The Philadelphia 76ers lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season when Kawhi Leonard hit a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot to send them home. Losing to the eventual NBA champs stun the 76ers at first but it later fueled them to make significant changes to their roster in the offseason.
There’s no question that the 76ers are a different team and arguably an improved team, but will they put it all together and push for an NBA Championship?
Let’s take a closer look at the 76ers schedule, their 2019-20 prospects, and the best bets to make on their season:
Philadelphia 76ers Betting Odds At FanDuel
- Odds To Win NBA Championship: +750
- Odds To Win Eastern Conference: +220
- Odds To Win Division: -160
- Regular Season Win Total: 54.5
Has Ben Simmons Improved?
There are a lot of questions about how things will work throughout the 76ers schedule, but the biggest one is still Simmons. The 23-year-old is undoubtedly one of the NBA’s brightest young stars and while he’s been an absolute monster in the regular season, he has really struggled in his two postseasons.
“I am confident to say I am not a great shooter,” Simmons said.
“I am getting better, though. It is a game. It is five people on the court. I lack something that I am not great at, but other areas I am very great at … I love getting better. I love spending time in the gym and building that confidence.”
If you simply took a lot at the stats, you’d see a small decrease in numbers – nothing drastic – but those box scores are not accurate. Simmons outside jumper (or lack of one) has become a liability and the elite teams in the NBA know that.
They let him shoot, he becomes tentative to do so and the entire defense becomes much easier to defend.
We saw Simmons finally hit an NBA three-pointer in the preseason and there have been rumors of his outside jumper improving. If he’s developed a shot, he’ll be one of the best players in the NBA.
If he still can’t hit the shot or loses his confidence in it in the playoffs, the 76ers will be no better than last season.
Can Embiid Last The Season?
The 76ers schedule is tough this year and they will only go as far as center Joel Embiid can take them. Obviously, when healthy, he’s one of the best players in the league. The challenge is that he’s not always in tip-top shape.
Of course, we know the issues with him early in his career as we had to Trust The Process. However, over the last three seasons, he’s played 64, 63 and 31 games. By the time the playoffs rolled around last season, Embiid was beaten up and bruised.
He played but the fact that he averaged just 20.2 points per game on 42.8% shooting – both huge declines from the regular season – had more to do with his health than Marc Gasol’s defense.
Embiid is apparently in better shape this year and the addition of Al Horford should make a huge difference. The team can now rest Embiid more frequently without worry about a huge dip in production when he’s out of the lineup.
Hopefully, that gets the 76ers a fresher, healthier Embiid come playoff time.
What Are The Best Bets For The 76ers?
The 76ers made some bold moves in the offseason, allowing J.J. Redick to walk and trading away Jimmy Butler, but bringing in Josh Richardson and Al Horford instead. Their starting five looks like they could be scary-good and has incredible size, but are they improved?
The 76ers probably could have run it back from last season and with a healthy Embiid and an improved Simmons would have been roughly in the same spot. At the same time, Butler was a bit of a problem behind the scenes and the 76ers were strapped for cash, so Redick had to be a casualty.
But it really feels like we’re back in the same place that the 76ers were. It’s unclear who becomes this team’s scorer in the clutch after Butler carried that role last season and how this team will replace Redick’s threes.
They were 19th in three-pointers made last season with just 10.8 per game and Redick drilled 3.2 of them.
At the same time, it feels like none of that matters if Embiid is healthy in the playoffs and playing like an All-Star, and Simmons finally has his jumper going.
If those two issues are solved, it’s hard to envision a team in the Eastern Conference stopping this team – even the Milwaukee Bucks. If either of those are problems, the 76ers aren’t going to be in much better shape.
Don’t get me wrong: I do feel that Richardson has great upside, Tobias Harris likely has more room in this offense this season and Horford is of great value. But the 76ers are right there with the best of the best: the Simmons-Embiid questions make or break this team’s championship hopes.
In terms of the 76ers schedule and the betting lines, I think the best bet here is:
Winning 55 games is a big number, winning the conference is a coin toss between them and Milwaukee right now and asking them to win the NBA Championship is a tall order right now.
All of those are possible but the best bet is for them to win the division at -160.