Suddenly, Sixers’ process again a struggle

Ben Simmons is having a fine rookie season, but Sixers are suddenly sliding.

Are the Philadelphia 76ers failing to make the same progress as other rebuilding teams?

That’s the question asked by Keith Pompey in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pompey is on the Sixers beat and knows the team as well as anyone. He brings up some valid points in his Sunday column:

1. “As the top team in the Eastern Conference, there’s no question that the Celtics, who were 26-9 heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Chicago Bulls, are  far ahead of a Sixers squad with the conference’s 10th-best record. Great moves by general manager Danny Ainge — not a four-season tank to acquire assets — got the Celtics where they are.”

2. “The Bucks selected Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick of the 2013 draft.  A face of the NBA, the 2017 all-star is arguably one of the all-time draft-day sleepers. The Sixers actually passed up on Antetokoumpo twice for two guys — Nerlens Noel (sixth, in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans) and Michael Carter-Williams (11th) — who are no longer on their roster.”

3. Pompey also mentioned the Minnesota Timberwolves. “Like the Sixers, they traded young assets. Minnesota was able to receive much more in return,” he wrote. “They acquired three-time all-star Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton from the Bulls in June for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen. Butler will be under contract through next season and has a player option for 2019-20.”

One of the Sixers’ biggest issues, of course, is the inability of key players to stay healthy. Joel Embiid is again on and off the injury list with knee and back issues. And yet another Sixers’ No. 1 overall pick is sort of redshirting — as Markelle Fultz has yet to play, sidelined by a shoulder injury.

The Sixers have tons of young talent and can be lots of fun to watch. But at some point, this team needs to stay healthy, stay together and take the next step. Otherwise, it’s been much ado about nothing.