With James Harden yet to debut, the Philadelphia 76ers will have trouble beating the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA odds this Thursday.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Thursday, February 17, 2022 – 08:30 PM EST at Fiserv Forum
The Philadelphia 76ers had to do something. With Ben Simmons refusing to play alongside Joel Embiid, the Sixers were competitive, but they weren’t keeping up with the Joneses in the Eastern Conference. So they made the biggest splash of anyone at last Thursday’s trade deadline, sending Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for James Harden.
One of these days, we’ll get to see whether this pans out. Harden reportedly won’t make his Sixers debut until after the All-Star break, as he continues to rehabilitate the tender left hamstring that had kept him out of Brooklyn’s lineup since February 2.
In the meantime, it’s the other players in that Simmons-Harden trade that make Philadelphia the wrong NBA pick for this Thursday’s game with the defending champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, who have just opened as 6-point home faves at Caesars Sportsbook.
The other players in this case are Seth Curry and Andre Drummond. Both were playing well for Philly before they were shipped to Brooklyn; without them or Harden in uniform, the Sixers are 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS heading into Thursday’s contest, including Tuesday’s embarrassing 135-87 loss to the Boston Celtics as 2-point home dogs.
Not that the 76ers (34-23 SU, 27-29-1 ATS) are devoid of talent. They have other shooters to take Curry’s place, and while their frontcourt is a bit threadbare behind Embiid, Paul Millsap did come over from the Nets in the Simmons trade, and he made his Philly debut Tuesday night with nine minutes off the bench. However, Millsap is a considerable downgrade from Drummond at this point, and the larger Boston lineup made them pay for it.
Which is where the Bucks (36-23 SU, 26-33 ATS) come in. They have one of the best big men in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is once again playing at an MVP level, and they also have capable back-ups in Bobby Portis and now Serge Ibaka, who arrived from the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a four-team deadline deal.
Having said that, Milwaukee finds itself a bit thin on the perimeter right now. Pat Connaughton broke his right hand and isn’t expected back for a month or so; George Hill (neck) is out indefinitely, and Grayson Allen (hip) isn’t likely to play Thursday, although Wesley Matthews (toe) should be available.
These backcourt issues are one of the reasons why the Bucks are 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS in their three games since the deadline came and went. They might even be enough to discourage us from recommending Milwaukee for anything more than a small wager.
There’s a 223-point total on the NBA odds board at Caesars, and the Over is on a six-game streak for the Bucks, so maybe they can keep that rolling now that Drummond is out of the picture. Bet accordingly.
NBA Pick: Over 223 (–110) at Caesars Sportsbook