Don’t Look Now but the Sixers Are Becoming Underdogs

CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) waits for the play to set during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

Despite the recent addition of a top 10 player who was also named to the NBA’s top 75 All-Time players list, the Sixers are curiously becoming underdogs. It’s odd and borderline shocking to say, but the narrative suggests that this Sixers team has not meaningfully improved, or at least their odds of winning the championship are not improved.

It sounds ludicrous to say as the Sixers effectively swapped Seth Curry and Andre Drummond for future Hall of Fame member James Harden, but the opinion by many is that this trade does not solidify the Sixers’ position over the Bucks, Heat, or Bulls. Some consider even the current eighth seed Brooklyn Nets more likely champions.

The Sixers may not be as deep without their role players, but there’s still time to fill out this roster, and the early returns on Paul Millsap are quite promising. This is not to say that Seth Curry and Andre Drummond are easily replaceable for the Sixers, but their absence is easily outweighed by the addition of a superstar like James Harden. It’s not only Harden’s top-flight scoring ability that will improve the Sixer but nearly every other facet of his game as well.

James Harden is in the top three among guards in both rebounds (8.0) and assists (10.2). The Philadelphia 76ers are dead last in the league in rebounds per game (42.3) and only 23rd in assists per game (23.1). While the loss of Andre Drummond certainly will hurt the Sixers’ rebounding further, having a quality rebound like Harden, especially at the guard position, will be a significant boost. Harden’s passing ability will likewise also be a boost for the team as they have a high-level passer for the first time since Ben Simmons’ last game.

Despite all of this, the Sixers continue to be overlooked by many in the media, from Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks to Bleacher Report’s Mo Dakhil to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. The consensus seems to be that the Sixers borderline made a mistake trading for Harden to the contrary of the opinion of most in Philadelphia.

The national media may refuse to show the Sixers any love, but the Vegas odds reflect the team’s improvement as they are currently among the top five highest odds to win it all (+700). When it comes to the Sixers’ title, chances, as is often the case, trust the oddsmakers over the “hot takes.”

While the lack of media love may seem frustrating at times for Sixers fans, some would say that they wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, the city of Philadelphia certainly loves an underdog story.