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What could a Simmons-to-Minnesota deal look like?

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It’s only right that we dive into this topic with the team that has had the most reported interest.

Philadelphia 76ers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

September is officially here. We are now just a few weeks away from NBA training camp; where players return to their home markets and make preparations for the NBA preseason and regular season. This is the time period where realization can set in with some teams on where exactly their franchise is. Talking about a team or player is one thing, seeing them physically is another.

A perfect example of this was with Jimmy Butler back in his Timberwolves’ days where he had one of the most iconic practices in NBA history. He had requested a trade months before that, but it wasn’t until him actually arriving and playing that the team made an effort to finally trade him.

Now, Ben Simmons is not the type at all to have a practice where he verbally criticizes the ownership and/or team in a practice. I do think the Sixers will revisit talks during this time and maybe come down on their hefty asking price — which gets them closer to a deal.

The Plan A (and the main thing that seems to be holding back a deal) is Portland’s Damian Lillard. It’s widely reported and known that the Sixers and Daryl Morey want him. However, that may not be a feasible option just yet. It seems like Damian Lillard is on board with at least starting the season in Portland and seeing what they’ve got.

This puts the Sixers in a tough spot. Simmons, or what he can bring back in a trade, will be viewed as the major key to landing Lillard if he does ask out. This brings on the possibility of a “step-trade” or a trade that can get you assets to flip in a future deal. This is much easier said than done, however. What would Portland value most if Lillard asks out? Would they completely tear it down and ask for young players and picks? Are they more on board with a retool around CJ McCollum and Norman Powell? These are all valid questions that aren’t being asked quite yet.

That brings me to Minnesota — the team that seems to have by far the most interest in acquiring Simmons. It makes a ton of sense too. Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the best shooting bigs in NBA history, but still struggles a bit defensively. There’s no better way to address Towns’ short comings with a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player in Simmons. The two fit like a glove on paper.

The interest is reportedly real and it makes a ton of sense. So, what would a deal for Simmons look like? Let’s discuss.

So the prime thing holding up a deal between the two teams is the lack of win-now assets that would be returned to the Sixers. Minnesota has kept Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns off the trading block thus far, and that’s unlikely to change. The remaining talent on the roster that is being offered could range between D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jaden McDaniels. All very solid players but still below Ben Simmons in terms of pure talent.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that both teams are still looking for a third or even fourth team to bring into the deal to get the Sixers more win-now talent.

The likelihood of a one-on-one deal with the Sixers and Timberwolves is pretty slim, to say the least. Not just because of this report — it’s extremely hard to execute a trade in this format from a financial standpoint at this point in time. Russell (plus some draft picks) for Simmons would work straight up, but I don’t think the Sixers would voluntarily do that. Russell is talented, but far from a flawless player. They could do a deal where he gets shipped to a separate team but I highly doubt he has much, if any, positive value in a trade situation. He’s had injury issues over the past two years and I’d expect most teams would shy away from a max contract player dealing with such.

Matching salary is just one of many factors that would go into a Ben Simmons deal. Matching salary north of $30 million isn’t always easy — especially if Minnesota is intent on keeping their core of Russell, Edwards, and Towns together after a trade. This is where things can get tricky, even in a one-for-one trade scenario.

The two players that would have the most interest outside of the mentioned core would likely be Malik Beasley and Jaden McDaniels.

Beasley and McDaniels are two interesting talents that could entice the Sixers. Beasley is coming off of a career year nearly averaging 20 points per game. He can flat out shoot the basketball and is one of the most underrated shooters in the entire league. McDaniels, on the other hand, is coming off of a largely successful rookie campaign where he played legitimate minutes. He’s a terrific defender and mobile big that’s capable of stretching the floor. Players like that are extremely valuable around the league.

While both have shown promise, they may not be the perfect fit that the team has been searching for the past few months. Beasley as a basketball player is really solid. However, he’s had some serious legal issues that led to him getting suspended last year. McDaniels has the makings to become a good NBA player but he’s only 20-years old right now. The Sixers are reportedly trying their best to find win-now talent that fits the timeline of Joel Embiid. McDaniels does not fit their timeline right now entirely.

Another issue with a package centered around Beasley and McDaniels would be matching salary. Combined both players make just over $16 million; which is nearly half of what Ben Simmons makes. Both the Timberwolves and Sixers don’t have any cap space, so matching salary in a deal is crucial.

Fortunately for the Timberwolves, they’ve actually acquired some expiring contracts that could be used in a deal to match salary. Both Taurean Prince and Patrick Beverley make a significant amount of salary that could help make a deal come together. Prince makes $13 million while Beverley is set to make just a bit more than that at $14.3 million.

Another hindrance that would arise would be the fact that both of Prince and Beverley need to be aggregated before being packaged in a deal. For those unfamiliar, players have to be aggregated before they can be included in a deal with other players. The Timberwolves could deal them before their aggregation dates, but they would have to be traded alone. Something that simply isn’t happening in any Ben Simmons trade scenario.

Prince can’t be put into a package with other players until Oct. 1 of this year. Beverley’s aggregation date is even later (Oct. 24). What does this mean? You likely won’t see a Simmons deal done with the Timberwolves until October if it’s a package including Beasley and/or McDaniels.

My assumption is that the framework of the deal would likely include Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels, and another guard from a veteran team. The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski reported that the main hindrance in any Simmons deal would be the lack of return of win-now talent. Draft compensation along with one of Prince or Beverley could be re-routed to a third team for an additional player — likely a veteran point guard of some kind.

Draft compensation would drastically range depending on how ugly the situation gets or if Simmons can somehow improve his value, but I’d expect that to be a huge point of emphasis on the Sixers’ side of things. If they don’t do a deal for Damian Lillard, they’ll likely aim to set themselves up for a bigger move later on down the line.