It is well known that the Minnesota Timberwolves fancy Ben Simmons. He is not only a friend of Karl-Anthony Towns, but one of the best defenders and playmakers in the NBA. His reputation took a hit in the playoffs, but Simmons still has value league-wide, and no team has saturated the rumor mill more than Minnesota.
A recent report from Jon Krawczynski and Danny Leroux of The Athletic ($) confirms the Timberwolves’ desire to land Ben Simmons. While landing Simmons would require some creativity on Minnesota’s part, it is clear the Wolves envision him next to Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell. It would seem a Russell-for-Simmons swap is not in the cards.
To spice things up even more, Dane Moore of BlueWire Pods reported on a fascinating interaction at the recent NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. According to Moore, Gersson Rosas — the Wolves’ President of Basketball Operations — met with Sixers GM Elton Brand to discuss Simmons. No substantiative negotiations have occurred up to now, but ignoring the Wolves as a potential destination is no longer possible.
The Wolves clearly want Ben Simmons, but can the Sixers get enough value to warrant a deal?
For the Wolves, it is hard to deny the appeal of Ben Simmons on paper. Defense has been the bane of Minnesota’s existence for a while now, and Simmons is one of the most versatile defensive weapons in recent NBA history. He finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, and would immediately elevate the Wolves on both sides of the ball.
With Simmons, Towns, Edwards, and Russell hypothetically together, Minnesota could probably win some games, too. Simmons is a brilliant regular season player who has been a big part of Philadelphia’s recent success, even if his shortcomings become nearly impossible to bear in the playoffs. The Wolves are a cleaner fit on paper — Towns is one of the greatest shooting big men ever — and just a run to the eighth seed would satiate some of the hunger in that fanbase.
For Philadelphia, however, it’s fair to question whether Minnesota has any assets of value. By trading Ben Simmons, you decrease the value of the returning draft picks, while the pool of potential returning players — Malik Beasley, Ricky Rubio, Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, Juancho Hernangomez, etc. — doesn’t exactly light up the imagination.
It all likelihood, the Sixers and Wolves would need to explore three-team deals. Even if Minnesota was willing to part with Russell, that’s not a name I would anticipate Daryl Morey getting excited about. Russell is a negative defender and, all too often, a ball-stopper. He’s simply not on Simmons’ level, and would actively harm the Sixers’ title aspirations.
The Wolves can throw a lot of picks around, and the Sixers can feasibly turn those picks into another star-level contributor — looking at you, Kyle Lowry — but Minnesota would have to come prepared to dish out creative solutions if getting Ben Simmons north is the ultimate goal.