Sixers on the cusp of being an elite NBA offense. However, the underrated play of J.J. Redick has also contributed to Philly’s offensive prowess. Redick has been one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, and he’s done it with both pull-up (1.1 per game) and catch-and-shoot (1.8 per game) attempts, according to NBA.com.
Redick hasn’t been the only efficient shooter to make an impact. The Sixers have made 65.3% of shot attempts within five feet of the basket (third in the league), in part due to Embiid’s dominance inside. Embiid is also second in the NBA in free throws made, only behind James Harden. Free throws have been an important part of the Sixers’ offense this season -- they’re second overall in behind the Clippers.
Philly has the tools to improve from a good offense to a great one; they have a dominant big man in Embiid, a go-to scorer in Butler, a versatile long-range shooter in Redick, and a Swiss Army knife in Simmons.
Our model projects the Sixers to win the title with a 5.4% probability which is slightly less than the odds would imply at +1700. The addition of Butler hasn’t paid the dividends that adding another superstar typically does, but bettors should keep an eye on Philadelphia. If Simmons and Embiid can mesh with Butler come April, the Sixers would be a tough out for any of the other Eastern Conference contenders since Philly is arguably the most talented team on paper.