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NBA Expansion in 2025? How It Could Look

From 1988 to 2004 seven expansion teams were added to the NBA, but in the 19 years since there have been no additions even as the NBA is more popular than ever. It seems all but certain the NBA will expand at some point very soon now. Adam Silver stated back in July that expansion would be considered and even named the two cities the league was looking to in Seattle and Las Vegas. Silver also gave a timeline of 2025, and confirmed that the league will begin exploring the idea once the current media rights deal is up.

Having been less direct in the past it seems much more certain it will happen in either the 2025 or 2026 off seasons. The process could be started after the 2024 season and likely be ready for an expansion draft in 2025.

Last year we researched previous expansion draft rules and ran a hypothetical Mock Expansion draft.

2022 Mock Expansion Draft

2004 NBA Expansion Rules

The 2004 NBA expansion draft was pretty straightforward and I would expect the next Expansion draft to be similar in the rules. The main points….

  1. Unrestricted free agents are ineligible for the expansion draft.
  2. Each team can protect up to eight players. If a team has less than eight players on its roster to protect, it still must leave a minimum of one player unprotected.
  3. The expandsion team must select a minimum of 14 players 
  4. The expansion team can select only one player from any one NBA team.
  5. The expansion team is not bound to the salary cap during the draft. They can take on as many contracts as they like. However, once the draft is over, any players they’ve drafted and keep will count toward their cap
  6. As long as the expansion team waives a player selected in the expansion draft before the first day of the regular season, the player’s remaining contract does not count against the team’s salary cap.
  7. Restricted free agents drafted in the expansion draft automatically become unrestricted free agents.
  8. Teams are allowed to entice the expansion team to select players by offering cash, draft picks or agreeing to additional trades in return.
  9. If a team has a player selected by the expansion team, the team receives a trade exception equal to the player’s 2004-05 salary. This allows teams to replace a player lost in the expansion draft with another player of comparable salary.

Now that we have more concrete information, and with the off-season over, and more players are under contract through 2025. Let’s take a look towards 2025 and see what kind of players may be under contract and available in an expansion draft.

Of course, this is speculation, and some players can and will sign extensions and be under contract and available for protection or entering the pool. Others will progress or regress unexpectedly, and there will be trades as well. We still will have some idea looking two years out on who may be available, especially those perceived bad or bloated contracts.

The Philosophy

Most teams are sophisticated now that they wouldn’t draft those or old players like they did in the 1990’s and would likely leave high salary, old and/or average players unprotected knowing they wouldn’t be drafted.

The philosophy would be to target 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, expansion teams would just want the most upside and best value contracts we can take. They 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.


These are the contracts on the books in 2025-26. The cap is going up so some of these contracts do not look as bad 2 years out as of now. Many of the players under 25 will be extended on rookie deals or out of the league.

Projected to be Left Unprotected

As of today these would be the players I think could be expect to be left unprotected. There will be plenty of filler on every team by that point. The pool would be expected to be a mix of overpaid players, aging vets, and young guys who have done nothing. It’s likely the teams drafting would just take those young filler players. These are the interesting names that might be in the pool though and in some cases maybe Seattle or Las Vegas would take a useful 33 year old on a decent contract and try to flip them at the deadline. Some of these players will change teams but would likely still be in the pool of players or similar to what would be left unprotected. For some of the name players you have to consider their age at that point for example Nikola Vučević and where they could reasonably be projected to be. It makes sense for some players like Draymond Green to be left unprotected because and expansion team would be unlikely to take them take a 35 year old with 55 million on the books.

Age in 2025
Bogdan Bogdanović33$16,020,000$16,020,000
Bruno Fernando27$2,853,260
Jalen Johnson23
Mouhamed Gueye22$2,221,677$2,406,205
Oshae Brissett27
Dalano Banton25
Dorian Finney-Smith32$15,378,480
Cam Thomas23
Day’Ron Sharpe23
Darius Bazley25
Terry Rozier31$26,643,031
James Bouknight24
Kai Jones24
JT Thor23
Bryce McGowens22$2,187,451
Zach LaVine30$45,999,660$48,967,380
Nikola Vučević34$21,481,481
Ayo Dosunmu25$7,518,518
Dalen Terry23$5,399,118
Onuralp Bitim26
Georges Niang32$8,200,000
Dean Wade28$6,623,456
Emoni Bates21
Maxi Kleber33$11,000,000
Dwight Powell34$4,000,000
Jaden Hardy23
Zeke Nnaji24
Jay Huff27
Marcus Sasser24$2,886,720$5,198,983
James Wiseman24
Killian Hayes24
Draymond Green35$25,892,857$27,678,571
Lester Quinones24
Usman Garuba23
Dillon Brooks29$21,124,110$19,992,727
Aaron Holiday28
Ben Sheppard24$2,790,720$5,031,669
Aaron Nesmith25
Jalen Smith25
Jordan Nwora26
Norman Powell32$20,482,758
Amir Coffey28
Kobe Brown25$2,654,880$4,792,059
Bones Hyland25
Rui Hachimura27$18,259,259
Jaxson Hayes25
Cam Reddish25
Max Christie22
Brandon Clarke28$12,500,000$12,500,000
John Konchar29$6,165,000$6,165,000
Ziaire Williams23
Josh Christopher23
Kenneth Lofton Jr.23$2,187,45
Duncan Robinson31$19,888,000
Nikola Jović22$4,445,417
Haywood Highsmith28
Pat Connaughton32$9,423,869
A.J. Green25$2,301,587
Rudy Gobert33$46,655,172
Wendell Moore Jr.23$4,574,283
Josh Minott22$2,187,451
CJ McCollum33$30,666,666
Kira Lewis Jr.24
Julius Randle30$32,408,640
Jericho Sims26
Miles McBride24
Caleb Houstan24$2,187,699
Paul Reed26$8,109,150
Jaden Springer22
Bradley Beal32$53,666,270$57,128,610
Jordan Goodwin26
Jerami Grant31$32,000,001$34,206,898$36,413,790
Matisse Thybulle28$11,550,000
Toumani Camara25
Harrison Barnes33$19,000,000
Chris Duarte28
Colby Jones23$2,221,677$2,406,205
Kessler Edwards25
Kenrich Williams30$7,163,000$7,163,000
Julian Champagnie24$3,000,000$3,000,000
Malaki Branham22$4,962,033
Charles Bassey24$2,500,000
Jakob Poeltl29$19,500,000$19,500,000
Jalen McDaniels27
Precious Achiuwa27
Malachi Flynn27
John Collins27$26,580,000
Jordan Clarkson33$14,285,714
Collin Sexton26$18,975,000
Brice Sensabaugh21
Jordan Poole26$31,848,215$34,044,642
Landry Shamet28$11,750,000
Johnny Davis23$6,746,229
Patrick Baldwin Jr.22$4,420,156

If it were to follow the 1995 format, each team would have a pick and each team in the league would have a player selected from it. It’s also important to remember that under the new CBA there is a salary floor and they have to spend a certain amount. It is possible they would select a couple of higher-priced veterans unlike the Charlotte Bobcats. They could also just take on some bad contracts and collect some picks to do so, which I think would be more likely. One thing that would be more interesting than in 2004 is there would be a competition to get your pick whereas in 2004 the order of selection really didn’t matter since they could have anyone they wanted.

Hypothetical Draft

1SeattleCam Thomas23
2Las VegasJaden Hardy23
3SeattleJaden Springer22
4Las VegasKira Lewis Jr.24
5SeattleJosh Minott22
6Las VegasJulian Champagnie24
7SeattleDalen Terry23
8Las VegasKenneth Lofton Jr.23
9SeattleZeke Nnaji24
10Las VegasJordan Goodwin26
11SeattleBrice Sensabaugh21
12Las VegasJalen McDaniels27
13SeattleDalano Banton25
14Las VegasA.J. Green25
15SeattleColby Jones23
16Las VegasEmoni Bates21
17SeattleKobe Brown25
18Las VegasMarcus Sasser24
19SeattleNikola Jović22
20Las VegasMax Christie22
21SeattlePatrick Baldwin Jr.22
22Las VegasBryce McGowens22
23SeattleBen Sheppard24
24Las VegasLester Quinones24
25SeattleMouhamed Gueye22
26Las VegasMiles McBride24
27SeattleToumani Camara25
28Las VegasCaleb Houstan24
29SeattleAaron Holiday28
30Las VegasKenrich Williams30


SeattleCam Thomas23
SeattleJaden Springer22
SeattleJosh Minott22
SeattleDalen Terry23
SeattleZeke Nnaji24
SeattleBrice Sensabaugh21
SeattleDalano Banton25
SeattleColby Jones23
SeattleKobe Brown25
SeattleNikola Jović22
SeattlePatrick Baldwin Jr.22
SeattleBen Sheppard24
SeattleMouhamed Gueye22
SeattleToumani Camara25
SeattleAaron Holiday28

Las Vegas

Las VegasJaden Hardy23
Las VegasKira Lewis Jr.24
Las VegasJulian Champagnie24
Las VegasKenneth Lofton Jr.23
Las VegasJordan Goodwin26
Las VegasJalen McDaniels27
Las VegasA.J. Green25
Las VegasEmoni Bates21
Las VegasMarcus Sasser24
Las VegasMax Christie22
Las VegasBryce McGowens22
Las VegasLester Quinones24
Las VegasMiles McBride24
Las VegasCaleb Houstan24
Las VegasKenrich Williams30

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