Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas has said that the most likely path to improving the roster he is in charge of is via trades.
A standout defensive player with plenty of other skills could very well be available this summer, and the Wolves could have the assets to pursue him.
Sounds like a perfect match, doesn't it?
But with Ben Simmons, the player in question, nothing is easy. There is a lot of grey area in his value, which leads to tough decisions for talent evaluators but fun fodder for guys like Chris Hine and myself.
We batted around the idea of Ben Simmons on the Wolves during Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast. While we found some common ground with each other's opinions, Hine generally came down on the side of "bad idea" while I think the Wolves should make a big effort to pursue Simmons.
If you don't see the podcast player, click here to listen.
I'll try to summarize the cases for and against the Wolves trying to trade for Simmons with three main points on each side:
1 He's limited in his offensive efficiency. The three most efficient shots in the NBA, more or less, are three-pointers, free throws and shots at the rim. Simmons only does one of those three well — and the other two, three-pointers and free throws, are abysmal. He's made just five three-pointers in his CAREER and is a tick below 60% in his career from the free throw line. Those are numbers befitting a back-to-the-basket center 40 years ago, not a modern point guard.
How do you reconcile those things, particularly when they can be so damaging in late game situations (and particularly the playoffs)?
2 He hasn't fundamentally improved his game. A look at Simmons' numbers is a pretty straight line across his four seasons. He hasn't added better shooting or really anything else to his game. He's been the same guy, which is good ... but that's also not so good.
3 He's at a low point in his value because he cost the 76ers a playoff series. There's a reason he's available. His dismal free throw shooting, alternating with his unwillingness to shoot at other times, was the prime reason Philadelphia lost to Atlanta in the Eastern Conference semifinals. I mean, he was 24 for 71 from the free throw line. You want to add that to a team trying to break through?!?!
Yes, because ...
GO FOR IT!
1 He's a matchup nightmare. As bad as Simmons is in some key areas of his offensive game, he's elite in transition and from close range. Being a 6-11 ballhandler gives Simmons obvious things he can exploit, and when he is put in good spots he can excel. If you added him to a Wolves team that already has floor-spacing offensive-minded players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards — minus D'Angelo Russell, the presumed centerpiece of any swap for Simmons — his deficiencies could be hidden while his gifts were highlighted.
2 He's an elite defensive player. Speaking of roster fit, he would be a huge upgrade over Russell on defense. Simmons was an All-NBA defensive player each of the last two seasons. And those same matchup issues he presents on offense are present on defense, where he can swarm smaller guards while also seamlessly switching on screens to pick up bigger players. He's a dream defensive player for a lot of modern schemes, and the Wolves lack defensive acumen among many of their core players.
3 He's at a low point in his value, so he's gettable. Even with his flaws, Simmons is a caliber of player that doesn't often come available in a trade. Yes, he's on a max contract. So is Russell. The Wolves would be closer to a championship with Simmons on the roster — yes, even after what we just saw in the playoffs — and that's really all that should matter.