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Liberty Ballers Mailbag: Kyrie Irving, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, no more CJ McCollum!

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers are 15-13 and tied for sixth place in the East. They have the 14th ranked offense and the 21st ranked defense. That’s better than we might have guessed considering all of the injury and illness that has hampered this team.

Recently, Joel Embiid and the Sixers were fully loaded, delivering a signature win over the Golden State Warriors. Joy. Their star Steph Curry, finally free from Matisse Thybulle’s defensive jail, made history at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, becoming the all-time leader in made threes. But then the Sixers were shorthanded again and got bludgeoned by the Memphis Grizzlies. Frustration. It feels like Doc Rivers’ squad has played 95 games more than 28, doesn’t it?

Dave and Shamus here to answer your mailbag questions.

1) Do you expect confetti to rain from the heavens when the clock strikes midnight tonight? @NBAKrell

SC: Well, as of this writing, Ben Simmons is still a Philadelphia 76er. It would be very fitting in Philly to unload confetti before a win is secured though, right?

DE: Sorry Austin, but Marco Belinelli ain’t walking through that door! Just playing. I did see a fair amount of ‘maybe there’s a Simmons trade coming at midnight on Dec. 15th’ and I was caught by surprise. Most of the players the Sixers have been linked to aren’t available yet so I think more signs point to the slog marching on than resolving quickly.

Some hope undoubtedly came from the Simmons trade is gaining momemtum reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

My read here is those reports came from the Sixers side of things, getting proactive with lots of work ahead of them. The teams we think may ultimately land Simmons (e.g. OKC, Sac, SA, Por, Bos, Ind, Tor, Cle, Hou, Minn) only have a couple of the Sixers’ desired targets between them. So Philadelphia knows they may need to do the heavy lifting on a three-to-four team blockbuster. And those don’t happen quickly.

It might realistically take the full two months between today and the Feb. 10th deadline to get all of the teams and their key players, ancillary pieces, and draft assets in place before each organization is prepared to file paperwork. So it makes sense to frantically work the phones now and see which teams are serious and which players are really on the table. Learning for example that Minnesota’s Pat Beverley is available and that the Washington Wizards would love to have him or that the Cavaliers are intrigued by Knicks forward Kevin Knox (making these up) is the type of stuff the Sixers want to know. While trying to learn what various key teams are targeting, they can allow some time to pass for even a single big name to get that wandering eye with the framework for a deal in mind. If Bradley Beal, decides on January 15th, he’d like a change, then the Sixers could have a head start on the nightmarish logistics.

But it would have been fitting if the Sixers twitter handle posted a midnight confetti gif to get everyone’s hopes up then later deleted it admitting “it was scheduled to go off for New Year’s Eve, our bad.”

2) Kyrie Irving isn’t returning. This is so stupid. If he doesn’t get the shots he’s not playing. @XelaPhila

SC: Probably! I’m actually worried we may be moving towards the league shutting down operations given this STEEP rise in positive COVID tests over the last week. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic, but teams are being ravaged right now and you have the reigning Finals MVP missing time because of it, the NBA brass might believe a quick break as personnel gets a booster to fend off the Omnicron variant. I took an introductory epidemiology class in college and got a B-. That’s all I got.

DE: Kyrie Irving could get traded, get vaccinated, or find some plant-based compromise and any of those scenarios would dramatically alter the current landscape of the NBA. The Sixers could land Jaylen Brown for Simmons tomorrow, while keeping Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle but if Irving was suddenly in the lineup for Brooklyn it would be tough sledding. Sixers fans should burn sage hoping nothing changes for Brooklyn there. But Shamus got a B-, so you should go with him, I took Intro to Wines and barely passed.

3) How outrageous is the idea of the Thunder being the third team with the Sixers getting SGA ? Presti said he’s gettable a while ago and Doc is his old coach. Is this possible. @KSimon86

SC: Doc Rivers may be his old coach, but Rivers only likes former players when they played in the Eastern Conference Finals between 2008 and 2012. As for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander specifically, I simply don’t understand why the Thunder would trade him. This isn’t to say that he couldn’t be traded, but if a team in a gigantic rebuild doesn’t want to have a 23-year-old future All-Star (future All-NBA guy?) who’s averaged almost 21 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 57.5 percent over the last three seasons, what the hell is Sam Presti doing?

If the Sixers were to send away Ben Simmons in a trade and received SGA in return, regardless of whether it’d be a two-team or a three-team deal, I have to think they’d be parting with Simmons and other assets too. That could be Tyrese Maxey or a stack of several future picks. I’m still very into that type of deal, but it feels unlikely.

DE: I agree with Shamus. If you told me this happened, my guess would be the framework was SGA to Philly, Simmons, Maxey and a pick or two to OKC, no need for a third team. I’m not ruling something like that out, or Morey moving a small mountain to keep Maxey in the deal. I think Sam Presti is smart enough to know that he hasn’t had any untouchable players since Kevin Durant left for the Bay.

4) Who is the worst player you’d take back as the center piece of a Simmons deal if you were Morey ? besides CJ. That’s too boring @TheRealGD

SC: 44-year-old Steve “Stevie Franchise” Francis.

DE: I said De’Aaron Fox the last time we did this. I think I sold too low, as the former Wildcat one-and-done has struggled some and Maxey has been a solid “arbitrage Fox.” Now, I guess I’ll aim for names like Brandon Ingram or Darius Garland. Dejounte Murray, a player our Paul Hudrick named prior to the season, has taken a bit of a leap here.

Both Murray and Garland are Klutch clients, managed by Rich Paul and on teams linked to Simmons. Perhaps Paul would try to resolve this thing by shuffling disgruntled clients seeking change.