Bettors are pounding the Philadelphia 76ers to win the NBA championship with two days remaining before the resumption of the season gets underway, and the price obviously seems right.
Yes, Joel Embiid is flaky. Yes, Ben Simmons is still a work in progress from both the 3-point line and the foul line. Yes, Brett Brown is still in charge after all these years. Yes, Shake Milton is now the starting point guard.
Despite all of those possible negatives, there is a school of thought that says the time has come for this group, which has been anchored by Embiid and Simmons for several years, to come up with a breakthrough. Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson are no slouches, that school of thought says, and the Sixers have had to have learned something from all of their playoff failures in recent seasons.
For 76ers bettors, talent wins out
With the resumption of play beginning Thursday in the Orlando bubble, Philadelphia has longer odds than the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks and the defending champion Toronto Raptors. They are more or less at the same price as the Boston Celtics, another team that eventually needs to break out of the funk it has been in for quite some time.
But when it comes to pure, natural talent, the duo of Simmons and Embiid is as good or better as any tandem in the East – which is what Sixers bettors are banking on.
“Overall the 76ers rank No. 2 in handle and No. 2 in total bets in the NBA Championship outright market,” said Kevin Hennessey, a spokesman for FanDuel Sportsbook. “They are a significant liability for the book. Over the last two weeks we have seen quite an uptick in interest in the 76ers now that the bubble is in place and games start up on Thursday. To be more specific, the 76ers have accounted for more than 25% of bets in the outright market. “
Philadelphia will play its final tuneup Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks. The Sixers lost to Oklahoma City on Sunday and defeated Memphis on Friday in their first two exhibition games/scrimmages.
Last season, the Sixers went out in seven games against the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the NBA playoffs. The year prior, they went out in five games against the Boston Celtics amid a series of episodes of cranial flatulence by Simmons and Embiid – especially coming out of late game timeouts. Three seasons ago, they did not even qualify for the postseason.
But general manager Elton Brand has been making changes as aggressively as any general manager in the NBA, which is why Harris and Al Horford are aboard and why Landry Shamet is plying his trade for the Clippers these days. It is hard to think of any league executive who has been under the gun as much as Brand, whose ownership group is destined to lose patience with Brown if some sort of breakthrough does not happen soon.
‘About every half hour our exposure on the 76ers continues to go up’
The 76ers begin the NBA restart sitting in a tie with the Indiana Pacers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They have gone 1-2 against the Milwaukee Bucks, 1-3 against the Miami Heat, 3-1 against the Celtics and 1-2 against Indiana. That is not exactly the body of work that a championship contending team would want to hang its hat on, but then again, regular season games end up being mostly meaningless when all is said and done, and the neutral court factor with the season resuming at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando creates a level playing field for all 22 NBA teams that are resuming the season.
“About every half hour our exposure on the Sixers continues to go up,” said Johnny Avello, director of risk management at DraftKings. “There is a set of bets, then another, then another, and for a lot of bettors taking the Lakers, Bucks or Clippers at short odds just makes very little sense at this point.”
76ers bettors trusting Simmons gets it together
The lineup switch that has put Simmons at power forward is one of the most interesting strategic storylines as the NBA season gets set to resume, although Simmons can be expected to be the de facto playmaker despite being listed as a 4 rather than a 1.
What remains to be seen is whether his reputed 3-point shot is for real. Some books put up an over/under on made 3s for Simmons at the start of the season, and he has made two of them in six attempts. Simmons is a combined 2-of-23 from deep in his NBA career.
“[Simmons] has shot more threes in practice the last few days than he might’ve for almost half a season,” Brown said earlier this week. “And he looks good, he feels good, and I know he’s getting tremendous encouragement from his teammates.”
If that stat starts to trend toward a better place, maybe all those recent Sixers bets mean something special is about to happen for Philadelphia.