Jul. 2—Gersson Rosas has made one thing clear during his tenure as President of Basketball Operations for the Timberwolves: If a star is available, he will at the very least make the call.
Well, 76ers all-star forward Ben Simmons is available after Philadelphia’s second-round exit from the NBA playoffs, and he certainly qualifies as a big fish — one who could change the Timberwolves’ trajectory in little to no time.
Yes, Minnesota is showing signs of progression with its current core. Everyone knows who Karl-Anthony Towns is and what he can do. Anthony Edwards showed flashes of superstar potential in Year 1, D’Angelo Russell played well off the aforementioned two, Jaden McDaniels is a promising young, two-way talent, and Malik Beasley is an elite shooter.
With everyone except Beasley available down the stretch of this past season, the Timberwolves went 9-7.
That has fans thinking of a playoff appearance in the 2021-22 season. That certainly seems reasonable. Even the sixth-worst team in each conference makes the play-in tournament. That was the Spurs — who sported a 33-39 record — this year in the West.
If Minnesota can be a .500 team, or even a little worse, next season, the play-in tournament is in play. But isn’t the goal to do more than that? Sure. Because the Timberwolves have made the playoffs just once since 2003, playoffs seem like a massive achievement here. However, the goal of most franchises is to compete for championships.
And it’s hard to see this group — with its lack of defensive consistency — reaching that level. The path to doing so seems to be Edwards developing into one of the NBA’s best players.
Acquiring a Ben Simmons-like talent opens up more avenues to championship contention. Simmons is a top-20 player in the NBA right now. Towns is right on that edge. Edwards could be there in the next year or two.
Simmons is a big, physical defender — one of the best overall defenders in the NBA — who also can put pressure on the rim.
Simmons’ perceived value from some on the outside dipped because of his free-throw struggles and disappearing act on offense late in Philadelphia’s postseason losses to Atlanta. But he’s still valued around the league. Indiana’s offer of Malcolm Brodgon and a first-round draft pick reportedly was rebuffed.
So no, there likely isn’t a Simmons-to-Minnesota deal that can be built around Beasley and other pieces. The most likely deal, as has been suggested by a number of outlets, is Beasley, Russell and at least one first-round pick, if not more.
Some Timberwolves fans might turn up their nose at such a cost, but that’s the price of acquiring a legitimate star. Sure, Simmons has his warts, but if Minnesota acquired him tomorrow, he immediately could be the team’s best player.
If all it costs the Timberwolves to get him is the team’s current third- and fourth-best players and a couple draft picks, well, it’s hard to call that a bad deal.
A core of Towns, Edwards, Simmons and McDaniels is one that can have the Timberwolves thinking bigger than simply reaching the postseason; they can starting thinking about making noise once they get there. Simmons and McDaniels would give Minnesota two versatile, potentially elite defenders who could simplify their teammates’ defensive responsibilities.
Simmons would give Minnesota a second rim protector to pair with Edwards. Sending off Russell and Beasley for Simmons would leave the Timberwolves short on shooting, but when you have a potentially elite core, you no longer have to overpay for shooters — they tend to show up on your doorstep.
Simmons showed this postseason that he cannot be the No. 1 perimeter scorer on a championship-caliber team. Good thing for Minnesota that it already has a guy with that potential in Edwards.
Sure, there are risks to making such an aggressive offer for Simmons. But when the payoff is going from potentially good to potentially great, the risks are worth taking.