Vegas has the Sixers winning 16.5 games this season which, according to odds maker Jeff Sherman, is the lowest projected win total he can recall assigning a team in a decade.
Here’s the thing: The 76ers will be bad. They will not be that bad.
Kevin Pelton’s SCHOENE, after initially predicting 25 wins for the 76ers, gives the team 21.8 Ws in 2013-14. This is good for the second-worst record in the NBA, but still more than 5 games over the Vegas line.
Patrick Minton of Boxscore Geeks is even more bullish. Using wins produced, Minton put the Sixers at 35.1 wins and calculated that the team has a 98 percent chance of making money for the brave souls who take the over. He explained:
What it boils down to is this: the 76ers are a bad team, no question, but the vegas over/under of 16.5 wins is simply ridiculous. It amazes me that some folks are predicting that this will be the worst team of all time. Those people have very short memories. Let’s consider the lockout Bobcats. That team’s best player was Derrick Brown. Derrick “Who the hell?” Brown. It managed an astounding 6 players that produced negative win totals. I am not sure that people understand just how bad a team’s players need to be to drag it down to the 16-win level. The fact is, this roster has a borderline star, a budding young star, and a bunch of guys who are “only” sub-par. There are no players on this list anywhere near as bad as, for example, Tyrus Thomas, Darko Milicic in the 11/12 season.
Arturo Galleti, in the same post, added that the Sixers pursuit of crappiness with be further complicated by the sheer number of teams that are trying to suck this season.
16.5 wins in a “tank year” (i.e. a year where several teams will probably be trying more-or-less on purpose to maximize their lottery chances) is a tough number to achieve. The last two tank years (2002-3 and 2006-7) saw 17 wins and 22 wins respectively take the crown for worst record. The thing is, these years provide incentives for everyone to lose. The Sixers, as covered above, haven’t got a terrible roster and they’ll be playing teams that will be trying to lose.
ESPN’s NBA Summer Forecast—the WWL’s annual “wisdom of crowds” exercise that has beat Vegas for five years running—has the Sixers at 20 wins in 2013-14. Again, while this is the worst mark in the NBA, it’s also a comfy 3.5 games over the over/under.
To my knowledge, the only reputable forecast that has the Sixers finishing with 16 wins or fewer is The 700 Level’s Sixers Prediction League. The 16 local experts—author of this post included—who were polled had the team winning an average of 15.5 games.
Now, I’m as down on the Sixers as anyone, and I’m as down with this as anyone, but, still, 16.5 games is a stretch. Taking the over doesn’t mean you think the 76ers will surprise people, or even show much of a pulse: it just means you don’t think they’re one of the 30 worst teams in NBA history. That’s a smart bet.