There is no NBA team that has encountered more weirdness over the last several years than the Philadelphia 76ers.
In four of six seasons prior to this current one, their top draft pick missed his rookie year entirely. They traded up for a No. 1 overall pick who forgot how to shoot. They landed another No. 1 overall pick who has spent his first three seasons refusing to shoot. Another first-round pick nearly died from an allergic reaction. Their general manager lost his job because either he or his wife (or both) were operating burner Twitter accounts praising him and slamming his players. One playoff loss came after confetti was shot into the air when someone manning the confetti switch misguidedly thought the Sixers had won. One playoff run ended on a quadruple-doink buzzer beater.
When the rest of the NBA went small, the Sixers went big this season and were a consensus top-two team in the Eastern Conference when games tipped off. By the time the spread of COVID-19 forced a 4½-month pause of the season, they had scuffled their way to the sixth seed, going a league-best 29-2 at home and a miserable 10-24 on the road.
This team is utterly unpredictable. The moment it looks like it’s coming together for them, it falls apart. The moment you give up on them, they get hot.
This is the strangest team in the NBA. So in the strangest NBA season of our lifetimes … why not them?
When the NBA season restarts on Thursday, with 22 teams invited to the Disney campus in Orlando to stay the hell away from the outside world and fight for 16 playoff spots over eight more regular season games apiece, betting on the semi-long-shot 76ers is that rare nonsensical play that makes perfect sense in this nonsensical moment we’re living through.
Up to 25/1 to bring the title home
In addition to the intangible “expect the unexpected” reasoning as a basketball season resumes amid a pandemic, there are two logical reasons to expect an improved 76ers team coming out of the break:
- Ben Simmons, who was out with a back injury in March, has reportedly healed.
- The “tall” lineup, with Joel Embiid and Al Horford starting alongside each other, has been scrapped, and the Sixers have (theoretically) better chemistry with Shake Milton starting at point guard, Simmons playing power forward, and Horford coming off the bench.
The upside for this team, the potential that many saw before the season began, is still there. And the best news for believers is they’re priced like the struggling team we saw most of the season to this point.
Here are the Sixers’ NBA title odds at all of the regulated online sportsbooks in Pennsylvania:
*FOX Bet is offering a temporary odds boost to +2200; the unboosted price is +1800
While the newest online sportsbook of the bunch, Caesars, has the best title odds on the Sixers, it doesn’t have the best odds on them to win the Eastern Conference. There, FOX Bet’s +850 offers the highest return, while DraftKings and Caesars list Philly at +800 and FanDuel has them at +700.
The Milwaukee Bucks are the favorite to win the East at -165 at FanDuel, -167 at FOX Bet and DraftKings, and an offputting -230 at Caesars, while Toronto is as high as +700 at several sites, Boston is as high as +800 at DraftKings, and Miami is as high as +1000 at various sites.
BetAmerica, interestingly, has posted individual game lines but no NBA futures odds.
Some mobile sportsbooks, but not all, are offering lines on win totals for the Sixers’ eight remaining regular season games. Under 5.5 wins has a -182 vig at FOX Bet and a -177 vig at the Kambi sites, while over 5.5 is +130 with both bookmakers.
NBA promos abound
The sportsbooks’ ongoing battle to attract and retain customers means several sites are putting bettors in plus-EV positions.
While the FOX Bet boost from +1800 to +2200 on the 76ers to win the title may or may not present worthwhile value, the site’s other promotion is the juiciest in the state right now: In the Sixers’ first game back on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers, a $3 bet on Philly earns you a $3 free bet for every three-pointer the Sixers make. Normally for a promo like this, you need to bet $25 or $50 to qualify and aren’t guaranteed to come out ahead. But at a buy-in of just three bucks … hell, Ben Simmons alone might sink enough threes to put you in the black.
(Be sure to read the fine print, though: Your wager only qualifies you for the bonus if it’s at odds of -200 or shorter, and the Sixers are currently a -250 favorite to win, so you’ll need to bet them against the 5.5-point spread to collect.)
DraftKings has a similar promotion, but at a more industry-standard price point. You get $3 for every three-pointer in any opening night game, but you have to place a $50-or-more spread bet to trigger the bonus.
DK also has an attractive deal on a futures bet: Wager $25 on any team to win the championship, and receive a $25 free bet to use on an opening weekend game.
But the best DK deal of all is a gigantic odds boost. Bettors can boost any one team to +500 on the moneyline in their first game back after the restart, with a wager of up to $20. The widest odds as a favorite currently belong to the Suns, who are -275 to beat the theoretically hapless Wizards. So if you choose to boost Phoenix, a $20 bet that would typically win you $7.27 instead is worth a $100 profit if the chalk prevails.
FanDuel Sportsbook has two NBA promos of its own — one for futures, and one for individual games.
If you place a pre-game moneyline bet on any NBA game, FD’s “NBA 3rd Quarter Insurance” means if your team is ahead at the end of 36 minutes but loses the game, your bet is refunded in site credit up to $50.
On the futures side, FanDuel has a deal that if you bet $50 or more on any team to win the title, you earn $10 in site credit for each win that team banks among its first five games in Orlando.
So if you put $50 on the Sixers to win it all, you’ll be looking at $1,000 in profit if this weird year is indeed their year. And if they play well enough in this resumption of the regular season, you might break even before the playoffs even begin.
Photo by Bill Streitcher / USA Today Sports