From 1988 to 2004 seven expansion teams were added to the NBA, but in the 18 years since there have been no additions even as the NBA is more popular than ever. There have been rumors recently that the NBA could expand by two teams after the 2024 season, but commissioner Adam Silver denied that. If expansion were to take place, Seattle is all but assured to be one of the teams.
In this exercise, we will expand the NBA by one team this off season using the 2004 rules when the league expanded by one with the Charlotte Bobcats. This would also be a little less impactful and help space out the expansion several years to do it in steps. This would have taken place just before the NBA draft so we have the benefit now of knowing what some of the teams value that made trades that night as well as what our 2022 Draft Pick options would actually be. Charlotte was given the 4th pick in 2004 (and traded up to 2nd), so we will use the same arrangement with picks 4th and 34th and make those Draft picks as well.
My philosophy will be to draft the best combination of youth, value contracts, and players with multiple years of control where available. Since there will be no chance of building a good team, we just want the most upside and best value contracts we can take. We will look to tank the first year and get another good draft pick. We will also use the cap space to add some bad contracts at price for taking them on of future draft pick sweeteners.
Players Projected to be Left Unprotected
|Duane Washington Jr.||22||$1,563,518|
|Brandon Boston Jr.||20||$1,563,518||$1,836,096|
|Vernon Carey Jr.||21||$1,782,621||$1,930,681|
|Kira Lewis Jr.||21||$4,004,280||$5,722,116|
Most are pretty cut and dry but there are some more difficult choices addressed here.
–76ers: They have some young players I think they would try to protect while leaving Harris unprotected I believe, knowing he wouldn’t get picked.
–Thunder: An expansion draft would hit OKC harder than most with so many young players on rookie contracts. They can’t keep them all and it seems likely the last spot would come down to Isaiah Roby and Aaron Wiggins. Wiggins played a little more, is a year younger, and under contract for 2 additional years while Roby is about to get paid more. I think that along with what seals it is OKC knew they would have a top 3 pick and the 1st tier of draft picks were all bigs with their target Chet Holmgren who plays the same position.
–Timberwolves: I doubt the Timberwolves really want to part with Naz Reid or McLaughlin but I think they would make Jaylen Nowell a higher priority the way he shot the ball at a position of greater need.
–Warriors: The Warriors actually only had 7 players eligible but under the rules they have to leave someone unprotected. Part of me thinks they would leave Klay or Draymond unprotected and dare us to take one of them believing we have no interest to protect the young guys. I think ultimately they wouldn’t want to rock the boat or to be butt hurt at the end of the day or even take the small percentage chance we might take him. Personally I think they should leave Wiseman unprotected at what he makes as a higher pick but I think they still like him a lot and aren’t ready to give up on him. Money isn’t an issue for them, so Moody seems the most logical to me.
–Pelicans: The Pelicans similar to Thunder have a wealth of young players on rookie contracts they can’t keep all of them. While I think they should probably keep Alvarado at his number over DeVonte Graham, they clearly like Graham for what they signed him and moving on from Ball to do it. It’s not the worst of contracts ever and they are trying to win so I’d expect Alvarado to be left unprotected.
-Lakers: The Lakers could have left Westbrook unprotected but there was little point as they would know I wouldn’t pick him or likely any player on their team. No need to rock the boat even more if you are stuck with him.
The Expansion Draft
1. Moses Moody
The Warriors bad fortune is my good luck. Landing a 20 year old late lottery pick one year removed who played pretty solidly as a rookie with 3 years left on his rookie deal is a must take here.
2. Goga Bitadze
Bitadze is a productive young big that averaged 7ppg, 3.5rpg with an 18 PER. The defense is more suspect but I don’t think you can pass up on a productive player this young.
3. Jose Alvarado
He’s productive and on a dirt cheap contract for 3 years averaging 6.1ppg, 2.8apg with a 16.4 PER. He doesn’t have good size and he can’t shoot, but the hope is that he could add the shot eventually. He’s already productive enough and we need a PG. He’s also not a complete traffic cone on defense either with the #204 DRPM.
4. Isaiah Roby
He’s all ready averaging 10ppg 5rpg and shooting .44% from three with an 18.3 PER and .607 True Shooting at 24 years old. He’s also versatile enough and splits about half of his time between PF/C. He’s a respectable enough 124th in DRPM as well with solid defensive blocks and steals for his position. 7-3″ wingspan, and obviously plays bigger than 6-8. This seems like a no brainer to me.
5. Derek Rose (1st Round Pick Attached)
This goes against what would normally do but what has become apparent after some draft night trades is New York is going to open cap space and try to sign Jalen Brunson or maybe even Kyrie Irving. It’s pretty obvious and they would have less need for Rose at this money. My thinking here and the only way I do it is if I’d get one of those late 1st rounders out they traded for. They’d have to do that deal and send me one.
I also think Rose makes sense on a decent enough contract that we could possibly flip him for a worse contract and another 1st or two seconds at the trade deadline since he could still help someone. It would also be nice to have one “name” player even if he’s not been good in a long time. He is a face we could put on the preseason posters. For the price of a 1st rounder I’d take on this amount and give NY what they are trying to get in cap space. I think it even makes sense if I only got two seconds.
6. Kessler Edwards
What is apparent is this draft is really light on wings with good size. I don’t think Edwards is very good (5.9ppg, 3.6rpg 8.3 PER), but he is young and he does have good size. He shot three’s a a decent enough clip at .353% and was 190th in DRPM that maybe there is a 3 and D players there eventually. I’d take him just as a flier and hope something good turned out.
7. Naz Reid
Another productive big with a career 17 PER that averaged a productive 11ppg his 2nd year. He even has some stretch as a career .343% three point shooter. The defense isn’t great but I think you take him as a productive player and hope it can improve. His block rate was pretty solid at 2.1 per 36 minutes.
8. John Konchar
Konchar is the only player over 24 years old I will draft with out incentives. He’s productive on a winning team. He’s a little weird as a player getting most of his value from rebounding as a 6-5 guard but he is dirt cheap and productive and still young enough to make sense having just turned 26. It’s getting to a level you are going to take some warts. I’m banking on him have some value to someone if we don’t keep him having played 54 minutes in the playoffs vs Minnesota.
9. Jared Butler
We need guards and he’s a nice young one that played 60% of his minutes at PG. 16ppg 6apg per 36 minutes in fact. He was inefficient but at his age he has time to improve.
10. Daishen Nix
Nix is a well built 6-5 player that played 82% of his minutes at SF. Wing is our weakest position so a 20 year old with 3 more years on his rookie contract seems like a take at this spot for the former All American.
11. Chuma Okeke
Okeke is a little more expensive than I’d want to pay for a 23 year old undersized PF, but the options are getting slim now and he’s at least seen a court and been decent. He can play a little SF in a pinch (12% of his career minutes) too and we need that.
12. JT Thor
He’s 19 with 3 years on his rookie contract. That’s really all this is. I doubt it pans out but it’s a value play if it does.
13. Frank Ntilikina
Ntilikina feels like he’s been around longer and is older but given the age and size at this point in the draft I think you take him. He can play both guard positions. In theory he should be a better defender than he actually is #294 DRPM. You just hope maybe the defense and shooting finally come around.
14. Tony Bradley
Rayjon Tucker and Isaiah Joe were the final 2 options I considered. Ultimately I decided Joe soon to turn 23 just wasn’t good enough, and Tucker was as old as Bradley and hadn’t found his way on the court enough and hasn’t shown enough shooting when he has. With only 5 post players this team needed another depth part as well. We got one that is capable enough to get on the court and has been reasonably productive when he has. Career 19.3 PER and .650 True Shooting.
This concludes the Expansion Draft that would have been held prior to the NBA Draft. Let’s move on to the Draft since we know the order. Seattle would pick 4th and 34th like Charlotte was given.
The NBA Draft
4th Jaden Ivey
With the 4th pick in the draft I’d pick Jaden Ivey. He has the best mix of size and athletic ability. I wanted to pick Murray but he’s to old for my timeline at almost 2 years older I think, and Sharpe has way to many question marks and is to big of an unknown. Those were the only other 2 I considered. I think Ivey is known enough we can project him to at least be a solid player at worst and we need that at this point.
34th Jaden Hardy
I would have tried to move up to the 29th pick the Grizzlies traded away and draft Ty Ty Washington but I don’t have much draft ammo so I don’t think it would be possible. Hardy was horrific shooting in the Gleauge but you should probably expect that from a 19 year old playing men. This is just a high upside take for a player that was rated 4th in his class with good size. I considered Kennedy Chandler but I think Hardy has more upside. I think that’s what you should be chasing in the 2nd round.
I would hope attempt to sign value contracts under 15 million with the hopes of moving them by the trade deadline. That said I have little belief quality players would come to Seattle for cheap to be on a 1st year expansion team and the timeline doesn’t match up. There aren’t any Free Agents that really excite me anyway, but I would kick the tires on Collin Sexton. At 23.4 years old he makes some sense and I could offer him a big time role. I’d over pay him a little too. He’s expected to get about 15 to 18 million so I’d go 18 or 20 and hope that was to rich for Cleveland. We’ll just assume they match, though, I think the cap space becomes a send me your bad money for picks this offseason.
Before adding any bad contracts in exchange for draft picks to meet the minimal payroll.
**Ivey 4 years $8.30 average as the 4th pick
The Projected Depth Chart
|Goga Bitadze||6-11, 250||17.2ppg, 8.7rpg 2.1bpg||18.9|
|Isaiah Roby||6-8, 230||17.2ppg, 8.2rpg 1.3bpg||18.3|
|Moses Moody||6-6, 205||13.5ppg, 4.7rpg||10.5|
|Jaden Ivey||6-4, 200|
|Derek Rose||6-2, 200||17.6ppg, 5.8apg 4.4rpg||16.9|
|Naz Reid||6-9, 265||18.9ppg, 8.9rpg, 2.1bpg||17.2|
|Jose Alvarado||6-0, 179||14.2ppg, 6.6apg, 4.3rpg||16.4|
|Jared Butler||6-3, 195||16.1ppg, 6.3apg, 4.5rpg||12.1|
|John Konchar||6-5, 214||9.7ppg, 9.2rpg, 3.0apg||14|
|Tony Bradley||6-10, 245||10.7ppg, 12.2rpg, 2.2bpg||14.9|
|Frank Ntilikina||6-4, 200||12.6ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.6apg||10.4|
|Kessler Edwards||6-8, 215||10.4ppg, 6.3rpg||8.3|
|Daishen Nix||6-5, 224||10.6ppg, 5.5apg, 4.6rpg, 2.7spg||8.1|
|Chuma Okeke||6-6 229||12.5ppg, 7.1rpg, 2.4apg||12|
|JT Thor||6-10, 205||12.3ppg, 7.9rpg. 3.5apg, 2.0bpg||9.7|
This team would be really bad in year one as you would expect, there would be no way to avoid that even if you drafted the best players available. These are the youngest/ best players on the best contracts and I believe a few keepers would emerge. It wouldn’t be a quick process but I’m sure for the fans of the Sonics one that would be rewarding to have your own team again. I believe this is pretty realistic and would set them on the best course.