Latest projection has the 76ers finishing second in the Eastern Conference this season
While many are counting the 76ers out this season due to the Ben Simmons situation, one of the top statistical analysis websites is not. FiveThirtyEight recently released their prediction for the 2021/2022 NBA season, and the Philadelphia 76ers are among the top teams in the league.
According to 538, the 76ers are projected to finish second in the Eastern Conference, behind only the Milwaukee Bucks. Philly is projected to have a 53-29 record with a 96% chance to make the playoffs. Somehow, the Sixers were given an 18% chance to win the finals and a 9% probability to win it all.
For comparison, the Brooklyn Nets only have an 8% chance, with the next closest being the Boston Celtics with 6%. In the west, the Los Angeles Clippers have the highest possibility of winning the finals with 11%, despite being expected to finish 7th in the conference. Utah and Phoenix are ranked atop the west, with the Lakers somehow only winning 42 games and missing the playoffs.
The big question regarding this simulation is the status of Ben Simmons and if they have him playing this season. According to their recap, FiveThirtyEight assigned Ben Simmons half of his regular minutes for the season, which is likely more than he will play.
“The model does not know that Ben Simmons hates his team and the entire city of Philadelphia hates Ben Simmons, but we do, so after Doc Rivers said “who knows” when asked whether Simmons will play, we assigned him 50 percent of his minutes for the season.
Even then, the model sees the 76ers as the second-best team in the East, in terms of win-loss record, point differential, chance at winning the conference and chance of winning the title. It’s worth noting that last year’s model loved the Sixers as well, and we know how that worked out.”
Personally, I was surprised to see the 76ers at the top of that list based on their projection. It seems like there was no replacement for Simmons when he was not playing, so that speaks volumes to the success of Embiid and the rest of their team.
Following the news that Kyrie Irving is out indefinitely and there being no end in sight, the East could be more open than initially anticipated. With Ben Simmons back in the fold starting tomorrow, that 9% chance could be more of a reality than we think.
Mandatory Credit: The Athletic