Joel Embiid Sixers
Joel Embiid was named the cover athlete for NBA Live 19. (Photo: Getty Images)

The 76ers are young, athletic and exciting.

 

They have up-and-coming standout players in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. They can’t be dubbed superstars just yet because the body of work is far from complete.

 

There is so much lying ahead in the future to anticipate.

 

But they’re not there just yet.

 

The Sixers have continued to sit on the cusp of the No. 7 or 8 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. With the All-Star break approaching, there’s a long, long way to go. Nothing is set. Not even a playoff spot.

 

Embiid is listed as questionable or a gametime decision far too often. Simmons is posting terrific numbers, but he’ll need a jump shot once the playoffs start and the tempo of the games slow down.

Markelle Fultz may not even play this season with the exception of the brief cameo he had in four early season games.

Robert Covington doesn’t look ready for the postseason. Over the past month, he has looked lost at times.

The bench is relatively razor thin though T.J. McConnell and Justin Anderson have performed more than admirably. McConnell was stellar with 17 points in a 112-98 win Saturday over the Los Angeles Clippers. It looks as if Marco Belinelli may be on the way as a free agent.

Through all the injuries and adversity, coach Brett Brown has continued to be a magician, doing a terrific job. Pay no attention to the nit-wits on Twitter who complain about Brown on a daily basis. He has done a magnificent job with this group.

For the Sixers to ascend to their ultimate goal of a championship, they’ll need Embiid and Simmons to be a dynamic duo through the 16 wins necessary in the playoffs. Dario Saric and JJ Redick – if he’s still here – will be crucial pieces.

There’s another huge draft looming not to mention free agency. Can you say LeBron James? Well, that would be dreaming. But why not?

Bryan Colangelo was hired to build this roster into a championship-contending group.

There were so many layers to this rebuild which started with four lost seasons and 75 total wins. Little by little, the Sixers have continued to improve. Embiid is finally playing in back-to-back situations. But he has sat out 10 times this season. Simmons has struggled at the free throw line though he has been so worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick two years ago.

When the Sixers reach the playoffs, will they be able to work in halfcourt sets and not throw the ball into the 10th row of the seats? Turnovers have been a constant struggle. It’s why they’ve coughed up nine double digit leads this season.

On the positive side, the Sixers are so much better off than they were just two seasons ago when they compiled 10 – yes, 10 – victories.

Championship aspirations hinge on Embiid. They’re decent without him. They’re very, very good with the big man in the middle. He missed two full seasons and played only 31 games last season. In 2017-18, he has shown flashes of why the fans voted him as an All-Star. The talent is evident. The passion is there.

The goal is to win a title. For the Sixers to get there, Embiid must lead the way. The Sixers have ventured on their path, but there are miles to go to reach the finish line. At least they’re finally exciting. That’s a step.

They moved three games above .500 Saturday. We’ve seen ups and downs all season.

This offseason will be worth watching more than any other in recent memory.