Don’t get me wrong, the Sixers are having a great season. It has been incredibly fun to watch after the less than optimal start to the season. Nick Nurse has been refreshing, and Embiid has played so well that I almost forgot James Harden was on the team this year; however, they still only sit at the third seed in the east with the Knicks close behind.
History of NBA Champions’ Seeding
Teams that finish the regular season with the 1 seed are the obvious favorites to win the NBA Finals. Teams with the 1 seed have made the finals 89 times, the 2 seed – 39 times, 3 seed – 16 times, 4 seed – 5 times, and the 5-8 seeds combined have made it 5 times.
So, historically, teams that fall out of the top 3 have a very tough time getting to the NBA finals. The Sixers are finding themselves falling into that territory right now. Between the rocky start with new players and a new coach, and Embiid missing his usual lot of games, they could find themselves as the road team in the second round of the playoffs if they aren’t careful.
What’s Gone Wrong So Far?
As usual, Joel Embiid has missed a ton of games so far this season. 12 to be exact. If he misses 5 more games, he will be ineligible to receive MVP even though he has dominated the league more than anyone has in years. This isn’t a “bash Embiid” session, but the big man needs to find a way to stay healthy. Home court advantage gives teams major advantages in the playoffs – as seen above.
Oubre and Melton have also missed 14 and 12 games respectively. These two should contribute heavily to this team, but with them missing so much time it has forced Nick Nurse to give more minutes to Korkmaz, Springer, and Martin, who will most certainly not see much time in the playoffs. These guys need to stay healthy to develop the chemistry needed for the playoffs and to give the team a boost to get better seeding before April 20th comes around.
A handful of others players have also missed a few games including Maxey, Tobias, Batum, and Beverly. Hopefully the team is getting the injury bug over with earlier so they can dominate down the road.
What’s Gone Right?
First off: Paul Reed.
Out of all the injuries the Sixers have had, Reed has not missed a game. I don’t know why Glen Rivers hated this guy so much, but now that he has firmly taken the backup center position, he has done a great job. He is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, and assists this year. It is nice to see him get a real chance.
Also, even though it was a loss, he had a career night against Jokic, scoring 30 points and 13 rebounds with no Embiid, Maxey, Tobias, or Melton. Having games like that against a premier player like Jokic could get him a starting gig somewhere around the league.
This goes without saying, but Embiid has been the other shining positive this year. He has just been so dominant in every game he’s played. By the way, he still has more points than minutes on the season. He is well on his way to be the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to do so, AND he is averaging more points per minute than Wilt did in 1961. What a phenomenal player.
We’ll Have to Wait and See
We can look at the history of the NBA seeding and talk about Embiid’s playoff woes all we want, but none of it means this will not be Embiid’s year. Continuing to play at this level will cause a lot of problems for teams in the playoffs. He will have to stay healthy, but the future looks bright for Embiid and the Sixers this year.