Sixers' likelihood of taking No. 1 seed is probably better than you realize


At this stage, it might be fair to call any result besides the Sixers finishing with the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed a long shot.

With seven regular-season games left, the Sixers lead the second-place Nets by a game and also hold the tiebreaker over Brooklyn by virtue of winning the regular-season series. The Nets will play the Bucks on Tuesday night. Milwaukee is 3.5 games behind the Sixers.

“You might look at a race like that and say, that’s pretty much close to a 50-50 race for the top seed, but the numbers tell a different story,” NBC News’ Steve Kornacki said on Sixers Pregame Live before the team’s win Monday over the Bulls. “It’s anything but.”

Just how well-positioned are the Sixers? 

According to Sportradar, they have a 99.07 percent chance of finishing No. 1, a 0.865 percent probability of No. 2 and a 0.058 percent chance of No. 3 heading into Tuesday’s games. 

That model is especially bullish on the Sixers. Basketball Reference gives the team a 91.9 percent chance at No. 1.

Still, the consensus seems to be that the Sixers are very strong favorites. One reason that’s the case is their remaining strength of schedule, which is the weakest in the NBA. Brooklyn has the 13th-easiest remaining schedule left, Milwaukee the seventh-easiest.

Here are the Sixers’ final seven games: 

  • 5-5 at Rockets
  • 5-7 vs. Pelicans
  • 5-8 vs. Pistons
  • 5-11 at Pacers
  • 5-13 at Heat 
  • 5-14 vs. Magic
  • 5-16 vs. Magic 

Miami, the current No. 6 seed in the East, is the Sixers’ toughest on-paper opponent left.


Of course, the Sixers haven’t locked No. 1 up just yet. Head coach Doc Rivers on Sunday called health the team’s top priority for the rest of the season. If a player doesn’t feel right or suffers a minor injury, expect the Sixers to be careful instead of valuing the No. 1 seed over everything else. 

As things stand, though, the team has given itself an excellent shot at the smoothest possible path to an Eastern Conference title.