It seems absurd to look at a 5-13 record and even think the word playoffs, but when you look at the standings, the Sixers do have a legitimate shot. Whether this is good, bad or neither is another discussion, but sitting 2.5 out of the eighth and final spot is the reality of the situation after 18 games.
Personally, I don't think making the playoffs should be the primary goal of this season. At the same time, I'm not going to be heartbroken if they do, provided they don't eschew player development and lean heavily on guys who don't have a future with the team, but again, a discussion for another time.
The issue here, if you want to consider it an issue, is if the Sixers continue to play the way they have through the first 18 games, they probably deserve to be a playoff team, or at least right on the cusp. If they play the way they have over the past three, they might just be a lock. Take a look at the standings again, but this time let's look at point differential:
When you factor in the new head coach, the new personnel, the youth of the roster, missing Andre Iguodala for five plus games and the insanely difficult schedule the Sixers have faced to this point (8 home games, 10 road games, 6 back-to-backs) you'd absolutely have to say this team is probably going to improve from this point forward. Even with those things stacked against them, they've played better than every team ahead of them in the chase for #8 but Milwaukee (who the Sixers beat, badly) and Charlotte.
Cleveland is clearly playing over their heads, I seriously doubt they'll even be in the conversation for the #8 seed by January. This could come down to 5 teams for the final two playoff spots, including the Sixers.
Here's the question, if the Sixers are on the cusp of a playoff berth, are they more or less likely to deal Iguodala? More importantly, is making the playoffs enough of a "goal" for Rod Thorn to make a short-sighted deal designed to push them over the hump and get into the second season this year? As a fan, do you want them to make the push, or would you rather see Iguodala moved ASAP to keep any hopes of a top-five pick alive? Or do you think point differential is meaningless and this team's youth will keep them losing close games, and hovering at or near the bottom of the conference?