What if the NBA Had an Expansion Team?
With the amount of talent in the NBA at an all-time high, many think the time has come for the NBA to add an expansion franchise, likely the new version of the Seattle Sonics. This would be a huge development, and would make for many interesting decisions among front offices. So, if the NBA were to introduce a new team, who would be available for them, and who would they select?
First, the rules:
- Teams can protect up to six players (or less), and all players who have been in the league for one year or less are automatically protected.
- Only one player can be taken from a team. So, if a player on the Bulls got taken, the rest of their available players would automatically be protected.
- The team takes on the current contract of the players they draft. If Joakim Noah were to be drafted, he would still be paid $54M over the next three years.
Let’s take a look at which six players each team would decide to protect, and who would me exposed to the draft. Decisions are made based on age, potential, team needs, contracts, and more.
Automatically Protected: DeAndre Bembry, John Collins, Malcolm Delaney, Tyler Dorsey, Taurean Prince, Diamond Stone, Alpha Kaba
Protected by Team: Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Ersan Ilyasova, Mike Muscala, Marco Belinelli, Dewayne Dedmon
Available: Miles Plumlee
Automatically Protected: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Ante Zizic, Guerschon Yabusele, Semi Ojeleye, Jabari Bird
Protected by Team: Gordon Hayward, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris
Available: Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes, Abdel Nader
Automatically Protected: Jarrett Allen, Caris Levert, Isaiah Whitehead
Protected by Team: D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sean Kilpatrick, Jeremy Lin, Spencer Dinwiddie, Archie Goodwin
Available: DeMarre Carroll, Quincy Acy, Trevor Booker, Randy Foye, Joe Harris, Timofey Mozgov, Andrew Nicholson
Automatically Protected: Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon
Protected by Team: Kemba Walker, Cody Zeller, Nicholas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky
Available: Marvin Williams, Dwight Howard, Ramon Sessions, Michael Carter-Williams, Brian Roberts
Automatically Protected: Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Paul Zipser, David Nwaba
Protected by Team: Zach Lavine, Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio, Denzel Valentine, Justin Holiday, Nikola Mirotic
Available: Dwyane Wade, Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow
Automatically Protected: Kay Felder
Protected by Team: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert
Available: Richard Jefferson, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams, Dahntay Jones, James Jones, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Channing Frye, Jose Calderon
Automatically Protected: Dennis Smith Jr., Yogi Ferrell, Nicolas Brussino, Johnathan Motley, Dorian Finney-Smith
Protected by Team: Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, Nerlens Noel, Dwight Powell, Salah Mejri
Available: Wesley Matthews, JJ Barea, Devin Harris, Josh McRoberts
Automatically Protected: Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Tyler Lydon, Monte Morris, Jamal Murray
Protected by Team: Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Trey Lyles, Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton
Available: Mason Plumlee, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson, Darrell Arthur, Roy Hibbert
Automatically Protected: Henry Ellenson, Luke Kennard
Protected by Team: Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer
Available: Boban Marjanovic, Langston Galloway, Ish Smith, Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Bullock
Golden State Warriors
Automatically Protected: Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell
Protected by Team: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston
Available: Nick Young, James Michael-McAdoo, Zaza Pachulia, David West, Kevon Looney, Damian Jones, Omri Casspi
Automatically Protected: Isaiah Hartenstein, Zhou Qi, Chinanu Onuaku
Protected by Team: James Harden, Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, PJ Tucker
Available: Ryan Anderson, Nene, Tarik Black
Automatically Protected: TJ Leaf, Domantas Sabonis, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner
Protected by Team: Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Cory Joseph, Glenn Robinson III, Thaddeus Young
Available: Darren Collison, Joe Young, Lance Stephenson, Al Jefferson, Aaron Brooks
Los Angeles Clippers
Automatically Protected: Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell, Brice Johnson
Protected by Team: Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Danilo Gallinari, Austin Rivers, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker
Available: Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Johnson, Brandon Bass
Los Angeles Lakers
Automatically Protected: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Thomas Bryant, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, Alex Caruso
Protected by Team: Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Brook Lopez, Tyler Ennis
Available: Luol Deng, Corey Brewer
Automatically Protected: Wade Baldwin IV, Dillon Brooks, Deyonta Davis, Ivan Rabb, Kobi Simmons
Protected by Team: Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Ben McLemore, JaMychal Green, James Ennis III, Jarell Martin
Available: Wayne Selden, Andrew Harrison, Troy Daniels, Tyreke Evans, Chandler Parsons, Brandan Wright
Automatically Protected: Bam Adebayo, Rodney McGruder
Protected by Team: Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson, Goran Dragic
Available: Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, Josh Richardson, Okaro White, Wayne Ellington, Luke Babbitt, AJ Hammons
Automatically Protected: Malcolm Brogdon, Sterling Brown, DJ Wilson, Thon Maker, Gary Payton III
Protected by Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Tony Snell, John Henson, Rashad Vaughn
Available: Matthew Dellavedova, Michael Beasley, Spencer Hawes, Greg Monroe, Mirza Teletovic, Jason Terry
Automatically Protected: Justin Patton
Protected by Team: Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns, Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng, Taj Gibson,
Available: Tyus Jones, Jamal Crawford, Nemanja Bjelica, Adreian Payne, Brandon Rush
New Orleans Pelicans
Automatically Protected: Frank Jackson, Quinn Cook, Cheick Diallo,
Protected by Team: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo, Solomon Hill, Donatas Motiejunas
Available: E’Twaun Moore, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Axel Toupane, Dante Cunningham, Jordan Crawford
New York Knicks
Automatically Protected: Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Chasson Randle
Protected by Team: Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Carmelo Anthony, Lance Thomas, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mindaugas Kuzminkas
Available: Joakim Noah, Kyle O’Quinn, Courtney Lee, Ron Baker
Oklahoma City Thunder
Automatically Protected: Terrance Ferguson, Semaj Christon, Alex Abrines
Protected by Team: Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Patrick Patterson, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Jerami Grant
Available: Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, Doug McDermott, Josh Huestis, Norris Cole, Nick Collison, Raymond Felton
Automatically Protected: Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu
Protected by Team: Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton, Terrence Ross, Jonathan Simmons
Available: Mario Hezonja, DJ Augustin, Shelvin Mack, Bismack Biyombo,
Automatically Protected: Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Jonah Bolden, Furkan Korkmaz, Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot
Protected by Team: Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, TJ McConnell, Richaun Holmes, Nik Stauskas
Available: Amir Johnson, Jerryd Bayless, Justin Anderson, Alex Poythress, JAHLIL OKAFOR
Automatically Protected: Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis, Derrick Jones Jr., Josh Jackson, Davon Reed, Alec Peters, Mike James
Protected by Team: Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, TJ Warren, Alan Williams, Jared Dudley, Tyson Chandler
Available: Brandon Knight, Ronnie Price
Portland Trail Blazers
Automatically Protected: Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan, Jake Layman
Protected by Team: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Al Farouq-Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Jusuf Nurkic, Noah Vonleh
Available: Evan Turner, Shabazz Napier, Meyers Leonard, Ed Davis, Allen Crabbe, Pat Connaughton
Automatically Protected: De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Frank Mason III, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson
Protected by Team: Willie Cauley-Stein, George Hill, Zach Randolph, Ty Lawson, Garrett Temple, Vince Carter
Available: Kosta Koufos
San Antonio Spurs
Automatically Protected: Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Davis Bertans, Jaron Blossomgame, Bryn Forbes
Protected by Team: Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, Rudy Gay, Tony Parker, Danny Green
Available: Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol, Kyle Anderson, Joffrey Lauvergne
Automatically Protected: OG Anunoby, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet
Protected by Team: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell, CJ Miles
Available: Delon Wright, Bruno Caboclo, Lucas Noguera
Automatically Protected: Donovan Mitchell, Tony Bradley, Nigel Williams-Goss
Protected by Team: Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors
Available: Alec Burks, Raul Neto, Jonas Jerebko, Thabo Sefolosha
Automatically Protected: Tomas Satoransky, Sheldon McClellan, Daniel Ochefu
Protected by Team: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre Jr.
Available: Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi, Jodie Meeks, Mike Scott, Jason Smith, Chris McCullough, Tim Frazier, Trey Burke
With all of that finally out of the way, let’s take a look at the 15 players that would be picked, starting with ballhandlers, followed by wings, and then the bigs.
As Celtics GM Danny Ainge is forced to pick and choose which assets he keeps, Rozier is one that slips away. He’s never had a major role, but has shown flashes of potential in big games before, hitting quite a few big shots for the Celtics in last year’s playoffs.
Jones, who starred for a National Championship-winning Duke team, also has never played in a featured role. This would be a huge chance for a player who has always been stuck behind a logjam in Minnesota.
Frazier proved to be a competent starter for the Pelicans last season when Jrue Holiday was out, and now it seems he’s been totally forgotten. He may not have the upside of Rozier or Jones, but he’ll always be a reliable ball-handler.
Wade, who had one year and $24M left on his contract, would be a perfect fit. He can carry some of the offensive load, mentor the young players for a season, and then he can go chase a ring elswhere. His massive expiring contract would help the Sonics pursue free agents in 2018.
Chandler, like Wade, would help carry the offensive responsibilities, and his contract also expires after next season. He’s always been a severely underrated two-way player, and any team would be lucky to have him. He fits in any system, making him a trade candidate at all times.
An expansion team would hurt a team like Miami, because they are forced to lose the services of a young up-and-comer like Richardson. He has tremendous upside and would get a ton of shots. If Josh Richardson ever were to become a star, this would be the way to find out.
In need of shooting, Seattle could call on Doug McDermott. They’d also give him a shot to prove that he can succeed as a playmaker as well. Even if he can't, though, he provides much needed shooting at a very young age.
A top-5 pick just a few years ago, Hezonja has never gotten the chance to assert himself as a rising star. His stay in Orlando, to put it lightly, hasn't gone to plan. If he gets a fresh start and the chance to prove his worth, the Magic could be kicking themselves for a long time.
Burks had been putting together an impressive start to his career as an effecient spark plug off of the bench. But last year, he battled multiple injuries and didn’t play well at all. If the Sonics could get him right, he could revert back to his original scoring success.
As a multi-positional, versatile bigman, Williams has always been somewhat under-appreciated. As a cheap and experienced jack-of-all-trades, master of none, he would be a great help to younger players.
Although he isn’t even close to being the best player available, McRoberts provides the ability to stretch the floor that other available bigs do not. Also, he has a contract that expires next year, giving Seattle even more flexibility for 2018.
Harrell was the most underrated piece of the Chris Paul trade. He has great potential, and has the makings to become a force in the paint for a long time. He’s a ferocious defender inside and can crash the boards with the best of them.
O’Quinn will never reach his full potential for the New York Knicks, as he’ll be stuck behind bigs like Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah and Willy Hernangomez. But he has one elite skill that the Sonics should covet, and that is rebounding. With all of the young players on the team, it would be wise to get a reliable, dominant rebounder. Speaking of…
Now, Ed Davis definitely isn’t dominant at anything. But he can rebound and protect the rim, which is all you can ask for in the depleted pool of available bigs.
Noguera is very much still a work-in-progress at this point. He’s a very raw player with tons of untapped potential. Considering this team won’t be competing for a while, it makes sense to take on a project like him and see if it works out.
This roster definitely won’t be good anytime soon, but the Sonics would be in a better situation than a lot of teams. With a flurry of young assets and expiring contracts, free agency would be of the upmost importance.
There likely won’t be an expansion team in the NBA anytime soon, but if there was, this is exactly how it would turn out.