As the Minnesota Timberwolves continue to mull over the idea of trading for Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons, multiple reports now state that Simmons is likely to return to the Sixers at some point “in the near future”.
What does a pending Simmons return mean for the Wolves’ pursuit?
Minnesota Timberwolves: What does Ben Simmons’ pending return mean?
The initial report of the increasing likelihood that Simmons reports to the 76ers in the near future came on Twitter. The NBA’s two most well-known insiders reported the news at the exact same time.
It’s unclear what, exactly, this ‘resolution’ would be; Simmons is under contract and is currently being fined for every practice and preseason game he misses. When he returns, the fines will cease and, just like every other player, he’ll begin getting paid once the regular season starts.
At any rate, Simmons appears to be willing to try to make things work (read: he doesn’t want to be fined anymore), and the Sixers are willing to reciprocate (read: they are trying to regain leverage in trade talks).
This brings us to the next point…there are a couple of angles to unpack here.
First, there’s the take that ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski posted on Twitter as a follow-up to his initial report: that the Sixers have always wanted Simmons to return and see him as part of their future. It’s simply about convincing Simmons to feel the same way, at this point.
The other option is that the 76eres are simply scratching and clawing to salvage any bit of leverage they can possibly find when it comes to trading the two-time All-Star.
Both technically could be true, but it’s far more likely that the latter is more accurate.
The Sixers have shown no real desire to have Simmons on their roster moving forward, from the behavior of President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey and the front office to public comments made by head coach Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid. For as great of a player as he is, Simmons has never been a perfect fit with Embiid and the way that the Sixers play, after all.
At this stage, the Sixers are continuing to try and ask for a king’s ransom for Simmons. Most recently, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that they asked for multiple first-round picks, pick swaps, and CJ McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers.
If the rest of the league knows that Simmons doesn’t want to return (he doesn’t) and that the Sixers don’t want him back (they don’t), then the other 29 teams are going to wait for Morey to eventually blink.
The most likely outcome here is that Simmons reports to Philadelphia and takes part in practices and games for the next several weeks until the Sixers come down somewhat in their asking price and one of the potential suitors decides to pony up a bit more to land him.
In terms of timing, think of something like the Nov. 12 Jimmy Butler-to-Philly trade in 2018 or the James Harden-to-Brooklyn trade on Jan. 14, 2021. Each of those deals took place roughly three weeks into the regular season (remember, the 2020-21 campaign had a late start). That would put us at the first or second week of November for a Simmons deal.
As far as the direct impact on the TImberwolves, it’s hard to see this having much of an impact on the front office’s pursuit. If anything, it’s a good thing, since it basically signals that nobody is close to pulling the trigger on a deal. And that means that the Wolves still have a chance.
First, we have to see if Simmons actually reports. Then, we’ll see if he gets on the court, and in turn how the Sixers respond. If things don’t go well (see above: Butler/Timberwolves and Harden/Rockets examples), we could see a trade come to fruition in relatively short order.