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Sources: Thunder could be key partner in potential Ben Simmons trade

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

With no end in sight to the Ben Simmons saga, the Sixers now sit at just 11-11 in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The former first overall pick doesn’t seem close to returning, while Team President Daryl Morey, GM Elton Brand, and the rest of the Sixers’ front office do not seem close to swinging the type of blockbuster trade which might resolve this situation.

We did recently learn the Sixers may have a list of 30 players who would satisfy them in a potential Ben Simmons trade, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Now Liberty Ballers has learned who one of those 30 players might be.

A source with knowledge of the Sixers’ thinking indicated that Oklahoma City Thunder combo-guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one player the Sixers have had talks about internally and could be open to trading for.

That doesn’t mean Gilgeous-Alexander is currently available, but it’s still intriguing to learn the Sixers may view the Toronto native as a target who could satisfy their needs.

The Sixers remain steadfast that they will not execute a trade just to avoid controversy. Morey has essentially indicated the team will only make a move if they can maintain or enhance their odds of winning a title, a position that has not appeared to shift in months.

The Sixers seem prepared to plow right through the trade deadline without making a deal, although they’re open to other outcomes, including Simmons returning to the team as a full-time player and rejoining Doc Rivers’ rotation.

But the Thunder are certainly a team to keep an eye on here.

Oklahoma represents an ideal trade partner for a few reasons, starting with that they appear to be in full-on rebuild mode and that’s often a good time to shake things up.

Morey and Thunder General Manager Sam Presti have a history as tango partners. The Thunder traded James Harden to Morey’s Houston Rockets back in 2012. More recently, the pair worked together to exchange veterans Al Horford and Danny Green once Morey landed with Philadelphia.

The Thunder have been consistently regarded as one of the top landing teams for Simmons, per betting markets.

Even if OKC has little interest in moving on from Gilgeous-Alexander, they have a ton of cap space (their highest paid player in 2022 is Derrick Favors who earns just $9.72M), enticing young players, and future draft picks. That makes them one of the best potential facilitators in a potential three or even four-team trade.

The key December 15th date is approaching when many newly minted players become eligible to be moved. The NBA trade deadline is February 10, 2022. Simmons is not going to be the only Sixers player to hear his name in rumors during that period and he may not even be the most likely player on the roster to be dealt. That’s how resolved Philadelphia seems in only making moves which improve their championship odds.

It should be noted that the Thunder do not have much incentive to move on from Gilgeous-Alexander. The former Wildcat is averaging 21.1 points, 4.5 assists, and 5.1 boards on 30 percent from downtown. His efficiency is down from a season ago, but he’s still a rising star. The Sixers may feel that defenses are able to key on him in OKC in a way they would not be able to if paired with a force like Joel Embiid.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN once speculated that SGA might not perfectly fit the timeline of Sam Presti’s rebuild. Former Liberty Baller Jake Fischer, now with Bleacher Report reported back in July “‘it’s going to take a f—king lot to get him, but he’s no longer impossible to get,’ said one team executive.”

That was before SGA signed a five-year max extension.

Gilgeous-Alexander is now on what’s referred to as a “poison pill” contract. He only earns $5.49M this season from the Thunder. If he were traded, the acquiring team would pay him an average of his 2022 salary and pending extensions, totaling $29.6M. A Simmons for Gilgeous-Alexander swap does work on paper.

To be very clear, this does not feel like something imminent or even likely. Just because the Sixers have had talks about a player doesn’t mean he’s available. But there are more than a few reasons to keep an eye on the Thunder here.

Oklahoma has a ton of goodies every team wants. They could make a play for Simmons or simply look to facilitate a larger deal, making them a key partner to watch in any potential Ben Simmons trade. We’re heading into the time of year when all speculation begins to heat up.

Amick mentioned three names in James Harden, Bradley Beal, and Damian Lillard. We’re adding one in SGA. Just 26 to go as we continue to figure out who’s on Daryl Morey’s now infamous list of 30 names.