Over the weekend, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that the league was seriously considering expansion to Mexico City. While this is very exciting news to me on several levels - I live there, and would be in heaven if I could catch NBA here games more than once a year - it also means the league would almost certainly turn to the approach used in the past to populate the rosters of the two new teams.
I say two new teams because a league with 31 teams is awkward for scheduling, so expansion tends to happen in even numbers of teams. While all this is currently still very much speculation, the near-certain candidate to match with Mexico City would be Seattle, who were robbed of their franchise in what (save Oklahoma City fans) is widely regarded as one of the worst moves made by the league in the last few decades.
Adam Silver said the NBA is exploring the possibility of adding a franchise in Mexico City. https://t.co/tU6PTbxWAa— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 15, 2017
Two teams mean two cracks at our roster should an expansion draft happen, and for those of you unfamiliar with how this process works, you can relax. The rules are different every time, but with the league awash in cash, don't expect anything too different from rules used in the last few expansion drafts, which were in 2004, 1995 and 1989. The 1989 expansion draft, which added the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic to the league, exempted two recent expansion teams (the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat), and allowed remaining teams to protect eight players from being taken, with Mark Acres selected from the Boston Celtics by the Magic.
The 1995 expansion draft, which was done to populate the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies, marked the beginning of the league's international expansion, and much like the 1989 draft, allowed teams to protect 8 players. Teams are allowed to attach cash or draft picks to certain players to encourage teams to select certain players - in this draft, such a strategy was used to convince the Grizzlies to select the Magic's Rodney Dent. In this expansion draft, Boston sent Acie Earl to the Raptors.
A 2 team NBA expansion draft would be so lit. From the moment teams announced who they were protecting NBA twitter would be insane.— Eric Fawcett (@Efawcett7) January 16, 2017
The 2004 expansion draft was an anomaly in that only one team was added, done to return a franchise to Charlotte after the previous iteration moved to New Orleans, eventually becoming today's Pelicans. Again, eight players were allowed to be protected, with Boston losing Brandon Hunter to the Hornets. Given the likelihood of two teams being added, from the Celtics's perspective, there's no serious threats to the roster in terms of an expansion draft, though it's possible the eight protected players might not be enough to maintain the degree of cap flexibility Danny Ainge prefers for team-building in a longer term frame of reference. Any expansion is at least a season after this one away - these things take time - and right now it's too early to know how this could play out.
Assuming the buzz in the NBA media-sphere is correct about the likely second team involved in league expansion (Seattle) a new issue opens up - free agency. If the expansion process moved faster than expected, you might worry two of Boston's best players might be a flight risk of sorts; Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas are both Seattle-area natives, and would come up for free agency the earliest possible year (2018) a team might be in that city again. Take a deep breath, though - expansion teams (at least to date) are ONLY populated their first season through expansion drafts, and not free agency.
NBA in Seattle?! NBA to add 2-expansion teams & Seattle a lock if city gets its act together on new arena! 👍🏽🏀 pic.twitter.com/idjE4I821r— Coughouse (@Coughouse) January 17, 2017
So, it seems unlikely the Celts would take too much of a hit in a time-frame that anyone could plan for, but the possibility of losing players to an expansion draft is officially on the horizon for the 2018-19 or 2019-20 season. And of course, two more teams to compete with in free agency longer-term is, too. To get an idea of how much of a sticky wicket this could become, try deciding who you'd protect this season while keeping all potential team-building options open - it's harder than you think!
My protected players would be as follows: Bradley, Thomas, Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, and whoever we get from the 2017 Brooklyn pick. This would leave the Celts open to losing Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Jonas Jerebko, Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey (and Gerald Green and James Young, though I am confident neither will be in green next season). Most of these guys are probably not going to be on next season's roster for one reason or another, but it would be rough to lose Demetrius, and part of me still believes Kelly could be something special.
Who would you protect, and why, if an expansion draft were held today? Let us know in the comment section below.
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Photo via www.NBA.com
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Justin Quinn 1/17/2017 02:32:00 PM Tweet Edit