Dillon Brooks

Mock NBA expansion draft
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Mock NBA expansion draft: Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs

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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.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division, Central Division, Pacific Division, Northwest Division and Southeast Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Southwest:

Dallas Mavericks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: Seven of Dallas’ protections were easy calls. They’re all players locked up long-term. That left deciding between Tim Hardaway Jr, who has been a starter for the Mavericks but has a player option, and several other useful players.

Ultimately, the Mavs can’t afford to lose Hardaway, who has rediscovered his solid offensive play from his Hawks years. That leaves Justin Jackson and three big men in Dwight Powell (coming off a torn Achilles’) and Boban Marjanovic and Willie-Cauley-Stein (both backups for Dallas). The most likely to be selected player is probably Jackson, but that’s a risk Dallas has to take.

Houston Rockets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: No decision points for the Rockets. Houston is protecting the entirety of their eight-man rotation.

Chris Clemons could make for an interesting expansion pick because his scoring ability at guard. Isaiah Hartenstein has shown some flashes in the G-League as well.

Memphis Grizzlies

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Just how hard the Grizzlies’ protection decision were is a testament to how well their rebuild has gone. Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton were all locks. Justise Winslow was just acquired at the trade deadline as the centerpiece of a deal. Tyus Jones is the ideal backup point guard behind Morant, so he stays as well. That left Jonas Valanciunas vs Kyle Anderson for the final protected spot. Valanciunas’ presence allows Jackson to play power forward, so the big man gets the final spot.

Memphis is gambling that Anderson’s slow-mo style of play and $9.5 million salary isn’t what an expansion team is looking for. Jontay Porter is another risk, but he’s got a lengthy injury history of his own. The Grizzlies will hope one of the other three is selected and might be willing to offer a small incentive to make it happen.

New Orleans Pelicans

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: New Orleans’ protections are cut and dry. Every player protected, minus Brandon Ingram, is signed for at least one more season. This includes several players on rookie scale contracts. Ingram will most assuredly be re-signed this summer, so that decision was easy as well.

The only gamble among the unprotected players is Nicolo Melli. He’s become a rotation player for the Pelicans, but he’s not as valuable as the younger players. The other three players are mostly out of the New Orleans’ rotation and not anyone the team will worry about if they are selected.

San Antonio Spurs

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Spurs are banking on keeping DeMar DeRozan this summer. He either opts in or re-signs in San Antonio. LaMarcus Aldridge is an easy decision as well. Dejounte Murray will start his extension this coming season. Everyone else is on their rookie scale contract, minus Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is a restricted free agent that the Spurs hope to retain this offseason.

San Antonio is gambling that the big salaries of Rudy Gay and Patty Mills will keep them from being selected. That exposes Trey Lyles, who has a relatively small guarantee, and young big man Chimezie Metu. The Spurs would like to keep both, but not at the expense of losing a rookie scale player.

Lakers reportedly sign Dion Waiters for remainder of season

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It was easy to see why Dion Waiters got a workout with the Lakers. First, Waiters’ former agent is Rob Pelinka, now the Lakers’ GM. Second, Waiters’ current agent is Rich Paul, who reps LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That gets you in the door.

Once there, Waiters must have impressed.

At least enough to land a spot on the roster for the rest of the season, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

This is a minimum veteran contract.

It also is Waiters’ last chance in the NBA, blow this and no other team will touch him after everything in Miami this season. While this isn’t a 10-day contract (which expires), with just 20 games left in the season there would be little to no pain for the Lakers to waive him if something does not work out.

There will be a minimal role for Waiters down the stretch, the Lakers are already running a rotation 11 players deep (once Markieff Morris was added). Waiters is not going to get a lot of run, other than to get guys rest down the stretch.

In that limited role, Waiters is as good a fit as was available (after the Lakers couldn’t land a point guard on the buyout market). Waiters can create shots for himself, either in isolation or in the pick-and-roll, and while not great at creating for others he does try. Waiters is a good spot-up shooter — 37.7 percent from three last season and 38.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes — and he can hit from all over the court.

There is a legitimate concern about fit after Waiters clashed with coaches and management in Miami. However, with a strong, LeBron-led locker room culture the Lakers aren’t worried about that impact.

Waiters has bounced around this season. He started the season in Miami, but the Heat used his salary to balance out the money in the Justise Winslow to Memphis/Andre Iguodala trade. Memphis was not interested (they have Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, and Grayson Allen at the two), so the Grizzlies waived Waiters, as was expected.

Now he gets a chance — and a shot at a ring — with the Lakers.

Three Things to Know: Andre Iguodala celebrated in return to Bay Area, helps Miami win

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Andre Iguodala shown the love in return to Bay Area, helps Miami get the win. Golden State wasn’t sure if it would get the chance to celebrate Andre Iguodala this season. The Warriors traded him to Memphis in a salary dump last summer, Iguodala and the Grizzlies agreed to have him sit out until he could be traded (note to Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks, everyone was in on this, it wasn’t personal), and once he did get traded would that team still come to the new Chase Center?

At the February deadline, Iguodala was traded to Miami. Monday night the Heat visited the Warriors, and the former Finals MVP’s role in bringing titles to Golden State was celebrated. There was a tribute video.

And Iguodala spoke to the crowd.

Miami traded for Iguodala for all the reasons Golden State was celebrating him — they want his grit, determination, and leadership in the playoffs. Miami wants to make a real run at the Bucks in the East and Iguodala would be a big part of that.

He didn’t need to be a big part of Miami cruising to a win against the shorthanded Warriors, Iguodala played 16 minutes, had a bucket and grabbed five boards. Jimmy Butler had 21, as did Jae Crowder off the bench (don’t sleep on that deadline addition in Miami). The Heat picked up the win 113-101.

Iguodala, however, will forever be remembered in Warriors lore.

2) Spencer Dinwiddie drains game-winner to lift Nets over Pacers. This is a punch-to-the-gut loss for Indiana, and they helped bring it upon themselves.

Indiana was up four points inside a minute, but a Brooklyn offensive rebound set up the chance for Joe Harris to cut the lead to two with a driving layup. Then came the killer sequence: A terrible shot choice from Victor Oladipo — a pull-up three with 13 seconds left on the shot clock — then a pick-and-pop three by Harris where the Pacers’ rotation was a step slow, and the Nets were up one. All-Star Domantas Sabonis isolated on what’s left of DeAndre Jordan, drove around him, got the layup and put the Pacers back up by one with 9.9 seconds left.

Then Spencer Dinwiddie did this.

Ballgame.

The Pacers have now lost six in a row. Getting Oladipo back has not been the answer. Meanwhile, the Nets keep on winning without Kyrie Irving in the lineup.

3) Highlight of the Night: Bojan Bogdanovic wraps the ball around Kristaps Porzingis’ leg. This is fantastic, Bogdanovic brought a little European playground to the yard, and it led to a Rudy Gobert dunk.

That. Was. Awesome.

Also, the Jazz beat the Luka-less Mavericks 123-119, behind 25 from Jordan Clarkson. That trade was a great fit for Utah.

Lakers will reportedly have conversation with Dion Waiters after Grizzlies waive him

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Dion Waiters was not long for Memphis. He was used for his salary to balance out the money on the trade that brought Justise Winslow to Memphis in what most people will remember as the Andre Iguodala trade. Waiters did not have a role as a two-guard on a Grizzlies team already loaded at that position with the just extended Dillon Brooks, De'Anthony Melton, and Grayson Allen.

The Grizzlies announced Sunday they have waived Waiters, as was expected.

The Lakers will have a conversation about picking him up, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Waiters’ former agent is Rob Pelinka, who is now the Lakers’ GM. Waiters’ current agent is Rich Paul, who reps both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Those kinds of connections get him an interview.

The Lakers are looking to add playmaking and shooting through the buyout market, if they can find it. Waiters can shoot the rock — 37.7 percent from three last season and 38.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes — but is not much of a playmaker. The Lakers are already getting minutes from Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the two-guard spot. Waiters has played a fair amount at the point in Miami, but he’s not the kind of playmaker the Lakers are seeking.

We’ll see if anything comes of this, but expect the Lakers to be linked to every player bought out in the coming weeks. They also are expected to have a workout with J.R. Smith this week.

The Lakers will be looking for an upgrade after standing pat at the trade deadline then having Darren Collison decide to stay retired.

Memphis reportedly will not keep Dion Waiters, buyout/waive coming

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Memphis took on a lot of salary to get Justise Winslow out of Miami in what will be remembered as the Andre Iguodala trade.

The Grizzlies are not keeping all that money on the books, plus they already have a crowd at the two guard with the just extended Dillon Brooks, De'Anthony Melton, and Grayson Allen.

All that means they intend to let Dion Waiters go, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That will leave $12.7 million (maybe minus a little less) as dead salary on the books next season, but the Grizzlies seem ready to live with that.

Once he clears waivers, Waiters will be a free agent who can sign anywhere.

Waiters can still get buckets and shoot the three, but his rough season in Miami is not going to help his cause — the Heat suspended Waiters three times this season. The first time was for the first game of the season due to “conduct detrimental to the team” (Waiters responded to that by taking a shot at Erik Spoelstra on Instagram). The second time again was for “conduct detrimental to the team” and not too coincidentally came right after first responders had to be called to the Celtics’ team plane because Waiters took too many “edible” gummy bears and had a panic attack. The third suspension was for “failure to adhere to team policies, violation of team rules and continued insubordination.”

Waiters accepted responsibility for his “immature decisions.”

Waiters has played in just three Heat games this season, averaging 9.3 points a game in those contests.