Glenn Robinson III

Mock NBA expansion draft
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Mock NBA expansion draft: Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers, Raptors

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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. Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Atlantic:

Boston Celtics

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 7

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: Boston’s decisions are fairly cut and dry. Jayson Tatum, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams and Robert Williams are all on their rookie-scale contracts. Jaylen Brown will be starting a four-year contract extension. Kemba Walker was just signed to a max contract. Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are good values and key rotation players.

The toughest decision was on Gordon Hayward. Carrying a salary over $34 million, the Celtics are betting he’ll go undrafted and will return to the team. Everyone else was a fairly easy decision to leave unprotected.

Brooklyn Nets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Nets are keeping their big four in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. Jarrett Allen is still on his rookie-scale contract, so that’s an easy decision. With over $101 million on the books for just Durant, Irving, Dinwiddie and LeVert, Nicolas Claxton and Rodions Kurucs help bring some low-cost upside to the back-end of the roster.

DeAndre Jordan will likely go unselected, given his age and $30 million-plus owed through 2022-23. If Jordan is selected, Brooklyn can bank some potential luxury tax savings down the line. Taurean Prince was on the fence, but given his disappointing play this season, and lack of fit in a lineup featuring Durant, the Nets will take their chances he’ll be selected.

New York Knicks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 6

Ineligible – 1

  • Maurice Harkless

Analysis: The Knicks are clearing the decks for a run at free agency this summer. The expansion draft could only help along that way. New York is protecting their young players with upside, as well as Julius Randle, last year’s big free agent addition. The Knicks are also protecting Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier. Not out of fear of losing them, but in hopes that either of the expansion teams will select a bigger salary and take it off the New York cap sheet.

Dennis Smith Jr. was the only questionable player to leave unprotected, but $5.7 million is simply too much for a player out of the rotation. The other five players aren’t part of the future in New York, so that decision was easy.

Philadelphia 76ers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: Philadelphia’s decisions make themselves. The highly paid players are key rotation players. Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton are steals on minimum contracts. Matisse Thybulle is only entering year two of his rookie scale deal. Zhaire Smith was on the bubble, but he’s young enough, and under team control, that he’s worth protecting.

Al Horford is very unprotected. His signing simply hasn’t worked out for the Sixers. He’s a player Philadelphia is open to talking about a trade with either of the expansion teams. With an extra first-round pick, the 76ers hope to dangle it to entice a team to select Horford.

Toronto Raptors

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Raptors don’t have to expose any of their core rotation players in the expansion draft. Up front, Pascal Siakam just inked his contract extension, and OG Anunoby is still on his rookie scale deal. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are all free agents. In the backcourt, Toronto can protect Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell, along with undrafted find Terence Davis. And Fred VanVleet is a free agent.

The leaves just a handful of players who don’t have a role for the Raptors. Toronto could even entertain offering a second-round pick to entice either expansion team to select Stanley Johnson and take his $3.8 million off the cap/tax.

Anthony Davis scores 37, leads Lakers past stumbling Sixers 120-107

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LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis scored 18 of his 37 points during a phenomenal second-quarter surge, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the injury-depleted Philadelphia 76ers 120-107 on Tuesday night.

LeBron James had 22 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers, who moved to 47-13 with their ninth win in 10 games. Davis hit four 3-pointers while going 13 of 19 from the field and grabbing 13 rebounds.

The Lakers needed every bit of their All-Stars’ brilliance to hold off a solid effort by the undermanned Sixers, who played without injured starters Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson.

Glenn Robinson III matched his career high with 25 points and Tobias Harris had 18 for the Sixers, who have lost nine consecutive road games since Jan. 20.

Philadelphia lost twice at Staples Center to start its four-game California road trip despite this persistent effort against the powerhouse Lakers.

Philly’s role players and backups got off to an impressive start, taking an early 13-point lead. That’s when Davis took control as part of a 42-10 run by the Lakers in 10 minutes spanning halftime.

With Davis hitting three 3-pointers, making all seven of his second-quarter shots, and even throwing a crossover dribble at Al Horford along the way, the Lakers made 17 of their 19 shots during the impressive streak.

Dwight Howard had 11 points without missing a shot at the line or in the field for the Lakers.

The teams split their season series. The 76ers beat the Lakers 108-91 on Jan. 25 while James passed Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list. Bryant died in a helicopter crash the next morning, several hours after congratulating James on the accomplishment.

Glenn Robinson III: 76ers never explained role to me

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Glenn Robinson III said he was open to taking a discount to re-sign with the Warriors this summer.

Then, they traded him and Alec Burks to the 76ers.

Robinson, via Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders:

“Even when (Golden State) played Philly, I showed them what I could do,” Robinson told Basketball Insiders. “So to play those consistent minutes a night and perform well… that’s the most disappointing part about coming here is that — both of us (are) coming off career years where we’re looking at hopefully big numbers after the season. I know I’ve got a family to feed. So you think about all those things.

“All those things play a role, and then when you come here and your role’s not really explained or you don’t know what’s going on with the trade — it’s not like it was a trade where you come in and immediately have an impact. It’s a little different, so… this team is full of wings, full of guys who can play. So really, I don’t really understand it. But it’s a business, you’ve got to make it happen and go out and try to do your best every night.”

76ers coach Brett Brown, via NBC Sports Philadelphia:

And that is not true. With all of our players, you sit down and you go through this clearly. After All-Star break, every single one of them got a roadmap — this is your role, this is what we expect.”

“I get when you have a career year on a poor team and it’s a contract year, I understand it. I coached those years myself,” Brown said. “And so in the middle of all of it, he’s good people. He’s a good person and he’s trying to figure out what his next step is while coexisting in a team framework.

These types of issues come up all the time. A player going public often signals a more intense dispute, and that might be the case here. But it also sounds like Robinson might have just answered honestly when asked.

The 76ers have been particularly unsettled since acquiring Robinson. They benched Al Horford. Then, Ben Simmons got hurt. Then, Joel Embiid got hurt. Robinson feeling stable just isn’t a priority. Backups have to deal with the chaos.

Philadelphia uses several players at forward besides Robinson – Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Mike Scott and Burks. The 76ers’ rotation famously mixes and matches several combinations. That makes the adjustment even rougher.

But I wonder how much this about an undefined role vs. a smaller role. After averaging 13 points and 32 minutes per game with the Warriors, Robinson is down to six points and 15 minutes per game with the 76ers.

Robinson also hasn’t played well with Philadelphia, missing all nine of his 3-pointers and not defending as well as hoped. I bet that contributes to his frustration.

The 76ers won’t use Robinson like the Golden State did. Philadelphia has too many talented players to give Robinson that large of a role. He must comes to terms with that.

But the 76ers can also do more to make him feel comfortable. Whether or not Robinson is being reasonable, managing ego is part of a coach’s job.

Report: Joel Embiid out at least one week with shoulder sprain

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NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters reports that Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid will be out at least one week due to a sprained left shoulder.

Embiid underwent further evaluations Thursday after being injured the previous night in a game at the Cleveland Cavaliers. Those evaluations showed no structural damage. Embiid will be re-evaluated in one week.

That timeline makes it likely that Embiid will miss the entirety of the Sixers upcoming west coast trip, including games against both Los Angeles teams. Embiid’s absence, combined with that of Ben Simmons, will make it hard for Philadelphia to improve upon their woeful 9-21 road record.

With Simmons out due to an impingement in his back, and Embiid joining him on the sidelines, the 76ers have returned Al Horford to the starting lineup. Horford started with regulars Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson, and fill-ins Glenn Robinson III and Shake Milton in Philadelphia’s home victory over New York on Thursday. That group is likely to continue to open games for Brett Brown until he gets his All-Star duo back in the lineup.

Joel Embiid leaves 76ers game with shoulder injury (video)

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Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons?

The debate has gained attention this season after the 76ers spent years retooling around their stars. The answer clearly isn’t neither. But that’s what Philadelphia now faces.

With Simmons already injured, Embiid got hurt in the 76ers’ game against the Cavaliers tonight.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Losing Embiid for an extended period would be a huge blow to Philadelphia, especially with Simmons already out. The 76ers (fifth place, half a game out of fourth) are right on the edge of getting home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Embiid had been playing so well lately. This is an especially tough time for a setback.

At least Philadelphia has depth to cope. Al Horford can easily slide from power forward to center. Tobias Harris might be better off at power forward than small forward, anyway. This is where Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, acquired just before the trade deadline, come in handy as additional wing options. Kyle O'Quinn can also play behind Horford.

But the loss of talent is the biggest development, and there’s no overcoming that until Embiid and Simmons get healthy.