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NBA Team Focus: 76ers are Improving

For the last number of years, the Philadelphia 76ers have been the laughingstock of the NBA. To be completely honest with you, it’s warranted. Case in point: Philly entered the 2015-16 campaign coming off back-to-back seasons where they failed to eclipse 20 wins.

Spearheaded by polarizing general manager Sam Hinkie, the Sixers consistently put an extremely inferior product on the floor with the intent of turning an abundance of losses into better chances of gaining higher selections in the NBA Draft, a trend that had drawn the ire of other front offices in the league as a result of poor attendance and TV ratings when the lowly 76ers came to town.

Philadelphia started out the season with more losing – 18 in a row, to be exact (tying an NBA record for most losses to begin a season). But over the last month the Sixers have gone from historically bad to just bad, which has translated to the betting window. So, how has this perennially tank-tastic squad done it? The answer may surprise you.

The Colangelo Effect

In a move that shocked many around the league, the 76ers announced on December 8 that well-respected basketball mind Jerry Colangelo would take on an advisory role with the team. There were whispers the floundering franchise was pressured into the decision by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, however, it’s hard to prove if that’s indeed true.

Shortly after, Colangelo brought in experienced bench boss Mike D’Antoni to be an associate coach with the club. D’Antoni has always been labeled as a point guard whisperer, and one of the first moves the newly-hired coach reportedly did was pressure Hinkie into acquiring Ish Smith from the New Orleans Pelicans. That’s when things started to turn around in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Sixers are Becoming Respectable-ish

Prior to re-acquiring the well-traveled Smith (who briefly played for the Sixers last year before getting cut in the offseason), Philly was 1-30 SU (11-19 ATS) and was on its way to completing one of the worst (if not the worst) regular seasons in league history.

Since Smith came to town, the 76ers have gone 6-10 SU while covering the spread 10 times during that span. With the speedy point guard in the mix, Brett Brown’s club has increased its points per 100 possessions by seven points thanks to an improved fast-paced offense that was nonexistent in the first few months of the season.

Philadelphia (7-40 SU, 21-25-1 ATS) is still in the bottom portion of the NBA when it comes to covering the spread, but they have been particularly solid in different spots. The Sixers are 13-13 ATS on the road and 12-6-1 ATS against the Western Conference – the third best mark of any team in out of conference games.

Does all of this mean the 76ers will be a playoff contender soon? Of course not. As much as they’ve improved after Christmas, this team is still light-years away from dreaming about the postseason. But the franchise is semi optimistic and its players appear to be having fun for the first time in recent memory, which means sports bettors would be wise to take note.