No Oladipo, no problem for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Well, well, well, it looks like the Philadelphia 76ers‘ August 1st re-opening game just got a whole lot easier.
After some initial back and forth and some serious speculation from fans in Indianapolis, Victor Oladipo has officially opted out from participating in the soon-to-be restarting NBA season, instead turning his attention to being physically ready for the 2020-21 season according to The Athletic. While the decision isn’t particularly surprising, as Oladipo only appeared in 13 games for the Pacers this season due to a quad tendon, it does leave the team two guards down after Jeremy Lamb suffered a season-ending ACL tear back in February.
Factor in Malcolm Brogdon’s positive Covid-19 diagnosis and wariness about playing next month, and the Pacers may very well find themselves running out a backcourt featuring T.J. McConnell and Justin Holiday in prominent starting roles.
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Bad news for the Pacers, but you know what they say: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
As you may or may not know, the Pacers and the Sixers are owners of an identical 39-26 record, with the former holding the tie-breaker thanks to a pair of losses back in December and January. If the season ended today, that tie-breaker would give the Pacers the fourth seed and fifth seed, or a seven-game series against the Mami Heat and the Boston Celtics.
Now sure, one could argue that being the third, fourth, fifth, or even sixth seed in this particular playoff picture really doesn’t mean that much, as home-court advantage will be valid in name only, but that’s only half of the case. Granted, the Sixers could in-theory go on a roll and unseat the Toronto Raptors to secure the second seed and guarantee themselves a series against a team like the Brooklyn Nets, the Orlando Magic, or the Washington Wizards, but considering the seven-game discrepancy between the two teams’ records, that’s a borderline pipe dream.
What the Sixers, Pacers, Heat, and Celtics are really competing for is a chance to avoid facing the Milwaukee Bucks for as long as possible, as, according to ESPN’s BP, they have an 83 percent chance of winning it all due to their impressive roster construction, head coach, superstar point forward and strength of schedule.
For what it’s worth, Elton Brand practically designed this current iteration of the 76ers to match up well against the Bucks, and when the two squads have faced off at or near full strength the games have been competitive, but wouldn’t you rather avoid having to see if the former All-Star power forward did a good job for as long as possible? Wouldn’t it be a shame if the Sixers had to face off against the Celtics, and then the Milwaukee Bucks only to then have to face off against the Toronto Raptors for a chance to represent the East in the NBA Finals? That is a harrowing road no matter how you slice it.
But, before the Sixers can worry about whether it makes more sense to face off against the Raptors or the Bucks in the Semis, they actually have to make it out of the first round. That becomes a whole lot easier if the Pacers are relegated to a first-round out without a backcourt star to give Philly trouble.
Mark my words, Philly fans: The third-seed is very much in play.
At full strength, the Indiana Pacers are a tough matchup for the Philadelphia 76ers. They have a trio of legit starting-caliber guards, a legit swing forward in T.J. Warren, and two All-Star bigs in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Could the Sixers still take them over seven games? Maybe so, but fortunately, we (probably) won’t have to worry about that now.