WHY ARE SIXERS UNDERACHIEVING? WHAT IF THEY’RE NOT!

They’re still on track for 53 wins, which is what FiveThirtyEight.com predicted before this season started:

The Sixers, who were expected to go toe-to-toe with the Bucks for Eastern Conference supremacy this season, find themselves in just fifth place — a half-game behind the Raptors, a half-game ahead of the Pacers and a whopping eight games behind Milwaukee, which, barring injury, almost certainly will land the top seed.

But for how frustrating Philly has been at times, the reality is that much of what we thought about the club before the season began is still true:

The Sixers are often annoying pests on defense but highly imperfect on offense, as they continue to try to find the right roles for multiple players in a lineup that’s undergone three significant overhauls the past 14 months.

Much of the problem, to this point, lies in the things we didn’t necessarily see coming.

There likely weren’t many people who saw the Bucks, minus Malcolm Brogdon, on pace for 70 wins to start the new year. And most didn’t suspect that there would be four teams aside from Milwaukee and Philadelphia — Boston, Toronto, Indiana and Miami — in the mix to win 50. In a way, those factors seem to be putting a retroactive set of regular-season expectations on Philadelphia that perhaps shouldn’t be there.

For what it’s worth, here at FiveThirtyEight, our preseason forecast pegged the Sixers as a 53-win team — almost precisely the pace they’re on at the moment — with a 35 percent probability of reaching the NBA Finals. Today, even with our model saying they’re likely to finish slightly better than expected, with 55 wins, their odds of reaching the Finals have fallen to 28 percent — a function of the other top teams in the East being stronger than initially thought. (Even with that decrease, it’s worth noting that Philly’s probability of reaching the finals, per FiveThirtyEight’s model, is still more than twice that of any East team aside from Milwaukee.)

The Sixers Seem Like They’re Underachieving. They’re Not.

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