NBA predictions

This statistical model gives Sixers best chance of any team to win NBA Finals

This statistical model gives Sixers best chance of any team to win NBA Finals

The Sixers, according to the statistics-centric website FiveThirtyEight, have a 55 percent chance to make the NBA Finals and a 27 percent chance to win it all — both the highest of any NBA team.

FiveThirtyEight's "Way-Too-Early Projections" for the 2019-20 season give the Sixers a greater than 99 percent chance to make the playoffs. The Houston Rockets have the next-best odds to win the title at 24 percent.

It's important to note, of course, that teams' rosters will change between now and the start of the regular season, and we still don't have a schedule.

Its model incorporates heaps of data and does "50,000 simulations of the schedule." A new element this year is the DRAYMOND defensive metric, which gives greater weight to how a defender impacts opponents' shooting percentage.

The fact that Joel Embiid has the second-best DRAYMOND rating since the 2013-14 season might, in part, explain why this year's model is so high on the Sixers. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks (26 percent chance to win the East, 10 percent chance to win the championship) and star-studded Los Angeles Lakers (13 percent odds to win it all) and Clippers (5 percent chance to win it all) have a better shot than FiveThirtyEight gives them.

In case you somehow missed it, a lot has changed for the Sixers this offseason. The team's new starting unit of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Embiid is locked in for the long term, while Mike Scott and James Ennis are again expected to feature off the bench. It's a big, defensively imposing team.

Ennis has said he thinks the Sixers can "walk to the Finals in the East." If you trust FiveThirtyEight's model, his view might not be so outlandish.

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NBA predictions 2018: Will Sixers win the East? Who wins the NBA Finals?

NBA predictions 2018: Will Sixers win the East? Who wins the NBA Finals?

After making the playoffs and winning a series last season for the first time since 2011-12, what's next for the Sixers? NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick, Noah Levick and Matt Haughton give their predictions for the 2018-19 Sixers and the NBA Finals in this Give and Go. 

Hudrick

Sixers prediction/outlook
The Sixers are an improved basketball team from the one that won 52 games and a playoff series last season. 

The acquisitions of Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala — though both players will likely start the season on the shelf — make the Sixers’ bench better. They’re more versatile and better defenders than the departed Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.

You also have to factor in the development of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and the triumphant return of Markelle Fultz. Also, the re-signing of JJ Redick will give him another year of cohesion with his teammates and a better routine for his commute from Brooklyn.

There’s no greater teacher than experience. Expect the Sixers to continue their progress by winning 56 games, securing the No. 2 seed, and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Sure, the East is better, but so are the Sixers.

NBA Finals prediction
This will likely be the popular pick but for good reason.

I can’t see anyone in the West challenging the Warriors and, unfortunately, I think the Sixers may be another year away from seriously challenging the Celtics.

Golden State takes it in six games over Boston.

Levick

Sixers prediction/outlook
There won't be many games where it’s easy to pick against the Sixers. I have them winning 57 games and taking the No. 3 seed in the East.

The team should have two All-Stars in Simmons and Embiid, one of the best shooters in the NBA (still) in Redick, and a top-three defense. 

Brett Brown expects some growing pains as the Sixers shift to a defensive scheme that places greater responsibility on Embiid. Still, Simmons has the physical ability to be a great defender, and he’s focused on being that this season. Brown thinks he can make an All-Defensive team. Chandler, once he’s healthy, is an upgrade over Belinelli defensively.

Two of the big questions are how Simmons plays together with Fultz, and whether Fultz continues to have the confidence to take and make jumpers. The good thing is this team doesn’t need Fultz to be an incredible shooter. If he remains in the starting lineup, though, he needs to be a dynamic playmaker, a committed defender and a willing shooter. He’s capable of checking all those boxes.

Chances are the Sixers will face a difficult opponent in the second round of the playoffs, either Boston or Toronto. I think the Sixers edge the Raptors in a seven-game series. 

In the conference finals, I have the Celtics beating the Sixers in six games. The Sixers will be a better team this season, but so will Boston — Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving are pretty solid additions for a team that won 55 games and was one game away from the NBA Finals last season.

NBA Finals prediction
The Warriors can play so much worse than their peak level and still win series. 

The Western Conference Finals again won’t be a breeze against an excellent Houston team, and the Finals won’t be either vs. the Celtics.

Still, Golden State has four All-Stars and Andre Iguodala. Oh, and they’ll have DeMarcus Cousins at some point too. Warriors in six over Boston.

Haughton

Sixers prediction/outlook
After proving they had the goods on the court last season, this campaign will be more of a mental test for the Sixers. Have they learned from their mistakes in 2017-18? Are they prepared to take opposing teams' best shot every night?

I’m inclined to answer yes to those questions. And when there are breakdowns, the Sixers have enough talent to overcome any issues.

We already know the Sixers can score the ball (top 10 a season ago in points per game, field goal percentage and three-point percentage), but defense will be their backbone now. Once the team masters the new scheme, Embiid will serve as the trunk of a tree with long, flailing limbs of athletic players smothering foes.

The improved defense and what I expect to be a smoothing of the kinks from experience should result in at least the No. 3 seed again. However, I’ll say the Sixers have a few breaks go their way and reach No. 2 with 55 wins.

Still, they’re another year (and likely another player) away from seriously challenging the Celtics as they will fall in the Eastern Conference Finals.

NBA Finals prediction
Much like my colleagues above, I see the Warriors and Celtics meeting in the NBA Finals. The only thing I believe will be different is the competitiveness of the series.

Golden State is just on a different level, one the C’s can’t reach quite yet. Warriors win in five for the three-peat.

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