The NBA is approaching a 14th season existing with 30 teams, the longest period of time that the league has gone without adding or losing teams. Ever since the Charlotte Bobcats — now Hornets — joined in 2004, the 30-team league has been a happy, if flawed, default.
The NBA is also experiencing a global boom. It’s making more money than ever before, highlighted by a record-breaking nine-year, $24 billion television deal that kicked in last season. It’s rapidly growing in popularity both in the United States, where 29 of the 30 teams are located, and globally, where more and more international players are introduced to the league. Given the way this world works, and how quickly the NBA is rising, it was no surprise when NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this about expanding to 31 or 32 teams:
“I don’t want to put a precise timeline on it, but it’s inevitable at some point,” he told C.J. McCollum. (Yes, that’s Blazers guard C.J. McCollum).
Inevitable. That’s a strong word, but that’s where the league is headed.
SB Nation’s Tom Ziller is all over the logistics. You can read this explainer about what would need to happen for the NBA to vote for expansion, and also 13 places where the NBA could expand to, including two international options. (Not London!)
All those things have to be worked out by the smart people in the NBA before any expansion could be approved. We at SB Nation don’t have those same limitations, and we also know that there’s one especially fun thing about the process: The Expansion Draft.
So, we are doing one of our own.
The concept is simple: all 30 teams can protect eight players off their roster, and the two expansion teams (it might just be one, but we’re going with two because it’s more fun) can pick from the remaining pool. They’d also get a top draft pick, but that’s not a major factor for this exercise.
(In reality, teams often work out trades and deals in advance of an expansion draft, like the story of a 2004 trade that allowed the Suns to sign Steve Nash. We’ll keep this process simple, though, and not worry about deals like that.)
We asked all 30 of our SB Nation NBA team blogs which eight players they would hold back from the expansion draft, and had them answer why.
Here’s who they protected and why:
Peachtree Hoops (Atlanta Hawks): Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince, DeAndre Bembry, John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon, Mike Muscala, Ersan Ilyasova, Kent Bazemore
Celtics Blog (Boston Celtics): Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Ante Zizic
Nets Daily (Brooklyn Nets): D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Allen Crabbe, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, Jeremy Lin
At the Hive (Charlotte Hornets): Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Malik Monk, Marvin Williams
Blog a Bull (Chicago Bulls): Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio, Paul Zipser, Jerian Grant
Fear the Sword (Cleveland Cavaliers): LeBron James, Kyrie Irving (for now), Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Cedi Osman, Kyle Korver, Richard Jefferson
Mavs Moneyball (Dallas Mavericks): Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr., Seth Curry, Nerlens Noel (assuming he re-signs), Dirk Nowitzki, Yogi Ferrell, J.J. Barea, Salah Mejri
Denver Stiffs (Denver Nuggets): Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Juancho Hernangomez, Will Barton, Emmanuel Mudiay
Detroit Bad Boys (Detroit Pistons): Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard, Henry Ellenson, Ish Smith, Reggie Jackson
Golden State of Mind (Golden State Warriors): Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Patrick McCaw, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell
The Dream Shake (Houston Rockets): James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Trevor Ariza, Zhou Qi, Nene
Indy Cornrows (Indiana Pacers): Myles Turner, T.J. Leaf, Glenn Robinson III, Cory Joseph, Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo, Thaddeus Young, Lance Stephenson
Clips Nation (Los Angeles Clippers): Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Milos Teodosic, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell
Silver Screen & Roll (Los Angeles Lakers): Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Clarkson, Brook Lopez, Larry Nance Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Grizzly Bear Blues (Memphis Grizzlies): Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Ben McLemore, JaMychal Green (assuming he re-signs), Deyonte Davis, Wayne Selden, Tyreke Evans, Brandan Wright
Hot Hot Hoops (Miami Heat): Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Bam Adebayo, Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow
Brew Hoop (Milwaukee Bucks): Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, D.J. Wilson, Sterling Brown
Canis Hoopus (Minnesota Timberwolves): Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, Jeff Teague, Nemanja Bjelica, Justin Patton
The Bird Writes (New Orleans Pelicans): Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday, Solomon Hill, Cheick Diallo, Frank Jackson, E’Twaun Moore, Rajon Rondo
Posting & Toasting (New York Knicks): Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Frank Ntilikina, Carmelo Anthony, Damyean Dotson, Kyle O’Quinn, Courtney Lee, Ron Baker
Welcome to Loud City (Oklahoma City Thunder): Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Patrick Patterson, Alex Abrines, Enes Kanter, Raymond Felton
Orlando Pinstriped Post (Orlando Magic): Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, Arron Afflalo, Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Jonathon Simmons, Marreese Speights
Liberty Ballers (Philadelphia 76ers): Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, J.J. Redick, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarot, Richaun Holmes
Bright Side of the Sun (Phoenix Suns): Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis, Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren, Alan Williams
Blazer’s Edge (Portland Trail Blazers): Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan, Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh
Sactown Royalty (Sacramento Kings): De’Aaron Fox, Skal Labissiere, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin Jackson, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles, Malachi Richardson
Pounding the Rock (San Antonio Spurs): Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, DeJonte Murray, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, LaMarcus Aldridge, Davis Bertans, Kyle Anderson
Raptors HQ (Toronto Raptors): Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, O.G. Anunoby, Jonas Valanciunas
SLC Dunk (Utah Jazz): Rudy Gobert, Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Donovan Mitchell, Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson
Bullets Forever (Washington Wizards): John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre, Tim Frazier, Mike Scott
Then there’s the actual draft.
Using the players our team communities left unprotected, SB Nation’s Kristian Winfield and Whitney Medworth drafted one team, while our Seattle Supersonics blog Sonics Rising — a hopeful and extremely likely expansion team whenever it finally happens — selected the other. Here were the results of the draft:
1. SEATTLE: Greg Monroe
2. VA BEACH: George Hill
3. SEATTLE: Tyler Johnson
4. VA BEACH: Tim Hardaway Jr.
5. SEATTLE: Iman Shumpert
6. VA BEACH: Trey Lyles
7. SEATTLE: Kenneth Faried
8. VA BEACH: Robin Lopez
9. SEATTLE: Jamal Crawford
10. VA BEACH: Lou Williams
11. SEATTLE: Wesley Matthews
12. VA BEACH: Evan Fournier
13. SEATTLE: Tyson Chandler
14. VA BEACH: John Henson
15. SEATTLE: Ryan Anderson
16. VA BEACH: Marcus Morris
17. SEATTLE: Bojan Bogdanovic
18. VA BEACH: Bryn Forbes
19. SEATTLE: Jeremy Lamb
20. VA BEACH: C.J. Miles
21. SEATTLE: Thabo Sefolosha
22. VA BEACH: Taj Gibson
23. SEATTLE: Amir Johnson
24. VA BEACH: Nick Young
25. SEATTLE: Frank Mason III
26. VA BEACH: Ian Clark
27. SEATTLE: Mario Hezonja
28. VA BEACH: Thomas Bryant
29. SEATTLE: Jake Layman
30. VA BEACH: Isaiah Whitehead
STARTERS: Tyler Johnson, Wesley Matthews, Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Faried, Greg Monroe
RESERVES: Jamal Crawford, Tyson Chandler, Ryan Anderson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeremy Lamb, Thabo Sefolosha, Amir Johnson, Frank Mason III, Mario Hezonja, Jake Layman
VIRGINIA BEACH TEAM
STARTERS: George Hill, Tim Hardaway Jr., C.J. Miles, Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez
RESERVES: Lou Williams, Evan Fournier, Trey Lyles, John Henson, Marcus Morris, Bryn Forbes, Nick Young, Ian Clark, Thomas Bryant, Isaiah Whitehead
NOTE: Per expansion draft rules, each new expansion team is limited to one selection per NBA team. Hence, some of the picks.
Remember the time we last did this?
Ziller took a stroll down memory lane to 2004, when the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) entered the league. There were some odd players left unprotected and some fascinating ripple effects.
Did you know the Bobcats indirectly ushered in the Seven Seconds Or Less era in Phoenix? Let Tom explain:
Before the expansion draft, the mediocre Phoenix Suns worked out a deal with Charlotte. They’d made Jahidi White, a veteran big man, available in the expansion draft. There was not much demand for White in Phoenix, Charlotte, or anywhere, especially give his $6 million salary. (This was enormous for a late-rotation player in those days.)
But the Suns had grand designs in free agency and desperately wanted to free up cap space. They needed Charlotte to select White in the draft. So they agreed to send $3 million and a future first-round pick if Charlotte promised to select White. The Bobcats, needing bodies and salary filler, took the deal.
What did the Suns do with their newfound cap space? They signed a 30-year-old Steve Nash. Nash won the next two NBA MVP awards, the Suns went to the next two Western Conference Finals, and the team changed basketball forever.
What would it take for this to happen?
There are three major issues that the NBA must figure out before seriously considering expansion team bids. (Of course, we’re probably still a few years away from even seeing that happen.) Tim Cato breaks down those three topics, and also highlights one common problem that’s brought up but really isn’t a problem at all.
Who would you pick?
Now it’s your turn. Here are the five most notable players left unprotected at each position.
We compiled all your results of that survey on social media. Here were the most popular players you picked:
PG: George Hill
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Greg Monroe
And here’s the full list of unprotected players.
Wanna have some fun? Pick four from each category (but not two players from the same team) and let us know your 12-man rosters in the comments section:
GUARDS: Malcolm Delaney, Terry Rozier, Isaiah Whitehead, Langston Galloway, Lou Williams, D.J. Augustin, Derrick White, Derrick Rose, Joe Young, Jawun Evans, Troy Daniels, Jamal Crawford, Frank Mason III, Michael Carter-Williams, Kay Felder, Darren Collison, Wade Baldwin, Jerryd Bayless, Brandon Knight, Fred VanVleet, Cameron Payne, Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, Tyler Ennis, Andrew Harrison, Tyler Johnson, Matthew Dellavedova, Jordan Crawford, Shabazz Napier, Tomas Satoransky, Sean Kilpatrick, Briante Weber, Jose Calderon, Mario Chalmers, Shelvin Mack, T.J. McConnell, Pat Connaughton, Bobby Brown, Ian Clark, Semaj Christon, Randy Foye, Tony Parker, Archie Goodwin
WINGS: Jeremy Lamb, Dwyane Wade, Iman Shumpert, Corey Brewer, Chandler Parsons, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kyle Singler, Alec Burks, Dwayne Bacon, Dorian Finney-Smith, Luol Deng, Nik Stauskas, Evan Turner, C.J. Miles, Tyler Dorsey, David Nwaba, Malik Beasley, Nick Young, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Sindarius Thornwell, Josh Hart, Wayne Ellington, Quincy Pondexter, Lance Thomas, Doug McDermott, Evan Fournier, Brandon Paul, Thabo Sefolosha, Jodie Meeks, Luke Babbitt, Johnny O’Bryant, Reggie Bullock, Omri Casspi, Troy Williams, Bojan Bogdanovic, DeAndre Liggins, Mindaugis Kuzminskas, Michael Beasley, Jerami Grant, Garrett Temple, Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, Abde Nader, Justin Holiday, Wesley Matthews, Wesley Johnson, Okaro White, Darius Miller, Jared Dudley, Bruno Caboclo, Nicolas Brussino, Marcus Morris, Joe Harris, Treveon Graham, Eric Moreland, Rodney McGruder, Rashad Vaughn, Furkan Korkmaz, Jake Layman, Vince Carter, Semi Ojeleye, Jeff Green, Justin Anderson, Derrick Jones Jr., Rudy Gay, Mario Hezonja, Terrance Ferguson
BIGS: Dwight Powell, Kenneth Faried, David West, Ryan Anderson, Kevin Seraphin, A.J. Hammonds, Spencer Hawes, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Jahlil Okafor, Tyson Chandler, Meyers Leonard, Georgios Papagiannis, Pascal Siakam, Ian Mahinmi, Miles Plumlee, Jon Leuer, Gershon Yabusele, Quincy Acy, Robin Lopez, Trey Lyles, Jon Leuer, Zaza Pachulia, Chinanu Onuaku, Udonis Haslem, Greg Monroe, Alexis Ajinca, Joakim Noah, Nick Collison, Bismack Biyombo, Alex Len, Pau Gasol, Jonas Jerebko, Chris McCullough, Aron Baynes, Timofey Mozgov, Josh McRoberts, Boban Marjanovic, John Henson, Cole Aldrich, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Daniel Theis, Trevor Booker, Edy Tavares, Khem Birch, Lucas Nogueira, Ekpe Udoh, Mason Plumlee, Anthony Tolliver, Kevon Looney, Tarik Black, Ike Anigbogu, Ivica Zubac, Mirza Teletovic, Dakari Johnson, Kosta Koufos, Tony Bradley, Channing Frye, Darrell Arthur, Damian Jones, Brice Johnson, Thomas Bryant, Joffrey Lauvergne, Joel Bolomboy, Jason Smith, Tyler Lydon, JaVale McGee, Al Jefferson, Willie Reed, Zach Randolph