If the past few years taught fans anything about the NBA, it's that if a player wants out, he will eventually get his wish.
James Harden in Houston, Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio, Anthony Davis in New Orleans and, of course, Jimmy Butler in Minnesota. All got their wish.
They differed in what courses they took, but all involved calculated media leaks and becoming a headache to their current teams to underscore their desire to leave.
Ben Simmons and his representatives at Klutch Sports know the script — Klutch helped engineer Davis' way out of New Orleans, and Simmons is taking notes from Butler's unceremonious exit from the Wolves in an attempt to expedite his way out of Philadelphia.
ESPN reported Tuesday that Simmons won't report to training camp and doesn't intend to play for the franchise, which is essentially what the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in August. The leaks tend to bleed into each other at times in these kinds of situations. This was the most likely outcome when Philadelphia declined to move off pie-in-the-sky trade demands when free agency was happening and the league was shifting, and 76ers brass made it clear they didn't think they could win with Simmons.
Those comments have made a potential return untenable, even if Simmons would merely play a few games while the team works to deal him, as the Wolves did with Butler.Just how it affects Philadelphia's asking price — and if General Manager Daryl Morey will come down from his reported stances in the summer — is unknown.
There are differences between the Butler and Simmons situations; Butler was on an expiring contract, and Simmons has four years left on a max deal. Simmons, 25, is also younger than Butler was three years ago, when he was 29.
The Wolves want Simmons, even if they can't publicly say so. From the day Gersson Rosas took over as president, he said he will have the Wolves prepared to make a deal anytime young star players become available.He swung the deal for D'Angelo Russell and will try to do it again.
The overly dramatic NBA always has these awkward situations pop up, and the Wolves have been biding their time in hopes the market for Simmons comes down. The off-court drama can help with that, especially if Simmons backs Philadelphia into a corner. The more toxic a situation, the more the rest of the league can keep the price of a trade lower because Philadelphia has to make a deal.
Many around the league were skeptical of Minnesota's ability to find a deal with Philadelphia for Simmons, especially if the Wolves didn't want to part with Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards or D'Angelo Russell in any trade scenario. Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels and a bunch of first-round picks might not cut it for a team like Philadelphia, which is in win-now mode with Joel Embiid, not win-in-three-to-five-years mode.
The conventional thinking is that a third team with a player or multiple players would have to get involved if the Wolves are going to trade for Simmons. Houston is reportedly set to find a trade partner for John Wall, and it is unknown how the Wall and Simmons situations may intersect, if at all. The Wolves have been patient and letting the chaos in Philadelphia play out, and that can only help them in their desire to get Simmons. Eventually, they are sure to have company in that race.
Just when a Simmons trade will finally happen is anybody's guess. Simmons, though, has made clear he would like it to happen soon. If the Wolves are pursuing him, that could be to their benefit.