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NBA Championship Futures: Buy or sell the 76ers in the Eastern Conference?

The Action Network’s Michael Arinze analyzes the 76ers’ chances to get to the NBA Finals

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against the Miami Heat in the first half during Game Three of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center on May 6, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against the Miami Heat in the first half during Game Three of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center on May 6, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Read moreMitchell Leff / Getty Images

The 76ers are priced at +700 to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Philadelphia received plenty of plaudits for its offseason activity after James Harden declined a $47.4 million player option to sign a two-year, $68.6 million deal to remain in Philadelphia.

By foregoing his player option, Harden is essentially taking a $14 million pay cut next season, which freed up room for the 76ers to add P.J. Tucker ($10.5 million), Danuel House Jr. ($4.1 million), and Trevelin Queen ($1.6 million) in free agency.

All three players played for the Houston Rockets, who Sixers president Daryl Morey previously worked for as a general manager before joining the 76ers.

On draft night, Philadelphia added point guard De’Anthony Melton via trade with Memphis.

Tucker should provide the 76ers with more grit and toughness on the defensive side of the floor. As for House and Queen, they’ll provide the 76ers with some much-needed depth on its roster.

Melton should provide another scoring threat after averaging 10.8 points last season with the Grizzlies.

» READ MORE: De’Anthony Melton is ‘ready to be a dog’ and bring toughness to the Sixers’ win-now core

Few of those additions would’ve been possible had Harden not declined his option, and that decision is a big reason the Sixers were able to improve and get glowing media praise for their offseason work.

But to fully assess their chances of reaching the NBA Finals, we should consider how the other teams in the Eastern Conference fared during the offseason.

Odds Provided by FanDuel

Boston Celtics (+210)

Despite losing to the Warriors in the Finals, the Boston Celtics are the favorites to lift the title in 2023 with odds at +450.

All they did this offseason was reload by trading for a proven player in Malcolm Brogdon, who averaged 19.1 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.1 rebounds last season. Danilo Gallinari also arrived as a free agent from the Hawks after averaging 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Celtics decide to deploy Brogdon.

They could opt to go with a smaller lineup with Brogdon joining Marcus Smart in the backcourt and Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Robert Williams III rounding out the lineup.

We often hear about teams racing to assemble a Big Three in the NBA. In this case, the Boston Celtics could be on the verge of unleashing their version of a Big Four.

Milwaukee Bucks (+270)

At FanDuel, the Milwaukee Bucks have the second-shortest odds to come out of the East at +270 and are +550 to win the championship, ahead of the defending champion Warriors (+650).

Milwaukee took a 3-2 lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but an injury to Khris Middleton was too much to overcome.

Middleton should be ready to go for the start of the season as the Bucks look to get back to the NBA Finals.

In the offseason, the Bucks added Joe Ingles, who should help them stretch the court with his perimeter shooting. But as long as Milwaukee still has Giannis Antetokounmpo on the roster, the Bucks remain legitimate contenders.

Antetokounmpo is on a short list of perennial players who can win the MVP Award. He’s already a two-time winner and finished third in voting last season.

If the Bucks’ Big Three can remain healthy, they’ll pose a formidable challenge for the 76ers and all the remaining contenders in the Eastern Conference.

» READ MORE: NFL odds, predictions: 2 best bets for MVP in 2022-23

Miami Heat (+700)

Although the Heat managed to get by the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, they did so against a Philadelphia team without Joel Embiid for the first two games of the series.

Embiid was also dealing with a torn ligament in his right thumb, which he picked up in the first round against the Raptors. When Embiid did return, the 76ers managed to win the next two games before the Heat closed the series in six games.

However, even in their victory, I felt the Heat made the series much closer than it should have been. Miami currently has the same odds as Philadelphia, but I think the 76ers have the better roster.

Miami lost Tucker to the 76ers and remained virtually quiet in the offseason during the free agency period. The Heat signed Kyle Lowry last season, but at 36 years old, his $85 million contract probably could’ve been put to better use.

Sell 76ers at +700

I think the 76ers improved in the conference because the acquisition of Tucker immediately weakens a potential challenger in the Miami Heat.

And while I’m interested to see what Melton can give them, I’m not ready to push my chips to the center if I have to bank on Embiid staying healthy for the entire season.

I think the Celtics are head and shoulders above the 76ers, but I don’t think Philadelphia is too far behind Milwaukee.

And if you’re wondering why there was no mention of the Nets (+700 to win the East), I’ll reserve judgment for when they finally decide what to do with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

As a result, I’m selling on the 76ers coming out of the East. I don’t think any team in the East did enough during the offseason to put itself ahead of Boston.

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