Uncertainty prevails over the Sixers’ championship odds


Milan Varia

he Sixers have been fantastic thus far, but the success may not last in the playoffs.

This 2020-2021 Sixers team is defying all the odds. After a season with much disappointment, things turned around. Led by MVP candidate Joel Embiid, this might be the best Sixers team since 1983. Currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference, the team has proven a lot this season. The success has shown fans the capabilities of this team. The cultivated growth throughout the season has developed stratospheric expectations for the team.

However, as great as the Sixers are, there is still so much for this team to prove. The Sixers play their basketball like a coin: there are two sides, and it’s hard to tell which side will land facing up. Consistency is the main problem for this team. At their best, the team can beat any of the contenders in the league. At the same time, they have many losses against the worst teams in the league, including bad games against the Cavs, Raptors, Grizzlies, and Pistons. 

One of the reasons for this is the constant injuries. The Sixers squad has never been able to stay healthy this season. There’s always a player missing multiple games in a row. Joel Embiid was out for 3 weeks; Seth Curry has battled injuries all season long; Tobias Harris has missed 9 games with hip issues; Ben Simmons has missed ten games. That’s only taking into account the starting lineup. The bench has had its own struggles with Shake Milton, the bench’s leading scorer, missing 8 games.

When the Sixers aren’t healthy, they will not win a series against other upper-echelon teams in the East like the Nets. The Nets have the firepower to dominate all night long; losing any starter in a series against Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden would only spell for disaster. 

To put this into more perspective, without Embiid the Sixers are 9-9; without Simmons, they are 5-5. Of those 14 wins, only 4 came against playoff teams. It’s very concerning that even if one-star player is out, the Sixers struggle to beat playoff level teams. The lack of consistency doesn’t stop there either.

For stretches of games, the leaders of this team have struggled to perform. The three players that fit this category the most are the aforementioned Ben Simmons and Shake Milton. At best, the Sixers are virtually unstoppable, but their lowlights occur so often that those moments feel insignificant. 

In the last 12 games Simmons has played, he’s averaged 11.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on 44.9% shooting. These are all pretty significant drops from even his career averages of 16-8-8 on 55.8% shooting. From April 5th to the 20th, Milton averaged 8.9 points on 39% shooting. The particular issue with these performances is the lack of momentum. Looking around the league, the majority of contenders are on win streaks with their best players performing at the highest level they have all season. The same cannot be said for the Sixers.

Carrying a string of excellent performances into the playoffs is indicative of success. The red-hot teams carry a mentality that’s ready to win at all costs. They click on all cylinders, go for all the hustle plays, and push until the end. Simply put, giving up is not in their vocabulary. Having that mentality and chemistry is one of the most crucial factors to having a championship team; the Miami Heat of last year perfectly fit this mold. Jimmy Butler led the Heat, a team built on the underdog mentality, to an unexpected title appearance. While the Heat did not win it all, they provided the most unlikely title run in NBA history. 

The Sixers are not fitting into this mold at all, as evident through their recent losses against the Suns, Bucks, and Pelicans. If momentum is not established soon, they will falter in the playoffs during the second round, ruining what could be the best chance this team would have in the last 20 years to win a ring. 

As time ticks on this make-or-break season, it remains difficult to judge what this team can do. The championship odds of this team rest heavily on which team plays- the contending team or the team that will falter before it even gets started. The next month of NBA actions can determine the fate of the Sixers for years to come.