Are the Philadelphia 76ers on Their Way to the Worst Start in NBA History?
The Philadelphia Sixers are bad. They're really bad.
This isn't news to anyone. The fact that they are 30th in our NBA Team Power Rankings shouldn't surprise you. Nor should the fact that they place last in our offensive efficiency ranks at 91.8 points scored per 100 possessions and 23rd in defensive efficiency at 108.2 points allowed per 100 possessions. That net rating of -16.4 is easily the worst in the whole league, as is their 9.9 nERD.
In case you're wondering, a team's nERD is representative of what our algorithms predict their ultimate winning percentage will be. In other words, a 9.9 nERD extrapolated over 82 games means they're on track to have a record of approximately 7-75 (which would be the worst in league history, with a lower winning percentage than the 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats of 2011-12 and fewer wins than the 9-73 Sixers of 1972-73). The thing is, if you've watched any Sixers games this season, that seven projected wins almost seems generous.
They have a -16.0 point differential through their 0-9 start, including a 53-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday. The Mavs outscored the Sixers 38-10 in that game's opening quarter and 73-29 in the first half. Yikes.
Every single player on the Sixers has a negative individual nERD this season, with the exception of Malcolm Thomas. Don't know who Malcolm Thomas is? Don't worry, neither does NBA.com, as trying to access his player page brings up a "Sorry, Page Not Found" error. That's the kind of guy that has played 71 minutes for these Sixers this year (which represents 34% of his total career playing time since 2011 in only five games).
Ok, you get it. They stink. The question is, just how bad could this start be in comparison to other teams in NBA history?
In 2009-10, the then New Jersey Nets started off the season 0-18. They finished the year with a record of 12-70 and avoided being the worst team in league history, but still hold the record for the worst start. What are the chances that this year's Sixers beat them?
According to our algorithms, only 1.9% [update: this is now 2.6%].
Here's their [updated] schedule up to game 19:
|Nov. 19th, 2014||Boston Celtics||Home|
|Nov. 21st, 2014||Phoenix Suns||Home|
|Nov. 22nd, 2014||New York Knicks||Away|
|Nov. 24th, 2014||Portland Trail Blazers||Home|
|Nov. 26th, 2014||Brooklyn Nets||Home|
|Nov. 29th, 2014||Dallas Mavericks||Home|
|Dec. 1st, 2014||San Antonio Spurs||Home|
|Dec. 3rd, 2014||Minnesota Timberwolves||Away|
|Dec. 5th, 2015||Oklahoma City Thunder||Home|
According to our metrics, the Sixers aren't favored in a single one of those games, despite the fact that seven of the 10 of them are at home in Philly. Their highest win probability comes in Wednesday's game against the Celtics and that's still only around 45%. They don't top a 40% win probability in any of the other games listed above. That makes it seem like 0-19 is in the bag, but the odds of them losing all ten are obviously lower than any individual game.
Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that our model crunches the numbers, but it does not take into account teams intentionally trying to lose (which many believe the Sixers are, despite only losing to Houston by one point this past Friday). If you are in the camp that believes that they are all tank all the time, then you have to imagine the already low win probabilities of the games above will all be even lower and the Sixers' chances of breaking the record for the worst start in NBA history will be even higher than 1.9%.
We'll see if they get one step closer to 0-19 and history tonight when they square off with the Spurs in San Antonio. As you can imagine, that game has the lowest win probability of every game in the table above, coming in at lower than 20%. The Sixers have both of their best young prospects going tonight in Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, but both are being brought off the bench. Sure, they're coming off of injury and the Sixers have no reason not to bring their prized assets along slowly, but benching the only two real NBA players on your roster against the defending champs doesn't exactly dispel any tanking rumors.
You do you, Sam Hinkie.