In anticipation of the upcoming NBA season, very few things have more excitement surrounding them than the 76ers. Additions of Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, JJ Redick, and a healthy Joel Embiid give the team a chance to be much improved. The unnecessary debates over Robert Covington and Dario Saric show a lot of enthusiasm for both players’ potentials. With many Eastern Conference stars heading west, it could be a perfect opportunity for a playoff berth. Optimism is high in Philadelphia. It has every right to be.
However, the Sixers schedule prior to the All-Star break is a tough one that could temper some optimism for this season. According to this Jared Dubin tweet, the Sixers face the second hardest schedule in the first part of the season.
Every NBA team's pre- and post-ASG SOS, as well as pre-post differential. DAL starts tough, WAS easy. PHX closes tough, CHA easy. pic.twitter.com/IGcjOrqkyF
— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) August 15, 2017
Scheduling along with learning will make for a tough obstacle to overcome this year. Unfortunately, this group of players learning to play together must come on the timeline provided by the league’s schedule. To get an idea of whether or not the Sixers’ play will justify the optimism around them right now, let’s take a look at the first few months of the season.
The season opens in October with seven games. First comes a stretch of Atlantic Division rivals with the Wizards (road), Celtics (home), and Raptors (road), plus three more road games and two games against the Rockets. Only one of the teams scheduled in October has an over/under win total lower than the Sixers (40.5). Starting out with winning record will be a challenge.
November should bring a higher win percentage than October. Half of the 14 teams scheduled have their over/under win total set lower than the Sixers. But one of the two season-high five game road trips is also set for November (Jazz, Kings, Warriors, Clippers, Lakers). Additionally on the schedule, there’s also the Warriors, Cavaliers, and Wizards at home, and a road game against the Celtics.
In December, the 76ers are slated to play 15 games. While the strength of this part of the schedule isn’t as tough, it’s the nine road games that could prove difficult. A three-game road trip (Cavaliers, Pelicans, Timberwolves) and the other five game road trip (Raptors, Knicks, Blazers, Nuggets, Suns) will test this young team’s ability to compete and concentrate throughout the month.
Finally, January could prove to be the toughest month of all. Only three of the twelve games scheduled come against teams with a lower over/under win projection. Featured this month are two games against the Spurs, two against the Celtics, and a four game road trip to end the month (Spurs, Thunder, Bucks, Nets).
The point here is not that the Sixers fan base should cease to be excited about the season. The team’s young talent makes them one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. But this is a young team that hasn’t played together, and quite frankly hasn’t played very much period. There will no doubt be a learning curve and games will be lost as a result.
As I laid out, the schedule is grueling. Through January, the Sixers will have completed 48 games total, their season series with the three best teams out west, 24 games against the Western Conference, 26 road games, and only 23 games against teams with equal or lower over/under win projections. The learning curve on this kind of schedule could prove very difficult to overcome. Certainly, the Sixers have the talent and potential to overcome all this to collect some wins early. But to expect too much out of them early may set up to be a disappointment.
Over/unders via BetOnline.ag
Photo: Yong Kim (via Philly.com)