Philadelphia 76ers’ Title Hopes Up In The Air With Embiid Injury

New Jersey bettors backing the Sixers hope that numbers actually do lie. This is because they tell a grim tale.

The Sixers do not have a bright future now that their best player in Joel Embiid is sidelined. They suddenly have minimal postseason expectations, with their elimination projected in the betting odds of the conference semifinal against the Miami Heat.

The Sixers were +300 on the series and stood at odds ranging from +2200 to +3000 to win the championship after a barrage of Sunday betting volatility at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Embiid’s injury changed them from potential big shots into long shots. It overshadowed their 51 regular-season wins and opening playoff-series triumph against the Toronto Raptors.

Faster than people could say “orbital fracture and concussion” (the injuries he sustained in the finale against the Raptors), the Sixers shot from +1400 to +3000 in the first weekend development.

A Sunday rumor that the Sixers’ big man could return for Game 3 on Friday in Philadelphia forged an opposite surge.

Speculation sent the numbers crashing to +2200 late Sunday afternoon. By Sunday evening, odds were back up to +2500. This is an amazing level of betting fluctuation in one day.

Philadelphia 76ers Playoff Odds At NJ Sportsbooks

By any definition, the Sixers have becoming overwhelming dogs. Perhaps no figure reveals that more than their futures comparison with the Boston Celtics at DraftKings.

Both teams won 51 regular-season games and a playoff round. While the Sixers bounce around from +2200 to +3000 to win the championship, the Celtics were +500 on Sunday night.

The Sixers are big underdogs in the Heat series, too.

The Heat are an astounding -380 to win the next series. Philly is +310. This is by far the most lopsided of the four NBA second-round sets.

The Celtics are -120 against the Milwaukee Bucks, at +175.

The Golden State Warriors are -265 against the Memphis Grizzlies, with odds of +215. While the Phoenix Suns are -300 in their matchup with the Dallas Mavericks, shown at +245.

Bettors can find some interest in the Sixers series by trying to hit the nail on the head.

A four-game sweep by either team is +370. The series to end in five is +235, compared to the series to end in six at +260.

A seven-game series would pay out +215.

You can also pick the exact ending.

The Heat to win in:

  • Four games +400
  • Five games +260
  • Six games +450
  • Seven games +340

Bettors will assess the projection, or regression, of Philadelphia’s heart, during the series. History shows that teams losing a franchise player may rally short term. They may even steal a game, but they can’t steal an entire series.

Teams often fade slowly with the loss of a big player. If that scenario played out here, Embiid would return too late to help his team win four of five against the Heat if they fall behind 2-0 without him.

But if they steal one of the first two games, and then he’s okay to go, betting odds would shift drastically in Philadelphia’s direction.

The Embiid Factor

Few teams can reach the NBA’s elite eight and become longer in the betting odds than they were during the regular season, when the entire league had chances. That’s what Embiid means to the Sixers.

He has become the juggernaut fans expected him to be during the last two seasons.

Embiid averaged an MVP-like 30.6 points per game this year. That’s a career high, even better than last year’s career high of 28.5.

He averaged 11.7 rebounds per game, another career best.

Embiid is playing so well that the Sixers gave up a few players and signed James Harden to a lucrative contract in February in order to win now.

It all made sense. Management was proactive, trying to build around Embiid’s peak years. Harden’s playmaking ability, combined with Embiid, also helped Tyrese Maxey flourish.

But there is no way to predict a crippling injury to a player in his prime. There is no warning, as there would be with a player hobbling through a hamstring.

Bettors would know that the player would take some games off, become relatively productive and then possibly re-injure the hammy.

But Embiid’s injury could not be handicapped. This is an X factor, the type of frustration bettors feel with a bad call at the end of a game, a freakish bounce, or a crazy score.

Sixers’ Bad Fortune A Break For The Books

Before Embiid’s injury, Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told NJGS he considered the Sixers “a hazard” in terms of futures liability. Sixers bettors had steadily pounded them all year, gaining an inflated price that reflected a projected deep postseason run from the Brooklyn Nets.

But this is turning out to be a stellar playoffs for the book.

2022 NBA futures

The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, two underachieving teams in big markets, burned the bettors’ futures tickets. When the Lakers failed to reach the playoffs and the Nets bowed in four, DraftKings’ two biggest futures liabilities vanished.

“That did work out very well for us but we have newer hazards now,” Avello told NJGS. “The Celtics were bet toward the end of the year (from well over +2000 down to +900 just before the end of the regular season) and they are playing phenomenal ball right now.”

“I will tell you something, though. It’s hard to believe they could sweep the Nets in the first round. The Nets lost Harden, Kyrie Irving wasn’t playing all year at home because he wasn’t vaccinated and then Kevin Durant didn’t play well in the first round.”

“Bettors expected this team to be able to turn it on any time they wanted and it didn’t work out that way for them. You can’t win the championship with two superstars,” he noted, regarding the heavy expectations set on Irving and Durant.

“You need more solid players in order to win the whole thing.”

Avello noted the irony of the Milwaukee Bucks, who benched eight players in the last regular season game, which they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a classic case of ducking.

The move enabled Milwaukee to avoid Brooklyn and face the Chicago Bulls in the first round. They won, yes, but the Celtics, now in the No. 2 spot, swept the Nets.

The end result? The Bucks forfeited homecourt advantage to the Celtics in round two. They may pay dearly for that in the series, but there’s at least a chance they can overcome it.

The Sixers have a much bigger hill to climb.


AP Photo/Matt Slocum

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.