If the status quo hadn’t prevented the Philadelphia 76ers from failing season after season, they might have been the favorites to emerge from the Eastern Conference this year and fight for the championship. However, pre-season experts see the Sixers just below the usual headliners of the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.

There’s only one problem at the beginning of the season: Philadelphia is doing better than any of the teams mentioned, and they’re not even close at this point.

The Celtics come closest with a score of 6-3, but all the usual favourites are well below the line. Even the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets are far behind at this point.

The Six still have the same co-stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and since their arrival in the City of Brotherly Love they haven’t been able to get their franchises.  So, what’s the anomaly?

Compared to last year, the front office has added a few more pieces to its roster, but one name stands out more than the others so far: Seth Curry.

Philadelphia didn’t have any shooters last year, and it was painfully obvious. Three of their top players failed to reach even 40% of their goals in the city by the end of the season. After signing Daryl Morey, the front office started recruiting snipers to replace the Simmons-Embiid duo.

Curry was the best thing so far. He overshoots 59% of three points to lead the team by a wide margin. He also tries 5.3 shots per match, which doesn’t mean the 1.80m guard doesn’t fire many shots during the match. It also corresponds to the best result in terms of success rate, which currently stands at 79%. His second best season was last year with the Dallas Mavericks, where he had a 64% shot percentage.

It’s fair to say that all 76 players as a unit have exceeded expectations this year, and part of that can be attributed to head coach Doc Rivers, who has revived the intense style of play that has plagued Philadelphia for years. Embiid dominated the big men’s game with an average of 24.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. Even Tobias Harris was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for his excellent play last week. Add to that the 17 points that Curry has accumulated over the course of his career and you’ll wonder why the Sixers have been so successful.

However, the X factor here is curry. The other players have been there for a while, and although their production has always been respectable, it has never reached the level that it has today. The distance and talent that Curry brings to the ground not only elevates his game, but also opens the floodgates to the stars around him.

With a score of 7-2 Philadelphia leads the peloton of the UnderDogs, so much so that the Eastern teams have turned the page so far. While some, if not most, of these teams are likely to be eliminated as the season progresses, the Sixers seem to have found a constant with Curry in the group.

Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum, Brad Stevens, Celtics, COVID-19.

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