The NBA could support two expansion teams because of it’s popularity, but what would those teams look like?
The NBA is probably the most popular sport in the US right now, even if the NFL has a significantly higher revenue. This has something to do with the gameplay itself, the drama that comes out of the league off of the court, the accessibility and personality of the NBA players, and the fact that Adam Silver is the best commissioner of any major sport and continues to do anything he can to NOT be the NFL. The NBA appeals to all fans, not just their own niche like the NFL does with their weird league decisions. Social justice dialogue, support of legalized sports gambling, technology, and young fans are all things that the NBA is crushing other sports in, specifically the NFL.
Watching this incredible Las Vegas Knights story (new expansion NHL team if you didn’t know) has been so much fun, and it has me thinking, with the NBA’s popularity they could easily support two new teams in the league. The conferences and/or divisions would probably have to be realigned, but that is another blog.
The NHL set out rules for the Knights to pick players from other teams. To sum it up, other NHL teams could protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR only eight skaters and one goalie if a team wanted to save more than the allotted forwards or defensemen, choosing to protect fewer total players in effect. Also, players on rookie deals in their first or second season were protected, as well as players with “no movement” clauses in their contracts. The Knights had to select one player from each team to even it all out.
The Knights did a great job, apparently. They are making me watch hockey for the first time.
If the NBA wanted to do this, they could create some similar rules. Here is what I would do if I were in the NBA front office. Let’s pretend this happened before the NBA draft lottery took place in 2018.
RULES FOR BOTH EXPANSION TEAMS:
- All current NBA teams must have one and only one player taken by the expansion teams. Coin toss decides who picks first.
- Both expansion teams will be in the NBA draft lottery with the same odds to get the first pick as the fifth and sixth worst records in the league in their first year. Loser of first coin toss gets better pick.
- Each current NBA team can protect THREE players from being picked.
- Players with no-trade clauses cannot be picked UNLESS they are not protected by team AND agree to the change of team. Player with no-trade clause may choose to stay if picked.
- Players on rookie deals ARE NOT automatically protected.
Now, who would NBA teams choose to protect? Here’s who I would protect:
***NOTE: Teams may protect players who are upcoming free agents if they want to try and resign them, to avoid them getting picked up by an expansion team and negotiating a new contract with them. My picks take into account age and contracts and what I would do, which explains some of the odd protected players on this list.
ATL: Taurean Prince, Dennis Schroder, John Collins
BOS: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum
BKN: Allen Crabbe, D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen
CHA: Kemba Walker, Malik Monk, Willy Hernangomez
CHI: Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Denzel Valentine
CLE: LeBron James, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr
DAL: Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr, Doug McDermott
DEN: Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Garry Harris
DET: Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson
GS: Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green
HOU: Chris Paul, James Harden, Clint Capela
IND: Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis
LAC: DeAndre Jordan, Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley
LAL: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma
MEM: Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Dillon Brooks
MIA: Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow
MIL: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon
MIN: Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler
NOP: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday
NYK: Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina, Enes Kanter
OKC: Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Terrance Ferguson (Not keeping Paul George in an attempt to negotiate new contract because they know he’s not coming back, and not keeping Carmelo because they will do anything to avoid paying him $27 million next season)
ORL: Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Jonathan Isaac
PHI: Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz
PHX: Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender
POR: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Zach Collins
SAC: De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein
SAS: LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Dejounte Murray
TOR: DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas
UTA: Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio
WAS: Bradley Beal, John Wall, Kelly Oubre (Not Otto Porter because they would do anything to get his $25 million contract off the books)
EXPANSION DRAFT RESULTS (Listed in order of picks):
- SG – Klay Thompson (GS)
- PF – Dario Saric (PHI)
- PF/C- Julius Randle (LAL)
- SG/SF- Nicolas Batum (CHA)
- PG/SG – Lou Williams (LAC)
- SF – Otto Porter (WAS)
- PG- Reggie Jackson (DET)
- PF/C- Bobby Portis (CHI)
- SG/SF- Lance Stephenson (IND)
- SF – Carmelo Anthony (OKC) (See explanation below)
- C – Tristan Thompson (CLE)
- PG – Elfrid Payton (PHX)
- PG/SG – Seth Curry (DAL)
- SG – Tim Hardaway Jr (NYK)
- C – Dewayne Dedmon (ATL)
- 2018 6th overall draft pick: PG: Collin Sexton (Alabama)
Team 1 turned out to be a fun team with a lot of personality and a lot of shooting in the starting lineup. That starting lineup would look like this: PG: Reggie Jackson, SG: Klay Thompson, SF: Nicolas Batum, PF: Dario Saric, C: Julius Randle.
Klay Thompson was the odd man out in Golden State, as they chose to keep Draymond with Steph and KD instead of him, because of Draymond’s versatile defense and ability to be a distributor. Since Golden State had four top 20 players, Team 1 got a steal taking Klay Thompson first overall.
Interestingly, I drafted two bench players before a starting point guard. Both Lou Williams (5th pick) and Otto Porter (6th pick) would see heavy minutes, comparable with the starters. This idea allowed me to pick Eric Bledsoe 7th, and have him as the starting point guard. Lou Williams is a great spark off of the bench, as we have seen in recent years.
Also, Team 1 took the risk of taking Carmelo. In my fictional world Carmelo would agree to waive his no-trade clause and go to Team 1 since he knows he isn’t wanted in OKC, and Team 1 would negotiate with OKC and take a future draft pick or two from them since they are taking on Carmelo’s massive contract, freeing up OKC to spend this summer.
- PF/C: Al Horford (BOS)
- SG: Eric Gordon (HOU)
- C: Jusuf Nurkic (POR)
- SF/PF: Nikola Mirotic (NOP)
- PG: Eric Bledsoe (MIL)
- PF/C: Paul Millsap (DEN)
- PF: Serge Ibaka (TOR)
- PG/SG: Tyler Johnson (MIA)
- SG/SF: Evan Fournier (ORL)
- PG: Patty Mills (SAS)
- SG: Jamal Crawford (MIN)
- SF: Justin Jackson (SAC)
- PG: Dante Exum (UTA)
- SF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (BKN)
- PF/C: Deyonte Davis (MEM)
- 2018 5th overall pick: SF: Jaren Jackson Jr (Michigan State)
Team 2 is sort of the opposite of Team 1. They do have a little bit of shooting in their starting lineup, but they also have a lot of size, including size off the bench with Millsap and Ibaka. Millsap and Ibaka would be first off the bench, with Tyler Johnson probably being the first guard off the bench.
The starting lineup would be the first five picks, PG: Eric Bledsoe, SG: Eric Gordon, SF: Nikola Mirotic, PF: Al Horford, C: Jusuf Nurkic.
Team 2 would have tried to pick Paul George with their first pick and negotiate a contract with him, but he will deny the pick with his no-trade clause and end up signing somewhere else. It would end up working out taking Al Horford number 1, as he has shown this post-season with Boston that he can lead a winning team. He does it all. He plays great D against multiple positions, shoots well, and can be a distributor if needed.
Team 2 has more scoring depth on the bench, and more size, but Team 1 ended up with better overall shooting and better defense from the guys off the bench. Also, Collin Sexton, Team 1’s potential draft pick from Alabama, may be the starting point guard by the end of the season.
What cities would the NBA expand to?
If the NBA decided to expand, there are a few obvious choices for new cities and a few sleeper cities. The obvious choices would be to give Seattle and/or Vancouver their teams back. Both cities have proven to be passionate fanbases with populations and media markets plenty large to support the team. The other obvious choice would be to give Las Vegas an NBA team. They have the new T-Mobile Arena, and it is incredible in there. The city as shown their passion for the Knights this year, and the legalization of sports gambling takes some of the stigma away from having a team in Vegas.
The not-so-obvious choices would be Louisville and Pittsburgh. Louisville is a large enough city to support a team, and the rabid University of Louisville and University of Kentucky fans could finally agree on something and root for the same NBA team. Pittsburgh has some of the best fans in the NFL, NHL, and MLB, as well as a media market that is plenty big, so an NBA team would work out just fine there. It could be a fun new in-state rivalry with the 76ers.
If you think I’m dead-wrong on anything, or have a better idea on how to run the expansion draft, tweet at me @thomaslovejoy