New-look Sixers get first test vs. Nuggets

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

February 7, 2019 09:12 PM

As fate would have it, the Philadelphia 76ers’ first game after the blockbuster trade acquiring Tobias Harris will be nationally televised Friday (ESPN, 7:05 p.m. ET)

The Sixers, currently in the #5 slot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, host the dangerous Denver Nuggets, who have been neck-and-neck with Golden State at the top of the Western Conference for weeks. Fortunately for basketball fans, Philadelphia’s following two games are also national TV attractions (Sunday vs. the LA Lakers at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC, Tuesday vs. Boston at 8 p.m. ET on TNT). 

Media and market reaction to the Harris acquisition was immediate. Analysts considered Tobias an ideal fit for team skill sets. The Sixers need shooting, and Harris can deliver from all over the floor. With the Clippers, he drained 43% of his three-point shots (equivalent to 65% on two-pointers), while shooting 53% on deuces. He scored 30 points or more seven times this season, including in his Clippers finale Tuesday night in Charlotte (where he hit the game-winner). 

In Las Vegas, the Westgate was the first to announce a change in futures prices. Philadelphia dropped from 16/1 to 10/1 to win the NBA title. Be sure to check out the latest from your local shops today after news from the trade deadline has settled. 

It’s important to note that the market didn’t immediately make Philadelphia “favorites” to win the East. What was reported by some as “going all in right now” nudged the Sixers from the back end of the Eastern Championship discussion into one of those pro-wrestling “fatal 4-ways” that could go to any deserving contender. 

Here are offensive and defensive efficiency league rankings (scoring adjusted for pace in the entire NBA) from “the big four” at the time of the trade.

NBA “Efficiency” Rankings

Milwaukee: #5 on offense, #1 on defense 

Boston: #6 on offense, #3 on defense

Toronto: #8 on offense, #7 on defense

Philadelphia: #9 on offense, #10 on defense

Philadelphia was in “last place” among the four clearest playoff threats even while grading out in the upper third on both sides of the floor (note that Indiana fell off the market radar after losing star Victor Oladipo for the season to injury). Handicappers should note that those rankings don’t align with the media perception of “fantastic defense, but inconsistent offense.” Though, sharps say that the lineups most likely to carry a heavy playing time load in the playoffs would shade worse on offense, better on defense than the full-season rankings.

Harris has a chance to be a significant difference-maker. But bettors can’t just assume chemistry is going to happen with any collection of talent (particularly when Jimmy Butler is in the mix!). Try to catch those TV games to administer an “eye test,” while also reading team and individual stats in box scores.

And pay close attention to game-day point spreads. You’ll know how “the market” compares the Sixers to Denver, the Lakers, and Boston by subtracting 3 points for home-court advantage in each game.


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