What Does Joel Embiid’s Injury Mean For The Sixers vs. Hawks Series Price?

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on June 4, 2021

This weekend, the NBA playoffs heat up with the beginning of the two Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets looks to be the more highly anticipated matchup and the one that will attract more betting interest. After all, it could very well determine the eventual champion.

However, the matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks presents perhaps a more interesting case from a betting perspective. That’s because a major unknown hovers over the market: the health of Philly’s superstar center, Joel Embiid.

He ultimately faded in the MVP race due to an injury, but Embiid may have been the most impactful player in the league this year on a per-minute basis. Among high-volume players, he ranked fourth in net rating at +12. He followed up with a preposterous, melt-your-face-off +32.7 NetRtg in the first round.

So, how is his potential absence being reflected in the betting market? And what sort of lineups will the Sixers be using if he does indeed miss time?

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How much time will Embiid miss?

“The Process” went down in the first round against the Wizards with a meniscus tear.

Ethan Strauss of The Athletic interviewed a top sports medicine doctor who said meniscus tears vary hugely in severity. They can end seasons or merely act as a minor irritant that can be played through.

Embiid’s availability remains a complete mystery. He could miss the rest of the season or he could play something close to his normal minutes against the Hawks.

He’s listed as day-to-day right now. Any projection on his playing time looks like a dart throw. The Sixers were exactly neutral during the regular season when he sat.

The Sixers opened -200 with the Hawks coming back at +155 at DraftKings.

Remember, the markets gave this Sixers team credit for having real championship equity as one of a handful of teams under +1000 at the start of the playoffs. The Hawks, meanwhile, were judged to be virtually a coin flip against Knicks team that massively overachieved after being projected to finish in the lottery.

It seems clear that the market isn’t expecting Embiid to provide his usual production. So, it may be up to some little-used Sixers lineups to carry the squad in the second round.

What will the 76ers’ lineups look like?

The Hawks did not have a strong defense in the regular season, ranking 18th in DefRtg.

However, they showed a great ability to adjust in the first round. They disrespected the Knicks’ shooting to an extreme degree, sloughing off their perimeter players to swarm the ball. The strategy proved incredibly effective as the Hawks managed to post a DefRtg of 102.1, second only to the Bucks and more than four points better than the Lakers’ regular season-leading mark.

Given that, using any lineup with more than one non-shooter will likely tough to survive for the Sixers.

In the regular season, the Sixers’ second-most used lineup was their four non-Embiid starters — Seth Curry, Danny Green, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons — with Mike Scott in place of the All-Star. In 107 minutes, that lineup tallied a mediocre +0.9 NetRtg.

That won’t cut it in the playoffs, which may be why the Sixers mothballed Scott after a Game 4 bagel in 16:37. He played just five minutes in Game 5.

Instead, the Sixers went with an unconventional small lineup with Simmons and Harris as the nominal big men alongside Curry, Green and Matisse Thybulle.

That group played zero minutes together in the regular season, so there’s little data to go off. They were solid in 16:13 against the Wizards with a +9.5 NetRtg, though subbing in Dwight Howard for Thybulle produced better results in an even smaller sample.

In the regular season, on the other hand, that same lineup with Howard sputtered to -30.2 in 66:59, the worst of any on the team that played more than 30 minutes.

Here are the net ratings for the Sixers’ five most-used lineups from the regular season that exclude Embiid and include only players still on the roster:

  • Curry/Green/Harris/Scott/Simmons +0.9
  • Howard/Korkmaz/Milton/Scott/Thybulle +4.2
  • Harris/Howard/Korkmaz/Milton/Thybulle +7.2
  • Curry/Green/Harris/Howard/Simmons -30.2
  • Howard/Korkmaz/Maxey/Milton/Thybulle +1.9

Grim prognosis without Embiid?

Neither those groups nor those numbers inspire much confidence, particularly when contrasted to what the Hawks are running out there. Their starting lineup against the Knicks was +16.9 in 98:47 while a similar regular season lineup with Kevin Huerter in place of De’Andre Hunter went +23.7 in 111:39.

Certainly, the Sixers have the perimeter defenders to cause much more trouble for Trae Young than the Knicks did. But, will they be able to score enough to keep up?

From the looks of things, the Sixers will have their work cut out for them on that end if Embiid misses any extended period of time. Coach Doc Rivers will have some tough lineup decisions to make as the Hawks feasted on Knicks groups that lacked shooting like the lineups above.

A bet on the Sixers is a bet that either Embiid will be healthy or the Sixers can piece together enough shooting to avoid looking like the punch-less Knicks. There isn’t much evidence they can have success without him.

After looking at these numbers, it’s understandable that the Hawks opened as pretty short underdogs. The Sixers should roll if Embiid plays, but it’s not a surprise the market doesn’t have a ton of confidence in them right now. Given his injury and the net ratings of the lineups likely on the floor, the Hawks look very live.

76ers vs. Hawks Game 1 odds

Philadelphia hosts Atlanta as favorites on Sunday. The game tips off at 1 p.m. ET at the Wells Fargo Center.

76ers vs Hawks Props

Looking to bet on props for this game or series? Use our prop search tool to find the best odds across legal sportsbooks in the US. Odds will be available as soon as they’re posted at sportsbooks.


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Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

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