The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.
We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.
Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.
Analysis: The Warriors have their core together with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Ky Bowman, Marquese Chriss, Damion Lee and Eric Paschall provide value on minimum contracts. That’s all the Warriors need to protect.
Golden State wouldn’t mind seeing Kevon Looney or Jordan Poole selected to get the salaries off the cap sheet. The rest of the players are ones the Warriors won’t lose any sleep over if they’re drafted.
Analysis: L.A. has its main guys with four starters under contract. They aren’t being exposed here. The other three players are key bench contributors on good contracts. And Kabengele and Mann were just drafted. Easy decisions across the board for the Clippers.
L.A. could lose Green as a free agent. The Clippers also bet he does undrafted and could return. Rodney McGruder makes too much money for his role.
Analysis: The Lakers and Anthony Davis will work out that he’ll opt out before the expansion draft, which makes him ineligible. The rest of the players are role players that Los Angeles would rather keep around LeBron James than risk losing.
Los Angeles won’t be upset to see Quinn Cook or Rajon Rondo selected. They’re both replacement-level players for the Lakers at this point.
Analysis: Phoenix keeps it simple and protects all the guys who are part of its core. The Suns could have left Dario Saric unprotected, but by protecting Saric, they keep the flexibility to re-sign him as a restricted free agent. The rest are all easy decisions.
Of the unprotected players, none of have established themselves as NBA rotation players. If any are selected, Phoenix won’t lose any sleep over it.
PHOENIX —Aron Baynes scored a career-high 37 points on a career-high nine 3-pointers, Dario Saric added 24 points and the Phoenix Suns beat the Portland Trail Blazers 127-117 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak.
Baynes was 9 of 14 from long distance and 12 of 23 overall. He also had 16 rebounds.
The huge night came one game after the big Australian didn’t even play against the Toronto Raptors because coach Monty Williams didn’t like the matchup.
“It can be funny in the NBA like that,” Baynes said. “Night to night it can be completely different. One thing we’ve done well as a team is a next-man-up mentality. If you go out there and play within Monty’s system, he usually puts you in places to succeed.”
Phoenix never trailed and made 19 3-pointers. It was a much-needed win for the Suns after they had lost four straight home games to hurt their already fading playoff hopes.
The 6-foot-10 Baynes is an eight-year NBA veteran but almost never shot 3-pointers until last season. He made it a big part of his game when he joined the Suns this season and was hitting them at a 33% rate coming into Friday.
He came out firing against the Blazers, hitting five from beyond the arc in the first quarter, which already beat his career high of four, He was especially good from his favorite spot at the top of the key and his nine 3-pointers tied a single-game franchise record.
By the end of the night, the crowd was screaming for him to shoot every time he touched the ball beyond the arc.
“Exactly how I drew it up this morning,” Williams said laughing. “Aron, go for 37. Nine threes. He got the guys going when he started dropping a few of them. Then we started running a few plays for him.”
CJ McCollum led Portland with 25 points, and Damian Lillard had 24. Hassan Whiteside added 23 points and 20 rebounds. The Blazers are among the teams fighting with the Suns for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. They’re 3 1/2 games behind eighth-place Memphis. The Suns are six games back.
Whiteside said the Blazers simply didn’t have an answer for Baynes.
“He had a career night, bro. It happens,” Whiteside said. “He took 23 shots. He got hot. Once he hit a step back over (Lillard), I knew he was feeling good.”
Said Blazers coach Terry Stotts: “You expect him to make some threes but you don’t expect him to make that many.”
The Suns led 56-33 midway through the second quarter but Portland responded with a big run to close the gap to 67-58 by halftime. Baynes had 22 points by the break, making six 3-pointers. McCollum had 16 points for the Blazers.
Three Things to Know: Luka Doncic passes Jason Kidd to make Dallas history. At age 21.
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.
In the 78 games since then, he has racked up 21 more. The latest came on Wednesday night when he scored 30 points, had 17 rebounds and 10 assists in a Dallas win against New Orleans.
That one moved Doncic past Jason Kidd for the most triple-doubles all-time in Mavericks’ history. Doncic just turned 21 six days ago. Jason Kidd is… well, Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. But also older. And it took him close to 500 games to get there.
Do you want even more record-setting history from the 21-year-old? Here you go:
Doncic — who is going to get some down-ballot MVP votes — picked up his 10th assist Wednesday with a sweet pocket pass to Kristaps Porzingis at a crucial point in overtime, this helped seal the Mavericks overtime win.
Luka gets his triple-double and KP throws it down HARD! 😤
Porzingis had 34 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots in the Dallas victory. It continues his run of impressive plays as he has gotten his legs underneath him. It understandably took KP a while to bounce back from ACL surgery and 19 months away from the game — Mark Cuban suggested it would take a full season — but in February he averaged 25.2 points per game and shot 39.8 percent from three. He’s all the way back, and that Doncic/Porzingis pick-and-roll is going to be a problem for whoever gets them in the playoffs.
This loss, combined with Memphis blowing out Brooklyn, leaves New Orleans five games out of the final playoff spot in the West with 20 games to play. I don’t care how much easier the Pelicans’ schedule is the rest of the way (and it is much softer), that is likely too much ground to make up. We are not going to get our Zion vs. LeBron first-round matchup (not that Ja Morant vs. LeBron is a bad fallback).
3) Speaking of returns, Damian Lillard is back, scores 22 in Blazers win. Damian Lillard strained his groin in the final minutes of the final game before the All-Star break, which means he had to sit out the actually-interesting All-Star Game plus six games after action resumed.
He was back on Wednesday night and scored 22 as Portland knocked off Washington in a game where Carmelo Anthony led the way with 25 points.
Portland needed the win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Blazers are just 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies (four games in the loss column) for the final playoff spot in the West with 20 games to play. Portland has a much easier schedule, but they need to keep racking up the wins and get a little help from Memphis to have a shot.
Stephen Curry will be getting some run on a court Sunday, just not the court he wanted.
Curry had been pushing to play for the Warriors starting Sunday against the Wizards. Golden State coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that’s not happening, but Curry was going to get sent down to the Santa Cruz Warriors — Golden State’s G-League team — to scrimmage with them. Via Logan Murdoch of NBC Sports Bay Area.
“He’s at the equivalent of the end of training camp, getting ready for first exhibition game, second exhibition game-type thing,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said following Saturday’s shootaround. “The problem is everybody else is in mid-season condition.”
Curry has been targeting March 1 for a return, the Warriors have always been vaguer and said he would return in March. Curry scrimmaged with the Warriors on Friday, and Kerr said it was after that the team’s training staff and management decided to be cautious and push back his return.
“He was not thrilled,” Kerr admitted. “But Steph is always very rational, easy to speak with so he put up a little bit of a fight but also understood why we wanted to take extra precaution so he’s okay with it.”
While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has emphatically shot that idea down. Curry will return soon. Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.