Unlike the NBA’s elite squads, such as Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Miami, the teams that are mired in mediocrity – which could just as easily qualify for seeds six through eight in the playoffs as they could land in the lottery – usually have a stretch or two in the season that defines their fate.
If they exceed expectations rather than come up short during that stretch, they significantly enhance their chances of becoming a playoff team as opposed to entering the draft lottery.
Last season for the 76ers, the moment came at the start of the season, when they returned from a West Coast trip with a 3-2 record, won seven consecutive home games, and got out of the gate 18-7 after a 95-90 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 6.
This enabled the Sixers to survive an 11-20 freefall that spanned two months. Had they not started strong, they probably would have dropped into the lottery and not experienced the postseason that unquestionably benefited Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young.