This is the final installment where I set my draft pools for my theoretical expansion drafts. Enjoy:
Oklahoma City (3 Unprotected)
- Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka
- Who They Should Absolutely Not Protect: Kendrick Perkins
- Who I Would Not Protect: Perkins, Daniel Orton, Perry Jones
- Who They Would Not Protect: Perkins, Hasheem Thabeet, Orton
If the Thunder had amnestied Perkins last season, maybe James Harden would not have landed in Houston’s lap. I really don’t know, but the verdict here is that it has been a while since Perkins has been solid, and there are very few elite centers left. Guarding elite centers is basically Perkins’s purpose in this league. Orton and Jones were great but far from otherworldly in the D-League, whereas Lamb was, hence their inclusion on my lists. Of course, Jones “runs like a dear”, so I think foul-magnet but reliable back-up Thabeet would be thrown to the wolves. Or the grizzly bears. (Could not help myself with that beyond-awful joke.)
Orlando (5 Unprotected)
- Who I Would Absolutely Protect: Mo Harkelss, Nikola Vucevic
- Who They Should Not Protect: Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Al Harrington, Glen Davis
- Who I Would Not Protect: Turkoglu, Nelson, Harrington, Davis, DeQuan Jones (restricted)
- Who They Would Not Protect: Turkoglu, Harrington, Jones (restricted), E’Twaun Moore, Doron Lamb
The fact that Hedo and Harrington were more or less glued to the bench last season implies that the Magic are none too fond of them. That is good for them, as they have not shown that they merit much play time. Neither has Davis and Nelson, although Nelson was at least been mediocre, but those guys play a lot, and the Magic have no better alternative at point guard. I threw Jones on my list partly as bait because he is a zero wins-level player who is also a Restricted Free Agent. Nice story-I don’t think he could even start for the U-but ultimately not a great NBA player. Moore and Lamb are recent second-round picks who have not played well and are cheap.
Philadelphia (2 Unprotected)
- Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Arnett Moultrie (maybe)
- Who They Should Not Protect: No One
- Who I Would Not Protect: Evan Turner, Kwame Brown
- Who They Would Not Protect: Brown, Charles Jenkins (restricted)
In fairly limited minutes, Moultrie played really well last season, as in, comparable to Anthony Davis. Sooner or later, every team has to give up on every player, and I think that it’s high time that the Sixers do that Evan Turner, as his advanced stats have actually regressed over the course of his career. Brown is actually not a bad back-up center when he is healthy; the problem is that he has played exactly 31 games in the two past seasons. Jenkins was a low-risk, lower-upside trade acquisition this year at the trade deadline, and he is a subzero future Restricted Free Agent.
Phoenix (5 Unprotected)
- Who They Should Absolutely Protect: No One
- Who They Should Not Protect: Channing Frye, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola
- Who I Would Not Protect: Frye, Beasley, Scola, Kendall Marshall, Diante Garrett (restricted)
- Who They Would Not Protect: Frye, Marshall, Garrett (restricted), Hamed Haddadi, random guess that is probably a Morris twin but may be Shannon Brown
Channing Frye literally did not play this season, yet he has presumably two years and $13.2M left on his contract. I say “presumably” because the second year is a Player Option, and if he were his team, I would strongly suggest that he not pick it up. Beasley’s contract is so stunningly awful-$6M/year for a cancer on a rebuilding team-that it makes analysts want to pluck their eyeballs out. Of course, I don’t think the Suns realize this; otherwise, they probably would have never considered it, even in jest. When someone is amnestied by the Rockets, it should probably tell one something. Not the Suns with Scola, who played passably this year, but he is 33 and due $4.5M next year. During last year’s draft, there were literally ESPN analysts who wondered whether Marshall could ever be a starting point guard, let alone a great one. My memory might deceive me, but I think that some struggled to believe that he would become a decent back-up point guard. Considering that he was a subzero player in nine D-League games this season, I would say that was a pretty correct assumption. Garrett is a similar case, except that he was an undrafted free agent who excelled in a short D-League stint but absolutely tanked in the Association. Of course, Haddadi is cheap and almost as ineffective as the rest, as well as older than Beas to boot. I really have no idea who the Suns would jettison fifth; in my actual draft, I think I will settle on Markieff Morris, as he was roughly equivalent to his brother, but they didn’t have to spend a draft pick this February to get him.
Portland (2 Unprotected)
- Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Nicolas Batum
- Who They Should Not Protect: No One
- Who I Would Not Protect: Joel Freeland, Sasha Pavlovic
- Who They Would Not Protect: Freeland, Victor Claver
Damian Lillard did not make my “Absolutely” list because advanced stats are not impressed with him all that much. Freeland and Claver were European imports in their mid-twenties who did not pan out, Freeland somewhat less predictably. I am honestly surprised that Pavlovic has managed to remain in the league this long; like Sebastian Telfair, he has never played particularly well yet always manages to secure a low-level contract. He must be, like, a magician or something. I dunno.
Sacramento (4 Unprotected)
- Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Their owners-from angry Sonics and Kings fans
- Who They Should Not Protect: Everybody else, except for maybe Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans (restricted)
- Who I Would Not Protect: John Salmons, Jason Thompson, Travis Outlaw, James Johnson (restricted)
- Who They Would Not Protect: Salmons, Outlaw, Johnson (restricted), Jimmer Fredette
The Sacramento Kings’s front office has been horrific in recent years. Even when they think they sign a bona fide star, like “Boogie” Cousins or Tyreke Evans, it blows up in their face like a Molotov cocktail, although I will admit that Evans legitimately broke out last season, hence his status off of the “Should Not” list. Salmons and Fredette in the same trade. I would have rather had the pieces they surrendered; Beno Udrih and Bismack Biyombo, whose name makes me think “Big Smack” and who is purportedly six years, six months, and three days young than The Jimmer. Of course, the BYU man can shoot a mean three; it’s everything else that’s bothersome. But I wouldn’t turn him over to the king. I think that the Thompson contract, $30M for a mediocre power forward, is just absolutely insane now, although it was more defensible a year ago when it looked like he had become a solidly above-average player. Everyone, say, “Hi,” to Regression to the Mean; he may be annoying, but he isn’t going away anytime soon. Outlaw is in the same camp as Pavlovic from the previous segment, only this guy gets the big bucks. James Johnson also did not pan out necessarily, although he has produced in some seasons. I considered future RFA Toney Douglas, but he has more value to the team and on the court than these other guys.
San Antonio (4 Unprotected)
- Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Unfortunately, Just About Everybody
- Who They Should Not Protect: Gary Neal (restricted)
- Who I Would Not Protect: Neal (restricted), Matt Bonner, Nando De Colo, Patrick Mills
- Who They Would Not Protect: Bonner, De Colo, Mills, Aron Baynes
This Spurs squad is the polar opposite of the Sacramento one. There is literally not a bad contract on the books, and Parker and Duncan have insanely good contracts-although I am still fuming over some of the poor decisions Parker made on Tuesday in Game 6. (When the Lakers are out, give the Spurs a shout!) The four guys I picked are all solid players whose defensive capabilities leave something to be desired. Neal screams “Irrational Confidence Guy” to me-think Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith-and I’m none too fond of those. In fact, I would rather take a low-usage player with comparable analytic s over an Irrational Confidence Guy, and numbers and game-watching alike prove that Neal has these tendencies, which is sort of a shame, because he could be even better if he didn’t unnecessarily force stuff so darn much. The New Zealand-born Aussie Baynes struggled mightily in limited minutes after coming from Slovenia midseason, but I neglected to put him on the “I Would Not” list because he tore up the D-League and because I have a semi-irrational obsession with bringing European players across the Atlantic. Free Bo McCalebb! Free Kostas Papanikolaou! Sorry; I got off on a tangent there.
Toronto (4 Unprotected)
- Who They Should Absolutely Protect: Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas
- Who They Should Not Protect: Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza,
- Who I Would Not Protect: Gay, Bargnani, Kleiza, DeMar DeRozan
- Who They Would Not Protect: Bargnani, Kleiza, Aaron Gray, John Lucas
Masai Ujiri’s attempts to rid Canada of the scourge of The Bargs are well-known. I do not think that he would not get rid of The Italian for nothing, but I also do not think that frogs will fall from the sky, and thermonuclear war is far from inevitable because while we are destructive, we are not that destructive. (Of course, that didn’t stop from having a semi-nightmare about the latter last night.) Kleiza is in the same boat, except that he costs just a little over 40% as much, he was productive before he took a jaunt in Europe (correlation: unknown), and I don’t think anyone has misguided opinions from the Missouri grad who has represented Lithuania 51 times. Unfortunately for Raptors fan, I don’t think that The Great and Powerful Ujiri is quite ready to let Rudy go. Aaron Gray and John Lucas are guys who have hung around but not whacked anyone with a 2×4, although I believe that Lucas is also an Irrational Confidence Guy. DeRozan is not a bad player and not a bad guy, but do you really want to pay $9.5M each year for four years for inefficient wing scoring on this team? [Stifles urge to make joke] One of them will be booted off the island for sure, and Torontans should be weeping that this is not actually going to happen.
Utah (1 Unprotected)
- Who They Should Absolutely Protect: No One
- Who They Should Not Protect: Kevin Murphy
- Who I Would Not Protect: Murphy
- Who They Would Not Protect: Jerel McNeal
If they had multiple spots to leave unguarded, I would go with Marvin Williams, as he just never seemed to mesh in Utah and is underrated, but they don’t, so I won’t. Murphy, whose Arturo projection was just stunningly awful, played less than mediocre…in the D-League, whereas McNeal was solidly above-average. Of course, the Jazz invested in a few grand in McNeal and a draft pick in Murphy-guess which one they’ll keep. Yay Sunk Costs!
Washington (2 Unprotected)
- Who They Should Absolutlely Protect: No One
- Who They Should Not Protect: Nene, Kevin Seraphin
- Who I Would Not Protect: Nene, Seraphin
- Who They Would Not Protect: Seraphin, Jan Vesely
It is offical; the Wizards are not stupid because they benched Vesely and Seraphin almost completely in the second half of the season. I don’t mind keeping Vesely around because of Nene’s $13M bill for the next 3 seasons, considering that the Brazilian is 31, average, and injury-prone, Vesely does not look so bad. Seraphin, though, is swimming in the depths of Bargnani territory. That is not good.
So, finally, I am done setting my draft pools. Where there is uncertainty, I will confirm my decisions during the draft posts themselves. I hope that you have enjoyed this series of posts thus far, and that you will come back to complete the reading of this five-post segment. And so I sign off with thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.