To mangle an old Bill Parcells line, you are what your numbers say you are. And right now the Sixers’ numbers say they’re really, seriously, undeniably good.
In the aftermath of the 7-6’s 98-82 drubbing of the best-record-in-basketball Bulls, TrueHoop maven Henry Abbott had this to say on the topic of the Sixers’ legitimacy:
Justin Kubatko, of Basketball-Reference, doesn’t mess around with numbers. He doesn’t get all excited about things that don’t matter. And the other day in The New York Times he wrote:
“There have been 38 teams in N.B.A. history with a point differential of at least plus-10.0 points a game through their first 18 games. The median winning percentage of those teams was .753, which translates to 49.7 wins over a 66-game season. Additionally, 24 of those teams advanced to the N.B.A. finals, with 19 claiming the championship.”
In short, mediocre teams do not go on extended runs in which they routinely outscored opponents by double-digit margins. If history serves as a guide, Philadelphia is a contender.
In other words, there are interesting numbers to suggest the Sixers are even money to win the title this year. Which is one nutty thing to suggest.
In fairness to Abbott, the suggestion that the Sixers—the overachieving-at-41-wins-a-season-ago, 27-wins-the-season-before, apathy-inducing, bad-contract-saddled-Sixers—are even money to win anything does hit the ear as strange, but here’s the thing: it shouldn’t.
Kubatko’s numbers, impressive as they are, actually sell the Sixers’ short, as they don’t incorporate their last four games — during which time they’ve laid waste to the Bobcats, Pistons, Magic, and Bulls (!) by an average score of 89-74.
According to Elias, the last five teams to start the season with a scoring margin of 11ppg+ in their first 22 games were the ’02 Mavs, who won 60; the ’04 Suns, who won 62; the ’07 Celtics, who won 66 and a title; and the ’08 Cavs, who won 66. Oh, and the Sixers, who as of this posting have an 11.6 ppg margin.
And here’s another thing to bear in mind if you’re still on the pretender-contender fence vis-à-vis the 7-6: their greatest twin advantages—their youth and depth — haven’t even fully come into play yet.
Let yourself buy in Philadelphia. It’s gonna be a fun season.