Philadelphia 76ers Predictions for Struggling NBA Road Team
As the 2019-20 NBA season was about to start, Philadelphia 76ers' coach Brett Brown told anyone who would listen that his team was gunning for the top seed in the Eastern Conference this season. But if the season ended today, they wouldn't even open the playoffs at home. They sit in sixth place, and though they are within spitting distance of the Heat in second - trailing them by only three games - the Bucks would pretty much have to fold right now in order for the Sixers to catch them. And I mean fold as in quit being an NBA team, because as long as Milwaukee is still playing they aren't getting caught by anyone. It has been a strange and mostly disappointing season for the Sixers, and it doesn't feel like there are a lot of easy answers to their issues at this point. Let's take a look at where they are at from a few angles, and what it all means for bettors:
Home and away: There are a lot of strange things in the NBA this year as there are every year. I don't think there are any that are any weirder than the difference between this squad at home and them on the road. On Wednesday night the Sixers beat Brooklyn pretty handily to move to 19-2 at home. That ties them for the league best home mark with Milwaukee, and only the Heat at 18-1 at home have fewer losses. If you just look at that performance in isolation, you would assume that this team is close to delivering on Brown's preseason promise. But away from home, they are a truly pathetic 7-14. A lot of good teams in this league have a sizeable dropoff between home and road performance. It's part of the game. But to go from almost unbeatable to truly incompetent is a whole other thing. And it's not that they have different degrees of success in the two settings. It's that they look like two different teams entirely. It should go without saying, but this team isn't going anywhere until they get this mess sorted out - and judging by the fact that they have lost their last six on the road, they aren't making much progress on that front.
Chemistry: Fueled mostly by the departure of Jimmy Butler this summer, which felt pretty inevitable, the team made some pretty big changes. J.J. Redick also left, and Al Horford and Josh Richardson were brought in - and they weren't cheap. So far, though, it's not entirely working. Horford was the big investment, and he's very much a work in progress here. Having an all-star caliber center on a big deal to back up an all-star caliber center on a big deal is a serious luxury. But Horford, Embiid and Simmons are all at their best in the same parts of the court, and they are really struggling to find a way to all be at their best. When Embiid is healthy, which hasn't been often enough, Horford has looked frustrated too often. When your three best players overlap, it's not an easy problem to solve.
Trade deadline: Elton Brand has really worked his team into a corner, though it is very tough to blame him too much for it. The Process was such a methodical undertaking. However, once the team started cashing in chips, it got harder to take things slow. They invested in Butler. They invested in Tobias Harris. Now they have put too much into the roster they have to sit back and let things develop slowly. It has become clear that they aren't quite good enough, so they need to figure out a way to get better before it's too late. They could use some help on the wing, and they could improve their shooting from beyond the arc. But the issue they have is that they don't have a ton to work with. Assuming they don't want to shuffle the core, they are looking at some guys of less than massive value. Zhaire Smith was a hot prospect when he was drafted last year. However, after a career that has been almost totally wasted so far, his value has dimmed significantly. Rookie Matisse Thybulle would be attractive to teams, but he's a 3-and-D guy on a cheap deal, so he's attractive to keep around. And the rest of what they have to offer are just depth bench guys that won't bring too much back in return. They need more help than the assets they have are likely to bring back, and that means that Brand is going to have to get very creative to fix this. The one thing the team has going for it, though, is that Brand has shown that he doesn't fear a whole lot. They could be in worse hands.
Betting performance: The team has not been a particularly impressive team to bet on this year, going 17-21-4 ATS overall. Not surprisingly, those struggles have come disproportionately on the road, where they are at 6-13-2 ATS. That leaves them with a much more reasonable 11-8-2 ATS mark at home. They have gone over the total 20 times and under 21, so they aren't particularly useful to bet on when it comes to totals, either.
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