The better player is not always the best fit.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are off to one of the more promising starts in the league after defeating the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans on their first 2 home games of the season - starting 2-0. For Timberwolves fans, this is something you must really look forward too because the potential of this Timberwolves Big 3 of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell is too intriguing. However, this sparked some conversations about if the Wolves are still interested in acquiring Ben Simmons particularly for D'Angelo Russell - would they be a better team or a worse team. In my opinion, having D'Angelo Russell on this Wolves lineup over Simmons makes more sense than anything and there are multiple reasons why.
Despite having an incredibly bad of a 2nd game for DLo, he looked completely lackadaisical, didn't shoot the ball well and was throwing unforced turnovers. But he ended up closing the deal for the Wolves as the Pelicans mounted back into the game and Towns fouled out and Edwards wasn't scoring consistently. So here is why I would rather trust DLo on this Wolves team more than Simmons.
Relationship/Pairing with Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards
In no way would anyone say D'Angelo Russell is an all around better player than Ben Simmons. Simmons is a 2x All-Star to Russell's 1 and likely is the best perimeter defender in the league. Simmons also has a close relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns, but it's not D'Angelo Russell close. Russell and Towns (and Devin Booker) are practically brothers in arms and they display that relationship on and off the court. So much so that Anthony Edwards is slowly becoming a part of the brotherhood.
When you play with players you are close with, you understand their strengths and weaknesses. You understand when they want the ball and they understand when you need the ball. The chemistry aspect is why the pre- Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors were able to dominate the league and why LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh worked so well in Miami. The Wolves coaching staff and management are banking on this relationship between the 3 to lead the team into better situations and so far so good. The Wolves are currently 15-11 when D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns play together.
The Do's, The Don'ts, The Can'ts
As I said earlier, Ben Simmons is undoubtedly a better all around talent than D'Angelo Russell. But sometimes that specific talent is not always what is going to be the best for the team. Under Chris Finch, the Timberwolves want to play with pace and space on offense and swarm defensively. Russell haters already cringe when "pace" is being added around Russell's name but they only look at it from an athletic stand point. DLo is an NBA athlete that doesn't have the speed of a Russell Westbrook, doesn't have the hops of a Ja Morant or doesn't have a quick burst of a James Harden. But in his own unique way, DLo is very good in transition.
DLo is one of the best open floor passers in the league so you don't need him to be sprinting on the fast breaks a lot just so as long as guys like Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley and Taurean Prince are leaking out. If teams back up too far on the fast break, DLo is also a masterful transition pull up player (shoots 38-40% on transition pull ups - top 20 in the league). Now you're probably saying that Ben Simmons does all of that (except shooting) too. So here is where things become different. On a fast break if teams recover well, the Wolves still have spacing if the defense drops back too far and Towns also drops far. That leaves guys like Russell wide open on a spot up chance rather than Simmons and Towns clogging together downlow.
Another thing that separates Simmons and Russell is the Pick and Roll/Pick and Pop play. Philadelphia over the years were one of the lowest pick and roll frequencies in the league with Simmons playing with Joel Embiid. It was normally due to Simmons not being a pick and roll scoring threat as the point which leads to Embiid having to either take a 3 or create his own shot off the dribble - in which both Embiid and Towns are very skilled at. However, it greatly helps a roller or popper if the point guard is also a threat to score off pick and rolls from anywhere, it draws in the defense away from a roller like Towns and Embiid and either allows them cleaner open shots or more 1 on 1 situations. D'Angelo Russell destroys Ben Simmons in that aspect since Russell is one of the better mid range shooters and pick and roll percentile players in the league.
Because Russell is one of the 2 or 3 best floor spacers on the Timberwolves - it also gives Anthony Edwards more opportunities to flourish in isolation. The defense would have to worry about the knock down shooting of Russell and Towns that they would not try to double Anthony Edwards for anything. What I mentioned here is why the Timberwolves have the potential to be one of the best offenses in the league if all stay healthy.
Before the firing of unusual circumstances, Gersson Rosas put together a team that actually plays to the strengths of both Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell and that will further the development of Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels. By adding Patrick Beverley it gives an elite defensive point guard off the bench behind Russell who is instantly going to be an ear in all of the young players psyche. Beverley is already making an indent in the Wolves culture and the pairing of him and Josh Okogie are too dynamic defensively.
The team also added Taurean Prince who is an excellent 3 and D option off the bench and brings the same defensive intensity as Beverley and Okogie. And then the returners of Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Naz Reid and Jordan McLaughlin who already have established chemistry with Finch and the Wolves Big 3.
So safe to say I do not believe the Wolves need Ben Simmons.