COMMENTARY | There are still 79 games remaining in the NBA season.
Also, despite the outcry from many over NBA teams "tanking" for a better chance at the top pick in the NBA draft, conventional opinion -- such as this Truehoop piece on ESPN written by Eric Goldwein -- says that the Philadelphia 76ers still should try to lose to increase their odds at getting the top overall draft pick.
With all that in mind, the Philadelphia 76ers have not only been surprising in their 3-0 start, but they've also been impressive.
Could the Philadelphia 76ers, often predicted to finish last in the NBA standings this season, actually make the NBA playoffs?
The 76ers' 3-0 start has come at the expense of the Miami Heat (the two-time defending league champions), the Washington Wizards (on the road against a team that several Sports Illustrated writers believe will make the playoffs) and the Chicago Bulls (the No. 5 seed in the East last season and a favorite to contend for the championship this season).
The positives are all over the place in Philadelphia.
The team jumped on the Heat, opening the game on a 19-0 run. Against the Wizards, they came back from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter. Against the Bulls, they were down 104-102 with 2:13 left in the game and held them scoreless the remainder of the game.
After tying for last in the league in points per game last season (93.2), the 76ers are fourth in the league in points per game (110.0). They've scored 100 points in their first three games, including the Bulls, who are well-known for their tough defense.
The team has two players averaging more than 20.0 points per game when last season its highest scorer was averaging 17.7 points per game.
Some will try to damper the team's victories.
Yes, the 76ers beat the Heat when Miami was on the second of back-to-back games, was playing without Dwyane Wade, and hadn't gotten into Philadelphia until 3 in the morning on gameday.
Yes, the Wizards were without Nene, and Derrick Rose still isn't back to being himself for the Bulls.
Those things happen, though, and all of them are out of Philadelphia's control. The only job for the team is to win the games on its schedule and that is what the 76ers have done.
The team could cool off their current impressive form. They're playing with a lot of energy and a lot of efficiency on offense, which could wear down over the course of an 82-game season. They don't need to challenge the record for most wins in a season to make the playoffs, however, especially in the Eastern Conference.
In six of the past eight seasons, at least one team under .500 has reached the playoffs (one of the seasons that it didn't happen was the lockout-shortened season, where Philadelphia was the No. 8 seed with 35 wins). Teams have gotten into the playoffs in the East with only 37-40 wins.
Sneaking into the playoffs isn't necessarily a bad thing, either.
It's cliché but anything can happen in what is often called "the second season." Remember when the 76ers were the No. 8 seed in the 2011-2012 season, beat the Bulls in the first round and took the Boston Celtics to seven games in the conference semifinals?
The 76ers have showed that they can compete with some of the top teams in not only the conference but also the entire league. They are gaining confidence. They are also still very young and newly put together, which means their experience and chemistry will only grow as the season continues.
Guys like Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes are finally showing the potential that caused each to be top-10 draft picks. Michael Carter-Williams leads the league in assists and is an early Rookie of the Year candidate.
This team is rising to the level of its competition, which is what playoff-caliber teams do. Much like the 2009-2010 Oklahoma City Thunder, could this young Philadelphia team be a legitimate playoff team earlier than expected?
Philadelphia fans may not get the chance to see. Riding the early season success, Philadelphia could trade some assets -- namely starters Hawes, Turner and Thaddeus Young -- for multiple players and picks, which would obviously hurt the team's potential momentum this season.
The season is young and there's a lot of basketball left to be played. Playoffs and trades are only hypothetical situations at this point.
What the 76ers have shown, however, is that there is hope, hope that these individuals can play in the NBA and they can compete as a unit.
Maybe this 76ers team isn't as bad as originally anticipated.
Phil Shore lives in New Jersey and is the creator and editor of Shore Thing Sports blog. He's been published in The Boston Globe, Philly.com, FoxSoccer.com, LaxMagazine.com and New England Lacrosse Journal.
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