2019-2020 NBA Betting Preview: 76ers
Philadelphia made some major offseason roster changes
The Philadelphia 76ers may not have LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard, but the team found themselves a bounce-on-the-rim away from forcing overtime against the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors in the 2018-19 Eastern Conference Semifinals, and there’s something to be said about how tough the team played against a Leonard-led Raptors team.
With Leonard now in the West with head coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers, the Eastern Conference has opened up for the 76ers to latch onto the top spot heading into next season. The Sixers have retained stars Ben Simmons (the recent recipient of a long-term max contract), Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris -- who averaged over 18 points per game a season ago for Philadelphia after coming over in a trade from the Clippers.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Sixers at +900 odds to win the 2019-20 NBA Championship, which is second in the East and fifth in the NBA. Let’s take a closer look at how realistic Philadelphia’s chances are this season.
New Sixers: Al Horford, Josh Richardson
At 33 years old, Al Horford is on the back-end of his career, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a Sixers team that has lacked experience throughout its “Trust the Process” movement. Horford has not only proven to be a valuable player to both the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics throughout his NBA tenure, but also shown he’s the model of consistency and has stayed healthy for most of his career.
The former Celtics forward has averaged over 12 points per game since the 2008-09 season, while hauling in an average of 8.4 rebounds throughout his career. Horford provides another big body to hang in the post with Embiid, while also having the ability to step outside and knock down a three-pointer.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s other key addition, Josh Richardson, comes into the new season with big expectations as the player the Sixers anticipate to replace Jimmy Butler. Richardson proved last season in Miami that he could be a consistent scorer for the Heat, averaging 16.6 points per game.
The 26-year-old wing will certainly benefit being on a team where Simmons, Embiid and Horford each garner attention from an opposing defense, allowing him to find more space to create and score points.
Bye-Bye: Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick
Losing Jimmy Butler is a big deal. He’s one of the most consistent scorers in the NBA; however, there’s a reason why the shooting guard is about to be on his fourth team in the past five seasons. For all the talent that Butler possesses, he has proven to be a distraction to many of his teammates throughout his career.
That said, Butler averaged over 18 points per game in 2018-19, so that certainly creates more pressure on Richardson to fill the former small forward’s role at the Wells Fargo Center.
Meanwhile, JJ Redick’s free agency move to the New Orleans Pelicans does create a lack of shooting depth for Brett Brown and the Sixers. Redick is a career 41.3 percent three-point shooter, and proved to be vital at times for Philadelphia in clutch spots.
With Redick now gone, that leaves the Sixers relying on some of its younger players to fill that void. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Redick had the best season of his NBA career in 2018-19, averaging 18.1 points per game, and his locker room presence will be missed as well.
The Sixers were an absolute menace on the offensive side of the floor last season, and that’s why there’s so much promise once again for this team as their young stars continue to develop into All-NBA talents. Brown’s team averaged the third-most points in the regular season with 115.2, trailing only the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors.
The names are all there to have repeat success in 2019-20, as Simmons, Harris, Embiid, Richardson and Horford headline the best starting five in the Eastern Conference. It will be more of a defensive effort that will propel the group towards that next plateau in the East.
The Sixers ranked ninth in the NBA last season in offensive efficiency, at 1.087, which was four spots higher than the 2017-18 campaign, where Butler and Redick weren’t involved with the team.
Defensively, after allowing over 112 points per game a season ago, Philadelphia has to find a way to counteract its defensive woes of recent years. In 2018-19, the Sixers allowed the second-most points of the eight Eastern Conference teams to make the playoffs, with the Brooklyn Nets the only team allowing more.
Horford’s presence down low should create a very good one-two punch with Embiid, making it difficult for opposition to score easily in the post. That means the team’s perimeter defending will become that much more important, especially if the Sixers get into some of the shootout battles that were involved in last season.
Ben Simmons has had to play second fiddle to Joel Embiid since the duo arrived in Philadelphia, but if the Sixers are going to take that next step towards a championship they need their point guard to improve his shooting game.
There’s no denying the raw ability of Simmons, who stands as the league’s tallest pure point guard. However, his 58.3 percent career free-throw rate and lack of a consistent jump shot has presented problems for the Sixers when he isn’t able to get inside the paint.
Through two seasons, Simmons has yet to make a three-point shot in the NBA, a feat that is quite uncommon for a modern-day professional point guard. Additionally, Simmons’ shooting percentage has been consistently poor outside of the 3-foot range from the hoop.
So far in his young career, the Sixers guard is shooting 51.5 percent inside of three feet from the hoop. However, Simmons’ accuracy between 10 and 16 feet drops to a staggering 12.7 percent. For reference, the free-throw line is 15 feet from the basket.
While Simmons has shown this offseason on social media that he is aiming to improve his outside shooting, it remains to be seen if that will translate to next season when the Sixers take the floor again.
The Sixers may not have gotten over the hump last season, but there’s every reason to believe that things are shaping up for this team to make another leap in 2019-20.
There’s no denying that the East is weaker than the Western Conference, which now has at least four legitimate title contenders with the Warriors, Lakers, Clippers and Rockets.
The Raptors lost Kawhi Leonard this offseason. The Celtics saw Kyrie Irving and Horford depart. The Nets did manage to get both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but with the latter coming off of a serious Achilles injury, there’s little certainty that the former Warrior will suit up at the Barclays Center next season.
That leaves Simmons and Embiid as two of the premier stars of the East, and on the Sixers, as the two young guns aim to lead the Sixers to their first NBA Championship since the 1982-83 season under the direction of all-time greats Moses Malone and Julius Irving.
With the Bucks as their main competition, the Sixers should be able to not only contend in the East, but make a run at a date in the Finals with one, or a few, of those superstars in the Western Conference. With +900 odds to win the title next season, the Sixers could be a solid bet for anyone not buying the hype coming from the two Los Angeles teams.
Note: All statistics above were found on Basketball-Reference.com. The advice above represents the writer's personal view and does not reflect or represent BetQL's stance or interest in any way.