Editor’s Note: I’m happy to announce that Ameer Eldomiatti has also recently joined the team here at Canis Hoopus and will periodically be contributing articles on a variety of Timberwolves-related topics. Born in Eagen, MN and a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Ameer is visually impaired, but you wouldn’t know it by how well he covers and analyzes all of his favorite teams (most of which reside in the Minneapolis area, including the Vikings, Twins, and of course Timberwolves).
Like many of the other staffers here at Canis, Ameer is a fantastic human being who is looking to get more reps under his belt in terms of writing, so I’m excited that we’ll be able to share some of Ameer’s ideas and basketball-related analysis at the site this season. Welcome, Ameer!
After an offseason that featured some bumpiness as the Minnesota Timberwolves fired former front office boss Gersson Rosas and replaced him with Sachin Gupta, the Wolves actually enter the season opener tomorrow vs. the Houston Rockets with finally a sense of stability.
With exception to the acquisitions of wing Taurean Prince and guard Patrick Beverley, the Wolves roster is mostly the same from last year and have a solid coach in Chris Finch to lead them on the floor. For the majority of the summer, followers and media members surround the Wolves have speculated on the rumored interest in disgruntled Sixers star Ben Simmons. However, heading into Wednesday’s opener and with no end to the Simmons saga in sight, I feel it is in the Wolves’ best interest to move on from Simmons and focus solely on the core they will have on the floor at Mayo Clinic Square.
Sixers' approach on a trade has remained steadfast: They won't move Simmons for role players -- only a player who'll help keep them a championship contender. That hasn't changed. For now, no one should expect a speedy resolution on Simmons' future in Philadelphia. https://t.co/YUdkseUZOo— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 19, 2021
Now before you angrily swipe out of this article and curse me under your breath, I know what you might be thinking — “Ameer, Simmons would greatly boost the Wolves’ ceiling and would be a perfect fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns.”
Yes, I know, but I don’t necessarily believe that the ceiling for the Wolves in an already grueling and dogged Western Conference improves that vastly by adding Simmons, especially when you consider what it will cost to pry that former All-Star away from Daryl Morey and the 76ers.
Now the situation is certainly getting more complicated for the Sixers, as although Ben has reported to the team, he is actively trying to take a page out of the Jimmy Butler playbook for demanding out of an NBA organization (or are we now calling it the James Harden playbook for demanding out?)
Sources: Doc Rivers asked Ben Simmons to join a defensive drill today. Simmons refused. Rivers asked again. Simmons said no again.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 19, 2021
Rivers then told Simmons he should go home, and Simmons dropped the ball and left.
Regardless of what we call it, the strategy thus far has not worked for Ben Simmons (or for Philadelphia). The Sixers and Morey have made it abundantly clear that they will accept nothing less than a superstar player or a bounty of unprotected draft picks for Simmons’ services, no matter how badly he wants to be magically transported out of the City of Brotherly Love.
In the latest piece of developments, Simmons was nonchalant at Sixers practice as he hid his practice jersey in his pocket and had his cellphone out. It reportedly got bad enough that Doc Rivers threw him out of practice, and the team has now suspended him for the team’s season opener vs. New Orleans.
As it pertains to this situation, I just don’t see any end in sight, as there are no real teams that can logically appease the Sixers’ current demands while also having a desire for Simmons at the same time. The Pacers are out of it after extending Malcolm Brogdon’s contract the other day, and the Sixers weren’t even all that enamored by the package of Brogdon and Caris LeVert in the first place. The Kings had interest, but not at the cost of potential breakout candidate De’Aaron Fox.
As we all have known for seemingly ever, the Wolves remain interested in acquiring Simmons, but it will cost a ton. It might even require the inclusion of a third team, and would definitely require players like Jaden McDaniels and Malik Beasley being shipped out of Minnesota. I don’t think that is the right direction for the Wolves to head in at this particular juncture as I feel this current group of players on the Wolves’ roster is a better fit and might end up in the same spot as a Wolves team with Simmons possibly would.
I can argue that the current depth of the Timberwolves might be the deepest of KAT’s tenure with the team. Finch has stated that it’s possible that as many as 11 or 12 guys could all earn minutes on a given night. It will definitely depend on who the opponent is, as I think on one particular night they might start the game with a smaller lineup of either Beverley or Josh Okogie along with McDaniels, Edwards, KAT and D'Angelo Russell.
However, on nights where they player bigger opposing lineups, Jarred Vanderbilt will probably get the start. If they were to trade for Simmons, their level of depth would be largely depleted. And my general view on any basketball team is that you cannot be too top heavy. Even on a super team, if you don’t have guys near the end of your bench who can contribute when your top guys are hurt, then that team will have no real chance at surviving.
As it is currently, the Wolves with their strong level of depth are probably set for one of the spots in the second annual NBA Play-In Tournament, as their roster (in my opinion) is better than a Pelicans team without Zion Williamson, a young and inexperienced Spurs team, and even better than a Kings roster (even with Fox and Tyrese Haliburton). The Wolves as currently constructed are probably just as good as the Memphis Grizzlies, who had a “meh” offseason where they traded Jonas Valanciunas for Steven Adams and Ziaire Williams, then made other head-scratching moves.
In other words, a team featuring Anthony Edwards (who appears ready to take his sophomore leap), Towns, Russell, and the depth surrounding those three pieces should be strong enough to contend for some level of postseason play, which in my eyes reduces the need to make a blockbuster type move like trading for Ben Simmons.
As mentioned previously, any potential Ben Simmons trade would not only need to include the proper salary going out, but it would also have to include potential high-ceiling prospects (i.e. a player like Jaden McDaniels). The 28th pick from the 2020 NBA Draft appears to already be a pretty big steal, and his on-court value this season (especially on the defensive end) should far surpass the financial cost of having him on the roster, since he is only scheduled to make a little over $2 million dollars in 2021-22 (compared to Ben Simmons making roughly $30 million).
Now, don’t get me wrong — Simmons is a much better player than Jaden McDaniels is today, but it remains to be seen what each player’s future trajectory could look like. In other words, Jaden could become as lethal of an on-ball defense as Simmons has shown to be, and it’s already apparent that McDaniels’ offensive game (especially outside shooting) is far more inspiring than what Simmons has displayed. Offensively, Jaden will likely only receive the scraps from whatever shots are leftover from Ant/KAT/Russell, but he could still improve by doing the little things — setting proper screens, cutting to the basket, and grabbing rebounds (which will likely be a problem for the Wolves all season). I think if Jaden keeps improving his game and is able to find his place within the offense, that he could eventually provide more to the Wolves than Simmons would.
Again, Simmons is the better player right now, so it should be noted that having him on this team would improve the Wolves’ defense far more than not having him around; however, one wonders if this current team set to take the floor tomorrow night might be able to produce as a collective unit better than they would by acquiring a brand new player and trying to bring him up to speed so quickly. Minnesota’s defense ranked 27th last year under Finch, so there is clear room for improvement on that side of the ball, but signs are already popping up that guys like Edwards have taken the proper steps to improve in that area. Add in not only Jaden but also players like Josh Okogie, Patrick Beverley, and Taurean Prince, and the sum of the current parts may simply outweigh (and outvalue) the potential of acquiring a player like Simmons.
In conclusion, I am not saying that Ben Simmons is a bad player, as his current resume speaks for itself (i.e. three All-Star appearances, winner of the 2018 Rookie of the Year award, and runner-up in last year’s Defensive Player of the Year voting). Yet, based on what the Sixers have been asking for in trade discussions and based on where the Wolves are in the cycle of internal improvement, I feel it would be the best at this time to see this current squad through and see how much of a potential leap they can make with a full-year under head coach Chris Finch.