As the title suggests, the 76ers should have a favorable next 16 games. Home court is a valuable commodity. In the playoffs, it’s worth a shade over 5 points. In the regular season, it is worth about half. Attacking the rim is the biggest way to increase home court advantage or negate it. For all intensive purposes, few teams have a smaller home court advantage than the 76ers.
The previous road trip was as successful as possible for a team that went 2-6. All the games except for the San Antonio Spurs game, and half of the OKC game were competitive. 4 of the losses were against (projected) playoff teams out West and the team got a win against Memphis, which was the best, win of the year. The Lakers win was expected to be swapped with the Phoenix loss but a good win-loss is better than a mediocre win-loss.
Unless Bynum returns, these next 16 games will feel like this past road trip. Only 2 of the next 16 games would have Philly as the favorite on a neutral court. If John Wall returns and is playing well by January 30th, that game is a pick em’ on a neutral court.
Along with Wall; Deron Williams is finally playing well, Bargnani, Toronto’s worst player, is hurt and Landry Fields (don’t laugh) is back in the rotation, Eric Gordon is back for the Pelicans, Roy Hibbert is rounding into form on offense and Rudy Gay won’t be stuck in an airport because of bad weather.
It’s not all bad, because next 16 games will be nothing short of high variance. Pace is what will account for this variance. At least 10 of these games will be played at a snail crawl which is a benefit to an inferior team. Beating Lebron James in a game of 1 on 1 is a lot easier playing to 1pt than first to 10. Only 3 of the 16 games(HOU, NYK, SAS) will Philly be against a team that shoots a better percentage from 3. When it comes to turnovers, it’s once again only 3 of the 16 games (NYK, TOR 2x) where a team turns it over less than the 76ers do. Last but not least, 8 of the home games feature teams that get to the Free Throw line at a below average rate. What this boils down to is a slow paced game with lots of 3s and low turnovers will give the 76ers a chance to win more often than not.
These upcoming games are about keeping afloat until Bynum returns. In the unlikely scenario that the team goes 8-8 over the next 16 games, the team will be 23-28 with 31 games to go. Bynum is “projected to return” by that date. I can say with 100% certainty that 42 wins by the 76ers is enough to make the playoffs. Will DC be able to keep the ship afloat for the next 16 games and make a run of 19-12 to end the season? Any return before his projected date makes a run at the playoffs an easier task and more likely.
All that is well and good, but not realistic. The Philadelphia 76ers are not a good basketball team. The fact is, without Bynum they are tragically flawed. Offensively they are atrocious no matter how you look at it and are 20th in Defense when you adjust for pace and other considerations. Bynum has been deemed the savior of the franchise and his healthy return, is projected by many (not me) to make the 76ers a contender in the East as soon as he suits up. It’s all conjecture at this point predicated on not only Bynum returning but everyone else on the team suddenly improving as well. So my question is this, What happens and who falls on the sword if this team is only ~.500 for the games that Bynum suits up for?