NBA Expansion isn’t likely to happen any time soon, as we’ve seen with Seattle still waiting on getting a new team. But it’s still fun to think about what might happen in such a scenario, and at SB Nation today we’re announcing what players we’d protect with a draft to be held later.
The Bobcats (now the Hornets again) were the last expansion franchise to join the NBA back in 2004. The Kings at the time protected their veterans and allowed Charlotte to take promising youngster Gerald Wallace. Wallace proved to be an All-Star level player for Charlotte, but it was reasonable for a Kings team that still thought they could compete for a title to keep its core intact.
Sacramento’s situation today is far different, with the Kings having more youth than they can handle. While NBA expansion rules aren’t set in stone and can be adjusted each time, typically teams have been allowed to protect 8 of their players with the rest being available for the expansion franchise to draft.
If it were up to me, the youth would be all I’d protect, but the Kings have more than 8 young players, meaning some will be on the outside looking in.
The No Brainers
- De’Aaron Fox - A 19 year old PG that could be the team’s PG of the future and on an affordable deal for at least four years with restricted free agency after that.
- Skal Labissiere - Too good and too young. Fits the profile of a modern NBA big man, especially if he develops a three-point shot.
- Buddy Hield - Might not ever be a star, but he’s already an elite NBA shooter and projects to be a solid rotation player for a while. Also on a rookie contract.
- Willie Cauley-Stein - A fantastic pick and roll player with a lot of defensive upside and more offensive upside than you might think.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic - One of the brightest stars in Europe, he’s unproven in the NBA but the Kings aren’t gonna let him go for nothing.
- Justin Jackson - Might just be one of the most NBA-ready rookies and one of Sacramento’s only pure wings.
The Upside Pick
7. Harry Giles - Giles with the 20th pick was Sacramento swinging for the fences. He might never recover from his knee injuries, but if he even has a chance at living up to the potential he showed in high school, the Kings need to keep him just in case.
The Hard Decision: Malachi Richardson vs. Georgios Papagiannis
8. Malachi Richardson - Richardson has shown more in his little time in the league than Papagiannis has, and while it does take big men longer to develop, I think at this point we would just be happy if he developed into a reliable backup center. Papagiannis’ skillset also doesn’t seem to fit with today’s modern NBA.
Vince Carter and Zach Randolph were easy choices to leave unprotected. Those players are there for their veteran leadership and worst case you can pick another guy like that up in FA pretty easily. Plus, they’re both unlikely to be chosen.
Kosta Koufos wasn’t as easy because he’s an affordable and good center on a one-year deal but having a player like that who might just leave in FA next summer anyway isn’t worth giving up one of Sacramento’s potential upside players instead. The thought process was similar in choosing to leave Garrett Temple unprotected as well.
I did consider protecting George Hill because he’s a really good player and locked up for three seasons, but honestly I doubt an expansion team takes on that much salary for a veteran PG that could hurt their chances to build through the draft. Even if they do, it opens up space for De’Aaron Fox a little sooner.
Frank Mason is another young player that had to be cut, mostly because I don’t think his upside is as high as Sacramento’s other young players.
So those are who I’d protect. Let me know what you guys would do differently or if you agree. And keep an eye out for SB Nation’s expansion draft results to see if anyone gets taken.
UPDATE: Here are the results of the draft as well as the other team’s protected picks.