76ers Playoff Odds: Will Joel Embiid Return To Lead A Deep Run?

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Written By Mo Nuwwarah | Last Updated
joel embiid return nba mvp

Ears perked up across Sixers nation on Wednesday night, as Coach Nick Nurse said there was a “good likelihood” of a Joel Embiid return from injury prior to the playoffs. With the Sixers sitting 39-34 and eighth in the East, that counts as welcome news. Are 76ers playoff futures worth a look in NBA odds as the reigning NBA MVP gets closer to being back on the court?

Let’s look at their projections and upcoming schedule.

Philadelphia 76ers Odds

Projections Like 76ers Playoff Chances

Let’s start off with the good news: all of the projection systems are all in on yes for 76ers playoff odds.

SystemProjected RecordProjected Seed76ers Playoff Odds
Basketball Reference44.4 – 37.67th (44% chance)84.8%
ESPN BPI44.2 – 37.87th87.4%
TeamRankings44.4 – 37.68th87.3%

Much of that optimism likely stems from an incredibly soft closing schedule. Of Philly’s nine remaining games, five come against the bottom of the barrel: Toronto, Memphis, San Antonio, Detroit, and Brooklyn.

Merely making the playoffs isn’t going to be enough, however. The key for the 76ers is going to be avoiding the No. 8 seed. That almost certainly means a date with Boston. The juggernaut Celtics figure to make short work of the Sixers.

Sure, they probably have to beat Boston no matter what to cash any futures tickets. But that will be much easier done in the Eastern Conference Finals if a Joel Embiid return coincides with improved seeding, giving him a chance to get his sea legs back under him. In the first round, with Embiid barely having had a chance to return to action in all likelihood, the Celtics might be -800 favorites.

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76ers Have Several Hurdles To Jump

Even getting to the playoffs is no guarantee, regardless of whether Embiid returns.

It’s overwhelmingly likely the 76ers will go through the play-in before any kind of playoff run (-900 odds at DraftKings Sportsbook). That’s a problem because the teams they’re likely to face have been playing better than them.

Per Cleaning The Glass, both Miami and Chicago have been notably better than the 76ers since Embiid went down:

TeamOverall Net RatingNet Rating Since Embiid Injury
76ers+1.9-5.9
Heat0+3.9
Bulls-2+1.9

One can see that the Sixers have been the superior team overall. But that might matter, or it might not. There’s no guarantee Embiid will be ready or can handle anything close to a normal minutes allotment.

Tyrese Maxey has done his best to lead the charge, but he’s struggling more and more. The team has a negative net rating when he plays without Embiid. Teams are becoming increasingly bold about forcing other 76ers to beat them. In a nationally televised Wednesday night game, the Clippers blitzed and trapped Maxey down the stretch and successfully forced Kelly Oubre Jr. to try to beat them. Missed foul call or not, he came up short.

In order to get the No. 7 seed, the Sixers will need to stay in the top two spots of the play-in and then most likely beat Miami. The line will depend on the Heat’s ongoing injury disaster, but there’s a good chance Philly will be an underdog if that game is on the road.

Conclusion: Little Apparent Value In 76ers Odds

Bettors might get excited seeing the guy who cashed MVP odds last year getting healthy and eyeball 76ers playoff odds.

However, I’m skeptical they’re going to be able to do anything, even after the Joel Embiid return. It just feels like a parlay of too many things the Sixers need to happen. Embiid has to come back in time and stay healthy enough to power them to a top-seven seed. Then, they need to advance through two playoff series on the road, albeit against teams they can certainly beat.

All of that will lead them to a very likely meeting with the Celtics, where they’ll be large underdogs even if Embiid is 100% and everything has gone perfectly.

The +2000 and +4000 out there for the 76ers to win the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals, respectively, don’t seem enticing enough to make a longshot play here for my money.

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