Did you know the Celtics traded a draft pick to protect DJ in the expansion draft?
It's true! It happened in June of 1988 before the Heat and Hornets were getting ready for their expansion draft. At the time, each team was only allowed to protect 8 players but the Celtics wanted to make Johnson their 9th protected guy. In order to accommodate that, they were forced to give up a second round pick in the 1988 draft to whichever expansion team picked the first player from the Celtics.
I have to admit I don't remember this transaction. Only reason I stumbled upon it recently was trying to find out who the Celtics had acquired for Sam Vincent. It turned out to be the pick that would later be used to keep DJ in Green.
The Heat picked Fred Roberts meaning the Celtics had to give that pick to Miami. The pick wound up being Sylvester Gray who was from the University of Memphis and lasted one season in the league.
Strangely enough the Lakers did the same with the Hornets. They didn't protect Kareem but wound up having to give them a second round pick too.
Thinking back on it how was DJ the 9th guy they protected? Meaning there were really 8 other guys they kept protected in front of him? Well Bird, McHale, Parish and Ainge would all make sense considering DJ was 34 at the time. Reggie Lewis perhaps since he was still young and unproven. But who else? Jim Paxson allegedly was protected. How come they protected Paxson over DJ? Was it because they just acquired him a few months prior?
Gary Bettman who was the vice-president of the NBA at the time said:
I'm the only one who knows who is on the unprotected list and I'm not telling anyone. No one will ever know the names of the players on the list, only the players that are chosen.
Fred Roberts wound up getting picked by the Heat but there's a rumor that Dirk Minniefield was also left unprotected. Oh well Gary: so much for no one ever finding out!
And oh yes, expansion absolutely ruined the NBA.