Last week the Sixers stunned everyone by ranking No. 15 on Marc Stein's ESPN power rankings around the NBA.
After a rough go around with the Rockets and Bulls over the weekend, the Sixers dropped in the rankings – by one spot. The Miami Heat dethroned the Sixers of their spot, moving up from their 24 spot last week.
Despite the two-game losing skid, T.J. McConnell has started to emerge as leader. In the last two losses, McConnell has scored 27 combined points and assists. His tenacity when driving to the hoop has gained the attention of the Cleveland Cavaliers who had pursued the point guard up until a few days ago. The Sixers declined their trade offers (see story).
According to Stein, "the Sixers are 10-3 since he was moved into the starting lineup Dec. 30, with McConnell averaging a more-than-solid 8.2 PPG, 8.9 APG and 4.7 RPG when playing as part of the first five."
Stein also referenced that Joel Embiid is on pace to "become just the sixth rookie in league history to be averaging at least 19 PPG, 7 RPG and 2 BPG at the All-Star break."
The last rookies to start the All-Star game were coincidentally big men: Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, and Blake Griffin. All with similar numbers to Embiid before the All-Star break. Griffin averaged 22.8 points and 12.6 rebounds, Duncan had 18.2 and 11.5, and Ming racked up 13.0 and 8.1. Embiid enters this All-Star Game averaging 19.8 points with 7.8 rebounds.
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NBA.com's John Schuhmann has the Sixers falling from 19th to 21st. He citied that there has been a defensive decline without the presence of Embiid and that Nerlens Noel does not hold down the job nearly as well.
Noel has averaged 11 points in his last three games while racking up a combined 23 rebounds. The 6-foot-11 center has shown great strength in putting back offensive boards with authority.
Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Wood, also leaves the Sixers in the second half of the power rankings at No. 24 while they occupied the 23rd spot last week. He simply stated "The Sixers playoff fever dream is probably over. But the fact we can't be sure is a small miracle in itself. Hurry back, Joel."
Lastly, NBC Sports' Kurt Helin has the 76ers in the 18th slot for the second week in a row. Much like Sports Illustrated, Helin feels the dreams for the playoffs are dead but he did make a bold prediction regarding the All-Star game: "I think he'll be the first replacement in the East if injury forced someone to drop out of the All-Star game."