Could the Minnesota Timberwolves get Ben Simmons and keep D’Angelo Russell?

D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images) /

Yes, the Minnesota Timberwolves have the assets to acquire Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. We also know that they’re interested in making such a move.

But if Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards are both off the table, could the Wolves manage to acquire Simmons without including D’Angelo Russell in a deal?

It’s not impossible.

Could the Minnesota Timberwolves get Ben Simmons and keep D’Angelo Russell?

The trade possibility that seems to be coming up most frequently, including between ESPN insiders Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks on The Lowe Post podcast, is Russell and Malik Beasley to Philadelphia in exchange for Simmons.

The deal doesn’t quite work perfectly from a salary perspective; the Sixers would almost need to add a sign-and-trade element as they don’t have enough tradeable contracts in the trade sweet spot, or perhaps add a third team, but it could get done.

Such a deal would make some sense for both sides, as the Wolves would free up tons of space on the wing and be able to hand the primary playmaking reigns to a Simmons-Edwards duo. For the Sixers, they add the shooting they’re sorely lacking around Joel Embiid, plus two years of an apparently underpaid Beasley.

The downside for both teams? The Wolves lose their two best outside shooters not named Towns, not to mention breaking up the best friends duo of Towns and Russell. They also replace the outgoing shooters with a player who won’t even look at the rim from the perimeter.

For the 76ers, they would be adding an overpaid shoot-first guard in Russell that would eat into Embiid’s usage. The bigger issue, however, is shipping out a member of the All-Defense team for two below-average perimeter defenders.

So, how might this work without including Russell?

Let’s assume that Beasley must be included. The only other non-Towns, non-Edwards salary that would fit the deal is Ricky Rubio. The money would work in a 2-for-1 swap, but there’s no chance the Sixers would sell that low on Simmons.

Expect the conversation to start with something similar to the below. Morey will laugh, but it’s a worthy starting point.

Even with the Wolves adding a couple of future first-rounders, there’s suddenly a lot less value in draft picks originating from a team with a core of Simmons-Russell-Edwards-Towns.

The most likely possibility would be including a third team. It would have to come after free agency opens and would involve a sign-and-trade. Names such as Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, and Patty Mills are all unrestricted free agents and could have a suitor in the 76ers.

In the Conley example, we could have a Rubio return to Utah along with a pick or two if they move towards a re-set of sorts on the fly. That’s admittedly less likely than a team like the Raptors or Spurs picking up a draft pick or two and Rubio’s expiring $17.8 million while shipping their respective incumbent guards to Philadelphia.

The salaries could work pending the value of the sign-and-trade deal. Depending on exactly how that all shakes out, there would probably be some other minor salaries changing hands as well.

Again, this isn’t exactly what it would look like, but here’s what the meat of a potential three-team sign-and-trade could look like.

The Wolves would be giving up at least two future first-rounders here and quite possibly three. The Raptors would get something for their trouble in sending out Lowry for Rubio and the Sixers would get a Daryl Morey favorite in Lowry, a dynamic scorer in Beasley, and a pair of trade assets in the form of first-round picks.

In short, acquiring Ben Simmons without giving up Towns, Edwards, or Russell is possible. It’s obviously not likely, but it is not quite to the level of snowball’s-chance-in-hell territory.

This much is clear: a core of Russell, Edwards, Simmons, Jaden McDaniels, and Towns would be devastating. The Timberwolves would immediately be in the conversation of squeaking into the top-four in the West come fall, and the upside of such a group is beyond tantalizing.