It’s a slow day in a strange off-season for the Sixers and therefore a slow day for us folks who write and talk about the team. Joel Embiid’s supermax extension is signed and out of the way. Our Paul Hudrick has confirmed that the 53rd pick, a big out of Western Kentucky, Charles Bassey is expected to receive a standard roster spot. That following the team having waived Rayjon Tucker in order to make room for former Hornet guard Grant Riller to sign his two-way contract. They also officially “stashed” 50th pick Filip Petrusev overseas for the year. The biggest question mark of all now is what happens with Ben Simmons.
Well, it would seem that the team with the most interest in landing the 6’10 Aussie out of LSU is the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A couple of days ago we got several reports making it sound like a) the Wolves were really intrigued by the prospect of landing Simmons. And b) that the Sixers aren’t exactly intrigued by any package Minny might offer (unless a 3rd or 4th team were included).
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski talking to Mike Greenberg on ESPN2:
Here’s the clip for those asking. Woj makes it seem like it’s a pretty likely chance Ben will be on the team when the season starts pic.twitter.com/cYBBlaGVms— Lyle (@WalkWithLyle) August 17, 2021
In that clip, Woj describes the Timberwolves persistent interest in acquiring Simmons via trade:
“Philadelphia has continued to try to see if they can find a deal for Simmons before the start of camp, they have not had success to really getting any traction for the high asking price….
Minnesota is one team that has been persistent with Philadelphia but they’ve needed to have really third and even four teams in those kind of deal to get back Philly what it would want…. I think for the Sixers if they’re gonna trade Ben Simmons they’ve gotta get back players right now who can continue on that Joel Embiid timeline ….and that’s a hard package to get back for Ben Simmons right now. Certainly, there’s a very distinct possibility he’s going to have to come back to training camp with them next season....
…they’re gonna have to it seems, if they don’t find a deal, try to increase his value, get him off to a good start next year and then revisit trades during the season. But things can change and certainly Philly is still motivated to find a deal between now and the start of the season.”
That sentiment was mostly echoed in a post by former Liberty Baller, Jake Fischer, writing for Bleacher Report.
The latest on Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard, and the growing likelihood of an awkward training camp in Philadelphia, at @BR_NBA: https://t.co/Tmxfv4hkJI— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) August 17, 2021
“Each of Minnesota, Golden State, Sacramento and San Antonio has been consistently linked as a top Simmons destination, yet the overwhelming sense among league insiders continues to be that Simmons, for now, is expected to remain a Sixer once training camp opens on September 28—barring a change of temperature with Damian Lillard in Portland.
That appears to be the ever-important undercurrent to what has been routinely described as a “James Harden-like” package Philadelphia is seeking for any Simmons return.”
Two extra juicy tidbits from the same piece include:
“This year, several rival executives told Bleacher Report they believe part of Philadelphia’s calculus behind those unrealistic offers has also been to assure Simmons’ camp that the Sixers are at least attempting to move him.”
“Whether Simmons is amenable [to a return] of course remains to be seen, but Philadelphia appears prepared for that outcome. Said one veteran front office voice, “Daryl is not afraid to go into training camp with a potentially combustible situation.”
So one team that keeps coming up from everyone is the Timberwolves, who in many ways make terrific trade partners here. Their President of B-Ball ops Gersson Rosas is a former long-time lieutenant of Daryl Morey, one imagines they make good tango partners.
As a fantasy football player I tend to make trades with the same managers year after year as it takes a little communication to dodge the frustrations that sink potential swaps.
What kinda odds can you get on Ben Simmons, winding up in a 3 way deal, and headed to Minnesota? Asking for friend— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) July 16, 2021
The wolves just landed a player Daryl Morey once drafted while with Houston in Pat Beverley. The Athletic’s John Krawczynski, who covers Minnesota, had this to add:
“[Patrick] Beverley’s status as a veteran with playoff experience may also make him a little easier to include in a possible trade offer for Ben Simmons. While certainly not anything close to a headliner, Beverley’s defensive chops and ability to hit open 3s would help Philadelphia a lot more than any combination of Culver and/or Hernangomez.
The Wolves have continued to have discussions with the Sixers on Simmons, sources said, but the lack of win-now assets they could provide the Sixers in their pursuit of a championship has been a hindrance. A third team would almost assuredly have to be brought in to get more immediate impact assets to the Sixers, and that is a complicated endeavor.”
Simmons may want out, but how badly? Enough to put some pressure on the Sixers and possibly land himself in freezing cold and mediocre at best Minnesota? If Simmons were to land there, how valuable would their future draft picks be to a team like Portland? Is Simmons, Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Edwards a lottery team or a playoff team?
"Ben Simmons is not answering the phone calls, he don’t want to be with the 76ers, and from what I heard, he’s willing not to report to training camp, and will go as long as it takes for him to get out of Philly."— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) August 10, 2021
- Kendrick Perkins
(Via ESPN | h/t @FortyEightMins) pic.twitter.com/R3Lsu9O2Q0
"He doesn't want to go to a bad situation...He's looking to go to the California teams." - Jason Dumas on Ben Simmons avoiding the Blazers and Raptors pic.twitter.com/CpNNS6ODe0— ClutchPoints NBA (@ClutchPointsNBA) August 5, 2021
The Wolves aren't EXACTLY a "California team", but does Ben Simmons know that the Lakers used to play in Minneapolis?— Tim Faklis (@timfaklis) August 6, 2021
If reports or rumors that Simmons doesn’t want a “bad” team like Toronto (or that he might prefer California) are to be believed then we might infer his feelings about the Wolves; even if playing with a stretch big like Karl Anthony-Towns might be a best-case scenario for Simmons’ skillset. Ben’s stellar defense would complement KAT as well. That would be some very very fun basketball to watch. But like Woj and Kraw discuss, there aren’t the “win now” players on the T-Wolves that might tempt Morey to pull that trigger. D’Angelo Russell battled injuries recently and probably does not help the Sixers maintain their apparent lead as a Dame Lillard destination in the event Dame eventually wants a new home. Who knows if he’d help them maintain their claim to a top 3 seed in the east either.
What about the idea that the Sixers might take on a couple of solid role players and as many picks as they can get? Might they then maintain their standing as a potential top seed in the east and also maintain their standing as a top landing spot for Lillard? Can they thread that needle? Maybe but it’s difficult to imagine. The optics of trading Simmons for a couple of useful players and picks probably leads Morey to this headline: Daryl Morey traded Simmons for a bunch of stuff that he never got to use on Dame Lillard, now Joel Embiid has lost yet another year of his prime, so did they place too much emphasis on analytics? Or something....
I don’t expect the Wolves to give up. They’re not a franchise that might reasonably expect to sign someone as good as Simmons via free agency. And if the Sixers were to eventually acquire Lillard, I’d personally put the Wolves pretty high on the list of potential “third-team” facilitators that wind up with Simmons, given all of the synergies at play there. But who would that third or even 4th team be? Fire up some trade machine scenarios for our comment section.