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Are Philadelphia 76ers for real?

Do they actually want to be considering their 2014 draft strategy?

Updated: November 4, 2013, 3:06 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

Just three games into the 2013-14 NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers have completely flipped the narrative about them. Instead of discussing how bad the Sixers might be as they look to the 2014 draft, after a 3-0 start everyone around the league is wondering whether Philadelphia is for real. The answer to that question depends on the numbers you use.

In "Basketball on Paper," Dean Oliver of ESPN Stats & Info addresses this very question in a chapter conveniently titled "Reserve your playoff tickets now! We won three in a row!" Oliver pours cold water on the excitement of Sixers fans who want their team to compete this season, noting that even a team with a .200 winning percentage (which translates to 16.4 wins, nearly exactly Philadelphia's 16.5 preseason over/under line in Las Vegas) will win three games in a row at some point about half the time (47 percent, to be exact).

Then again, these aren't any three games -- they're the first three of the season. And while they don't count any more than three wins in a row in February, they're notable precisely because they represent every opportunity the 76ers have had to win this season. If we instead frame the question by looking at the history of 3-0 teams, the results look much better for Philadelphia's chances to compete. Since the league expanded to 30 teams in 2004, 44 teams have won their first three games. Those teams have won nearly 60 percent of their games (good for 48.8 wins), and 81.8 percent of them made the playoffs.

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