In late July, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced he is considering the idea of an expansion. Adding more franchises to the 30-team league is “just a question of when the right time is to seriously start thinking about [it],” he said.
As we were talking about what an expansion draft would look like in 2017, we decided to do our own. We called upon the beautiful SB Nation network of team blogs and experts to protect their players from each team and let us know who was available for drafting.
Per the NBA’s rules of an Expansion Draft, each team was allowed to protect eight players. The rest would be available for a new team to take for a new franchise.
Here’s what that final list looked like:
Finally came the fun part: Drafting!
Whitney and I paired as one team in the East and we pit ourselves against SB Nation’s Seattle SuperSonics blog, Sonics Rising. Seattle has been the likely destination for an expansion team ever since the SuperSonics relocated and became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008.
And since the Hampton Roads area was on Tom Ziller’s list of possible expansion locations, I (Kristian) — a proud Hampton University alumnus — decided to make Virginia Beach the East’s 16th NBA city. Allen Iverson, who is from Hampton, Va., will assume a guard development role effective immediately.
We gave the SuperSonics the first pick because they deserve it. With that, we got first pick at head coach and we quickly offered Becky Hammon as much money as we possibly could.
The Sonics took Greg Monroe from the Milwaukee Bucks in their first pick of the expansion draft.
2. George Hill - Sacramento Kings
Kristian: The George Hill pick made sense for our first selection. Here is a veteran leader, competitor, a two-way player and stability at the most important position in basketball. We couldn’t risk letting Seattle get him.
Whitney: Taking Hill first sets the tone of the team. Solid guy and I had to keep Kristian from drafting Tim Hardaway Jr. with our first pick.
Seattle took Tyler Johnson from the Miami Heat at No. 3.
4. Tim Hardaway Jr. - New York Knicks
Kristian: I’m a Knicks guy, through and through. So when I saw Tim Hardaway Jr., basking in the wet ink of his $71 million contract, I had to pull the trigger.
In truth, I was never against New York adding Hardaway in the first place. Sure, $71 million is exorbitant, but when you’re gunning for a restricted free agent, you have to make an offer another team won’t match. Hardaway developed as a player on both ends of the floor in Atlanta and he returns to a Knicks team that no longer employs the guy who traded him.
He’s 25, can score in bunches, and hasn’t scratched the surface of his potential. That’s a guy I want on my team.
Whitney: I’m actually a Hardaway fan. I think he’s a fine player and in an expansion draft he’s a really great pickup. That said, it’s okay if you roast us for this contract. At least we didn’t take him first, right?
Seattle took Iman Shumpert from the Cavaliers at No. 5.
6. Trey Lyles - Denver Nuggets
Kristian: We needed a big man, but I didn’t want someone who could only play one position. I wanted someone young who was developing a versatile skill set.
Lyles is a 21-years-old, 6’10” forward who can step out and shoot threes. He hasn’t played much, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t develop into a legitimate inside-outside offensive threat in the future.
Whitney: Like Kristian said, we got a good leader in George Hill to start, so we wanted to keep this team young. Little does Kristian know I’m getting all the guys with Indiana ties. Shoutout to Arsenal Tech in Indianapolis.
Seattle took Kenneth Faried from the Nuggets at No. 7.
8. Robin Lopez - Chicago Bulls
Kristian: Whitney and I had been playing with the idea of grabbing RoLo earlier, but letting him fall further could have been risky. After all, Lopez is a guy who doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He’s a guy who does the dirty work — fights for 50/50 balls, boxes out, occasionally fist-fights Serge Ibaka — and doesn’t complain about touches.
He’s also a really solid defender, an underrated passer and a seriously underrated low-post scorer. We needed Robin Lopez just as much as Robin Lopez needed us.
Whitney: So part of starting a new team in a new city is having a team that is likeable! Lopez fits what we want to do on the basketball court, but his personality fits as well. Mascot fights? We’ll take it. Remember when he did a remake of Beauty and the Beast? We need guys like this. We have to sell tickets!
Seattle took Jamal Crawford from the Timberwolves at No. 9.
10. Lou Williams - Los Angeles Clippers
Kristian: Seattle took Jamal Crawford with their fifth pick, and like Negan from The Walking Dead, I had to shut down a Jamal Crawford-Lou Williams backcourt, with no exceptions. Besides, what team couldn’t use a walking bucket coming off the bench?
Whitney: We’re going to be playing in the East. We have a shot to make the playoffs, so we’re also going for a sixth man of the year award. We’re shooting for the stars. We’re letting Lou Williams cook off the bench.
Seattle took Wesley Matthews from the Mavs at No. 11.
12. Evan Fournier - Orlando Magic
Kristian: At this point, we had our guards and bigs, but we had no wing. Ideally, we wanted a young guy here who could play defense, hit threes, run in transition and didn’t have an injury history or off-court troubles. That didn’t exist, so we went with the best available. (I mentioned Rashad Vaughn multiple times in our draft discussions, but the numbers weren’t in his favor this time around.)
Evan Fournier hasn’t distinguished himself as a star in Orlando, but he hasn’t been a scrub either. His efficiency dropped last season, but Fournier was still a legitimate perimeter threat on a nightly basis.
Whitney: It’s time to teach Virginia Beach not to google his name.
Seattle took Tyson Chandler from the Phoenix Suns at No. 13.
14. John Henson - Milwaukee Bucks
Kristian: Seattle got a really good pick in Chandler here, a vet who can mentor the young guys and still turn in valuable minutes as a defensive anchor and rebounder. We went ahead and grabbed the youngest available version of Chandler in John Henson.
Henson became somewhat of an afterthought in Milwaukee due to Giannis Antotkounmpo’s emergence as an all-world talent and Thon Maker’s quick rise to prominence as a rookie, but he’s got the skills.
Whitney: Young talent, young talent, young talent. We need it. At 26 years old, he’s still a rebounder, shot-blocker and rim-running athlete we can use off the bench.
Seattle took Ryan Anderson from the Houston Rockets at No. 15.
16. Marcus Morris - Boston Celtics
Kristian: I play a lot of NBA 2K, and one thing I like to do is draft out teams in MyGM mode and see how they do. And every time, I make sure to get guys who can play more than one position and at least compete on defense. Marcus Morris is one of those guys. He’s a tough-nosed wing who really showed himself as a gifted scorer in Detroit before being traded to Boston.
Whitney: Every team needs a tough guy. Someone that will go to battle with you no matter what the circumstance. It’s why the Backstreet Boys had A.J. McClean and NSYNC had Chris Kirkpatrick. You need a tough guy in every successful group.
Seattle took Bojan Bogdanovic from the Indiana Pacers at No. 17.
18. Bryn Forbes - San Antonio Spurs
Kristian: Had it not been for Lonzo Ball, Bryn Forbes probably would have won Summer League MVP. The guy looked like Damian Lillard in Las Vegas, fundamentally picking defenders apart at the cellular level to the tune of 26 points per game.
Seattle can have Bogdanovic. We’ve got Bryn, and we fully expect him to train with Iverson this summer.
Whitney: This was a makeup pick for Kristian. He could have Bryn if I had total control of our 10th pick.
Seattle took Jeremy Lamb from the Hornets at No. 19.
20. C.J. Miles - Toronto Raptors
Kristian: Whitney had been legit campaigning to draft C.J. Miles since before we started the Expansion Draft. That didn’t stop 10 picks in.
Finally, I gave in, and in truth, we found our starting three. Miles is exactly what I wanted when I said we needed a wing who “could play defense, hit threes, run in transition and didn’t have an injury history or off-court troubles.” Besides, we could use Fournier’s offense with the second unit, anyway.
Whitney: I DID IT. I GOT GEORGE HILL AND C.J. MILES TOGETHER AGAIN. I’VE NEVER WANTED A FAKE TEAM TO BE MORE REAL.
In all reality, Miles is that dude. He’s going to be perfect on the floor and off. Knock down three-point shooter. Can play any position on the court. Remember when he played power forward for Paul George? Team first, will do anything to win kind of guy.
Seattle took Thabo Sefolosha from the Utah Jazz at No. 21.
22. Taj Gibson - Minnesota Timberwolves
Kristian: At this point, we have our starters, we have a second unit, but we don’t have an enforcer. Taj Gibson is a guy who has a winning pedigree, has a defense-first mentality and — most importantly — is from Brooklyn, N.Y. Win, win.
Whitney: Another dirty work kind of guy. Will fight for the team every night. At pick 11 in an expansion draft, it seems like a steal.
Seattle took Amir Johnson from the 76ers at No. 23.
24. Nick Young - Golden State Warriors
Kristian: Whitney and I like our roster, but there’s something missing: shooters. Swaggy P adds a little flare to our team, and if there’s anything he does, it’s hit three-pointers. His harmless antics add another dimension to the team, and he’ll be a great teammate on the bench and on the court.
Whitney: This team is going to be fun.
Seattle took Frank Mason III from the Kings at No. 25.
26. Ian Clark - New Orleans Pelicans
Kristian: Ian Clark plays within a system, can shoot threes and can play either guard spot. Check, check and check.
Whitney: Clark was lowkey my favorite player on the Warriors roster. He knows what it takes to win a championship too. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the No. 1 guy on this team but at least he’s been in a winning culture and can bring that to Virginia Beach.
Seattle took Mario Hezonja from the Magic at No. 27.
28. Thomas Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers
Kristian: Pick 14 in an expansion draft gets tough. What I did know is this: Thomas Bryant is from Rochester, N.Y., and my cousin played ball at the local YMCA with him before. Here’s how that conversation went:
My cousin’s month-old endorsement was good enough for me. Besides, Bryant’s a 19-year-old rookie big man who play like he has multiple chips on his shoulder. I’ll take that at pick No. 14.
Whitney: Indiana ties? Sign me up.
Seattle took Jake Layman from the Trail Blazers at 29.
30. Isaiah Whitehead - Brooklyn Nets
Kristian: Seattle went with a hometown pick at 15 and I went to Hampton. The only Pirates to play in the NBA were Devin Green and the honorable Bad Boy himself, Rick Mahorn. I didn’t have any Pirates to choose from.
So, I went with a hometown guy in Whitehead, who’s from Brooklyn. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson likened him to Marcus Smart, and if he reaches that level, there’s no way Whitehead’s not in my rotation.
Whitney: That’s fine with me. I got Hill and Miles and this is now my favorite team.
Point Guard - George Hill
Shooting Guard - Tim Hardaway Jr.
Small Forward - C.J. Miles
Power Forward - Taj Gibson
Center - Robin Lopez
Sixth man - Lou Williams
How They Fit
This team is a decent mix of young and old players and should be a group of guys that can put egos aside and gel together rather quickly. The players we drafted also will allow Becky Hammon to play with rotations depending on opponent. A lot of these guys can play multiple positions and that is crucial in today’s NBA. The best part is that the Eastern Conference is currently depleted and it will give them some confidence that they can compete right away.
How would they do?
It’s not crazy that this team could sneak into the eighth spot in the East. It’s a conference that is totally up for grabs. But, much like the Knicks, our team's success hinges on Tim Hardaway Jr.'s development. And that may be challenging.