Minnesota Timberwolves: Trading for Ben Simmons could be dangerous

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Philadelphia 76ers’ unceremonious departure from the postseason at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, there have been plenty of talks surrounding the future of point guard Ben Simmons; and the Minnesota Timberwolves are once again in the middle of it all.

A recent report from Shams Charania of The Athletic (paywall) brought to light the Sixers’ stance on their franchise point guard, mainly that they are opening up to the possibility of trading him. This report seemed to only complement a piece recently by Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic that Minnesota seemed interested in offering the Sixers a package. And, while Minnesota could match the salary with a package of Ricky Rubio and Malik Beasley, Charania reports that the Sixers are looking for an “All-Star caliber” player, implying that if the Timberwolves were to go after the Aussie point guard, the Sixers would want something more.

For the Minnesota Timberwolves, trading for Ben Simmons could bring danger.

There are two players on this Minnesota team who could easily be considered All-Star caliber: Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, both of whom are former All-Stars. It should be noted, however, that it’s entirely likely that the Sixers would also be interested in acquiring Anthony Edwards from Minnesota.

Notice anything about that list? Rubio, Beasley, Towns, Russell, and Edwards. They’re four of the team’s top players, and arguably the five best on the squad. If Minnesota is going to trade for Simmons, the move could rob them of some of their most promising talent, making it all the more important that the Timberwolves are certain that bringing in Simmons is the absolute right move for the franchise.

Objectively, the best package for Minnesota to bring Simmons in would be Rubio and Beasley for the three-time All-Star, however, that’s not likely to happen. The next best option for the Wolves that might grab Philly’s attention is Rubio, Edwards, and Jaden McDaniels for Simmons. However, even that package raises questions.

It’s unlikely that Simmons would want to come off the bench, and he’s shown resistance to playing any position other than point guard. But, if Minnesota doesn’t send him in a package, the team already has their starting guard in Russell. And even if Minnesota could convince Simmons to play forward, there’s been no evidence that Simmons could be the guy Minnesota needs him to be at that position.

While Simmons’ defense would be nice to have on Minnesota (though admittedly even that’s taken a bump over the last few years), his struggles offensively are what would trouble the team. Simmons’ inability to hit a 3 would allow the defense to sag off him, providing an extra help defender to through a speed bump into Minnesota’s dash-and-pass offense. And, while Simmons does have good accuracy from inside the paint, his inability to hit free throws consistently could hurt the Timberwolves down the stretch in close games. But again, this is almost all hypothetical, because Simmons likely wouldn’t be comfortable coming off the bench or playing at the four.

So Simmons needs to be the starting point guard. What if Minnesota took the biggest chance on him? What if they sent a package over to Philadelphia that included Russell. That package would likely be something close to Russell and Jake Layman for Simmons.

To be clear, this almost certainly doesn’t happen. Minnesota, hopefully, is too cognizant of all the problems with sending Russell for Simmons for the front office to give it the green light. Still, if they want Simmons, Russell almost certainly has to be involved somehow.

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Sending D’Lo to the Sixers would open up the starting point guard spot for Simmons, and on paper, his strengths are areas that Minnesota needs improvement in while Simmons’ weaknesses are areas Minnesota already has skill in. He fits nicely, again, on paper. When it comes to the actual game, there are two questions that persist. 1.) How would he play with the other stars and 2.) can he be the best player on a team? The second question has yet to be seen, but luckily, we have a multi-year sample size of Simmons working with an All-Star level stretch five.

The problem that Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid had while playing together, ultimately, is the same problem that Minnesota would face if they paired him with Towns: They both need the ball to play their game. Considering Embiid is a better offensive weapon than Towns is, it’s entirely possible that bringing in Simmons would just lead to KAT seeing diminished numbers and Minnesota not having much postseason success.

As for the second question, Simmons hasn’t shown the ability to take over and be the best player on a team yet. It’s likely that Simmons would still rely on Towns or Edwards to carry the mantle of “the best”, which could be problematic if Simmons requires the ball to play his style.

Even with all of this, there’s one more problem with trading D’Angelo Russell: he’s Minnesota’s Towns insurance policy. It’s well known that Towns, Russell, and Devin Booker are looking to play together, or at the very least, two of those three are hoping to share a team together. Trading for Russell wasn’t just a move Minnesota made to try to improve at the point position, but it was a way of assuring that Towns would stay with the franchise, or else make it very difficult for him to leave. With the team never quite reaching the expectations they have for themselves on a yearly basis, trading Russell for a player who could negatively impact Towns’ play just a few years before Towns’ contract is up wouldn’t be the smartest decision.

Ultimately, trading for Simmons is a gamble for Minnesota at best. Not only for the reasons outlined above but also because there has already been so much turnover in the Timberwolves roster over the last few years. Being a revolving door for players to come in one season and leave the next isn’t the best look for any team, and won’t do anything to help the team chemistry. If Minnesota wants to help their odds next season, they may be better suited to developing the players they already have, and implementing a system that works for them, then trying another external solution.

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