How a Ben Simmons trade can turn the Minnesota Timberwolves into a contender

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When NBA trade rumors surfaced in 2020 that Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Gersson Rosas wanted to trade for D’Angelo Russell, skeptics said it couldn’t be done. A year later, Russell is finally in a place where he feels comfortable and a part of Minnesota’s core.

With the arrival of another NBA offseason comes new trade chatter out of Minnesota. A recent report said Rosas spoke to Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand about a Ben Simmons trade, talks that don’t include Russell.

With Philadelphia open to moving on from its star facilitator and defender, let’s examine how Simmons would fit with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ben Simmons trade helps KAT, creates “Big Three”

Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns are already close, it’s part of the reason Rosas made the blockbuster trade. That’s why it can’t be ignored that KAT and Simmons also have a solid relationship, even playing video games together during their off time. Remember when the two were playing PUBG and Simmons said KAT could play another game since Towns only had to face the Hawks the next day? Irony is a funny thing.

The point is, Simmons and Towns are tight. Bringing the trio together could make for a group that displays fantastic chemistry, stays together for years, and pushes one another to new heights. Simmons has plenty of playoff experience and actually plays defense. Towns and Russell help erase Simmons’ poor shooting by having some of the sweetest strokes in the NBA.

If this talented group worked on their games together, perhaps they could all teach each other a thing or two, or at the very least cover each other’s deficiencies. Maybe the three of them could put their great basketball minds together to finally reach the NBA Finals?

D’Angelo Russell found a home with Minnesota Timberwolves

Ben Simmons, Minnesota Timberwolves

In Minnesota, Russell finally feels at home. Playing in a more relaxed environment and going through the grind of an NBA season with a close friend makes everything that much easier.

While the Timberwolves gave up valuable assets to chase Russell, they wouldn’t trade him just a couple of seasons later. What kind of message would that send to KAT? Since Rosas acquired Russell, Towns has said all the right things about wanting to play his entire career with the Timberwolves

Trading Russell now would surely ruffle some feathers. Then, the KAT trade rumors may finally have some merit for the first time in his NBA career. Otherwise, Towns isn’t going anywhere.

Simmons impact on Minnesota Timberwolves defense

Minnesota Timberwolves

While their offense has shown an ability to break out when its top scorers are healthy, their defense always lets them down. Last season, the Wolves allowed 117.7 points per game, second-most in the NBA. It’s become obvious, the TWolves core isn’t exactly composed of defensive stoppers. 

  • Karl-Anthony Towns career Defensive Player Rating: 109
  • D’Angelo Russell career Defensive Player Rating: 113
  • Anthony Edwards 2020-2021 Defensive Player Rating: 116
  • Ben Simmons career Defensive Player Rating: 105

Simmons could help the team in a number of ways, even reducing the need for Russell to be a distributor. But Simmons would make the biggest impact defensively. Minnesota has sought a long-term frontcourt partner next to KAT since he was a rookie. As a two-time first-team NBA All-Defensive honoree, Simmons could help set the tone for the rest of the squad.

He led the NBA in steals during the 2020 season. In fact, Simmons has never had a season where he’s averaged fewer than 1.4 swipes per game. Simmons and Ricky Rubio would give the Wolves a passing lane irritant on the floor at all times.

No matter what, the Wolves have to improve their defense if they hope to win more basketball games. If Gersson Rosas can work more magic, pulling Ben Simmons out of his hat without giving up core pieces, it’s a no-brainer. 

Comparing the Timberwolves to the Phoenix Suns

With KAT, D-Lo, and Anthony Edwards in the lineup together, the Wolves went 12-9. Averaged out to a full season and the Wolves would have found themselves in the Western Conference playoffs. As this young nucleus continues to grow under head coach Chris Finch’s tutelage, who knows what these hungry pups are capable of?

Look at the ascension of the Phoenix Suns in recent years.

  • 2018-19 Phoenix Suns record – 19-63 .232
  • 2019-20 Suns – 34-39 .466
  • 2020-21 Suns – 51-21 .708

Compare that to the Minnesota Timberwolves record in each of the past two seasons.

  • 2019-20 record – 19-45, .297
  • 2020-21 record – 23-49, .319

In 2019, the Suns hired Monty Williams to be their head coach. In 2020, they traded for Chris Paul. For the Timberwolves, Chris Finch will get to coach his first full season next year. With just a couple of additions, the Timberwolves may be able to finally take that major step forward fans have been waiting for.

That’s why trading Russell right now makes zero sense. Continuing to put the pieces around KAT to complement his skill set, however, is priority No. 1 for the T-Wolves front office. Though they missed out on acquiring John Collins, players like Ben Simmons or Myles Turner would look great in a Wolves uni paired next to KAT.

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