Philadelphia at Charlotte
Time: NOON CT (NBA TV)
Spread: PHI -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Philadelphia 76ers have mostly, thus far, lived up to the high expectations it had entering this season as it brought 2017 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons onto the court to join Joel Embiid. Not only has Embiid stayed healthy, Simmons been sensational, but Philly now has also added 2017 No.1 overall pick Markelle Fultz to the mix, just in time for the postseason.
Embiid will sit out with an orbital fracture and concussion, but his status for the playoffs is still uncertain. The Sixers travel to Charlotte as 2.5-point favorites in the first of an NBA TV Triple header on Easter Sunday. The betting total is set at 218 combined points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Philadelphia has won nine-straight games, and Embiid did have successful surgery to repair the broken orbital bone that he suffered when he collided with Fultz in a game. Fultz has been fairly impressive in his limited appearances. Though the former Washington Husky is seeing just 17 minutes a game, he is averaging 6.7 points and 3.1 assists while posting a PER of 10.5. It is far from outstanding, but the hope is that he can be a secret weapon of sorts once the postseason rolls around and he is cleared for more minutes.
Meanwhile, one would figure Embiid is ready in time for whichever team Philly faces in the first round, but with him sitting out expect Dario Saric, Ben Simmons, and J.J. Redick to kick it into over-gear. Redick has already stated he wants to stay with Philly for a long time, and he is having another fine season averaging 16.6 points per game.
Saric has shown his own propensity towards having big games when he gets the shot attempts. While he largely has lingered in the massive shadows of Embiid and Simmons, with Joel sitting for a couple weeks it would be no surprise to see Saric string together the best stretch of his young career. He is averaging 14.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three. Philly is currently seeded No. 4 in the East, but its ultimate first round opponent is tricky to guess with a tightly packed Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Charlotte Hornets are seven games behind No. 8 seeded Miami, but the Hornets are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Charlotte is 34-43 this season and should close in on nearly 40 wins; however, it would be inaccurate to say the team has not disappointed. Many figured even an aged Dwight Howard would be enough to lift Charlotte one more notch into playoff contention, and it is hard to shift any of the blame for failing to do so onto Howard himself, necessarily. He has had a good season.
It is simply that Charlotte has been atrocious (13-25) on the road, and Kemba Walker is still being asked to do far too much offensively. The Hornets point differential is barely negative (-0.2), but the team consistently loses close games and loses its big leads. Of course, all sub.-.500 teams tend to share these same cardinal sins, so perhaps it is redundant to continue to explain why Charlotte is not winning at a greater clip.
Kentucky Wildcat product and rookie Malik Monk has been a nice boost off of the bench (as I figured he would be), but the Hornets are in need of another star alongside Walker. Monk likely is not destined to be a superstar, but likely just a “pretty good source of scoring and decent player,” to be trite.
Walker has done about all he can, reached his peak, and the Hornets are still a poor team. Perhaps the 2018 draft brings an offensive game changer to share the load with Walker, but if not, the Hornets will remain mediocre for some time to come.