If the NBA is able to finish its 2020 season in Orlando, the once-messy Sixers are suddenly sneaky dark horses to make some noise in the postseason.
You probably remember the Sixers' brutal first 65 games, but with three-plus months of rest during the NBA's season suspension, it's possible the team - once considered Finals contenders - will be a force when healthy.
That's certainy the analysis of FiveThirtyEight's newly updated NBA forecast model. The stats-driven website updated its projections on Thursday, and the new data contains nothing but good news for the Sixers.
The website's projections are based on 100,000 simulations of the remaining games, using team ratings based on FiveThirtyEight's own player ratings. The ratings take into account a player's influence on offense and defense, and includes postseason adjustments for players who typically exceed expectations in the playoffs.
"In terms of Finals odds, the biggest beneficiaries of the new format are the aforementioned Sixers, who gained 7 percentage points compared with their standing in March," the site's Neil Paine writes. "That is essentially owed to an easy schedule and [Ben] Simmons' return to health."
The Sixers also saw the biggest jump in their "championship probabilities", up 4% compared to the Bucks' probabilities dropping 5%. The Sixers now stand fourth overall - behind the Bucks but ahead of the East's Celtics, Raptors, and Heat - in the site's title projections.
Long story short? Everything is coming up Philly.
While the Sixers struggled for a number of reasons before the season was suspended, it's hard to overstate how important it will be to have Simmons back at full strength. Their offense is at its most dangerous when Simmons is in charge at point guard, and the third-year star's defensive prowess has him firmly in First Team All-Defense conversations.
As for that easy schedule, the Sixers face just three teams with a winning record before the playoffs begin, certainly something they should be able to capitalize on.
Of course, the Sixers were favorites before the season started, so it's hard to get too excited about a projection - but FiveThirtyEight's confidence in the team certainly doesn't hurt.
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