The Westgate SuperBook released its NBA win totals on Tuesday, and to the surprise of no one, the Sixers line is the lowest. And it’s not even close. Philadelphia is at a historically low 15.5 wins while the next worst team, Milwaukee, is at 24.5.
With that in mind, here’s some advice for all you degenerate gamblers: Stop gambling. But before you do, head to the ATM, call your bookie, and take the over.
Sure, Philly isn’t built to win this season. Their most accomplished players – Jason Richardson and Keith Bogans – may not suit up for the team in 2014-15. Their most talented players – Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid – have health question marks. The rest of the team consists of second-round picks, D-Leaguers, and fringe NBA talent. It’s a league-low $36-million payroll, and GM Sam Hinkie may get exactly what he paid for.
But, 15 wins? It would take a disastrous season for this team, with this personnel, and this coach, to get there. Only 27 NBA teams (prorating the shortened seasons) have pulled off that feat, and smart money says the Sixers – short on skill, but long on conditioning and athleticism – won’t be the 28th.
For evidence, look no further than last season. The run-and-gun Sixers stormed out of the gate by winning their first three games, and then had a four-game streak to start 12-21. Then Michael Carter-Williams wore down, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes checked out/were exposed (and were traded), and the infamous 26-game losing streak followed. Yet still, thanks to a red-hot 4-6 finish capped off by a 100-87 win over the LeBron/Bosh-less Heat, they finished 19-63. They were who the experts thought they’d be: a bad, but not all-time bad team. Good enough to beat the 16.5 line, which Tom correctly advised on taking the over.
Coach Brett Brown enters this season with a similar roster. Gone are Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and James Anderson; taking their minutes are Nerlens Noel, Henry Sims, and some combination of Alexey Shved, K.J. McDaniels, and D-Leaguers to be named later. The newcomers, arguably, are as good as the departees. The offense, ranked 30th in efficiency last season, can’t get much worse. And with Noel in the paint, McDaniels and Jerami Grant on the perimeter, and MCW back to full strength, the 27th-ranked defense could turn into one that’s merely subpar. That alone could get them to 20 wins.
The Sixers have the makeup of a team that’ll improve as the season goes on. Their players are young, athletic, and in some cases, desperate for NBA employment. They’ll run like crazy, shoot 3-pointers, bust their butts on defense, and play within the system. Occasionally they’ll resemble a competitive NBA team. And unlike last season, their major contributors will still be here after the deadline; there’s no one left to give away. It takes six months of consistently terrible basketball — and organizational dysfunction from the top down — to reach the 67-loss mark. With some 3-point variance, and a dose of hustle, the Sixers should be able to avoid that fate.