NBA commissioner Adam Silver may or may not expand the NBA to one or two new teams, but just for fun SB Nation NBA proposed a Mock Expansion Draft in which all 30 team sites were tasked with protecting eight players on the current roster of the teams they cover.
It was a simple enough mandate, but much tougher in reality to actually execute. Which players to leave unprotected and which ones were untouchable? After much deliberation, this is the final list and why:
- Hassan Whiteside - No way would Pat Riley leave Whiteside unprotected in an expansion draft and would only entertain a trade offer for the dominant big man if there was a good enough return. With a lack of valuable draft picks coming up because of the Goran Dragic trade, the Heat must protect all their solid players/assets.
- Goran Dragic - Same goes for Dragic, who had one of his best seasons paired with Dion Waiters (instead of Dwyane Wade) and flourished with the ball in his hands and full control of the Heat offense. He’s not going anywhere, moving on.
- James Johnson - JJ’s return to the Heat was welcome news after a stellar first season in Miami and with another year of familiarity with the Heat system and his teammates, big things are expected whether he starts or comes off the bench.
- Dion Waiters - Same as JJ, he more than fulfilled expectations in his first season in Miami and Heat Nation is eager to see what he can do in his second year. There are perhaps some minor injury concerns, but we’re confident he’ll shake that off and have another strong year. A four year deal at his age is more than reasonable in this day and age of bloated NBA contracts.
- Bam Adebayo - Riley and the front office appeared to be quite pleased with their selection of Bam in the first round and he intrigued with his size, athleticism and versatility in Summer League. There’s too much potential and he comes with a cap-friendly rookie contract. This was an easy choice to keep him locked into the roster.
- Josh Richardson - Has he shown enough to receive a hefty contract extension? The jury is still out, but another full season of growth would make that decision much easier for the front office. For now, I wouldn’t leave him unprotected in this scenario.
- Kelly Olynyk - We’ve yet to see Olynyk in a Heat uniform so it’s way too early to leave him unprotected and have him get plucked away to an expansion team. Should the NBA actually hold an expansion draft in a year or two, this might be a different story but regardless his game could be a nice fit with the position-less system coach Erik Spoelstra has implemented.
- Justise Winslow - Sure there are valid questions about his shooting but there’s too much potential to just give up on him and leave him exposed in an expansion draft and get nothing in return. The rookie contract is another bonus for a team that had to fork over plenty of cash to retain most of last season’s team.
- Tyler Johnson - A tough call because he brings so much to the team off the bench but his onerous contract that swells from $5.8 million this year to over $19 million for the 2018-19 season (and the following season) was the deciding factor over Josh Richardson.
- AJ Hammons - Included in the Josh McRoberts trade with the Dallas Mavericks to make the numbers work, I have a feeling that the Heat would be fine leaving Hammons unprotected in an expansion draft.
- Udonis Haslem - UD is so much of a Heat Lifer, I don’t think any NBA team would have the heart to select him, nor do I think at his age he would be expected to play a major role on an expansion team eager to develop young talent.
- Okaro White - Not so much a knock on his game. There’s only so many Heat players to protect so White is simply a victim of the numbers game.
- Rodney McGruder - Same goes for McGruder; the Heat players I chose to protect simply play a bigger role on the team and there’s only so many I can select.
- Wayne Ellington - Another player I had no choice but to include in the unprotected list. This sharpshooter brought a lot to the table in his first season with the Heat (check out this recent HHH article by Brandon Di Perno on his role with the team) and the last spot on the protected list was down to Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Ellington with J-Rich winning out due to his age and upside. Thankfully, this is just a mock draft and Ellington isn’t going anywhere.
Aftermath/SB Nation NBA Expansion Draft
The imaginary Seattle and Virginia Beach NBA expansion teams held their SB Nation mock expansion draft today from the list of unprotected players and the only Heat player selected was Tyler Johnson, which Seattle surprisingly selected with their second selection.
Why we picked him: We needed someone to run the team at point guard and we thought Johnson was the type of young player we could build around. He’s not a traditional, pass-first guard but he can score the ball. He has improved every year in the league and we’re hoping that trend continues.
Here’s the full list of all the players that were protected by SB Nation NBA team sites. Who would you have left unprotected on the Heat’s roster if it was your choice?