Gorgui Dieng

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.

NBA Trade Deadline tracker: All the player movement, new teams, impact

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The NBA trade deadline has passed and it had a little bit of everything – big names on the move, important players being sent to contenders, and other teams shedding salaries.

We’re here to help you sort everything that happened in the last few days, from the biggest trades to the smallest ones.

What trades happened?

• D’Angelo Russell traded to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins

Minnesota gets: D'Angelo Russell
Golden State gets: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota’s 2021 first-round pick (top-three protected), a 2022 second-round pick

Analysis: Minnesota has desperately wanted Russell to pair with his good friend Karl-Anthony Towns, keeping the superstar Towns happy (he has expressed frustration lately, he hasn’t been on the court for a win since November). Golden State is betting its culture can push Wiggins to live up to his potential nightly (not just once every couple of weeks), giving them what Harrison Barnes once did.

• Andre Iguodala traded to Miami

Miami gets: Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill
Memphis gets: Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, James Johnson

Analysis: At one point this was discussed as a three-team trade with Oklahoma City sending Danilo Gallinari to Miami, but that fell apart. With Iguodala and Crowder, Miami becomes more of a threat in the East. Memphis likes Winslow’s fit.

• Andre Drummond sent to Cleveland

Detroit gets: Brandon Knight, John Henson, second-round pick
Cleveland gets: Andre Drummond

Analysis: Let’s be honest: The Pistons dumped Drummond. It’s a minuscule return for an All-Star center, but that also speaks to exactly where the market is on Drummond — teams looked at his game, looked at that $28.8 million next season, and said no thanks.

• A 12-player, four-team trade that sends Clint Capela to Atlanta

Houston gets: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell
Atlanta gets: Clint Capela, Nene
Minnesota gets: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt, a first-round pick
Denver gets: Shabazz Napier, Gerald Green, Keita Bates-Diop, Noah Vonleh, a first-round pick

Analysis: This is a win for Atlanta, which gets a good pick-and-roll center to pair with Trae Young. Houston is going all-in on small ball, with P.J. Tucker now their starting center.

• Clippers beat out Lakers for Marcus Morris

Los Angeles gets: Marcus Morris, Isaiah Thomas
New York gets: Moe Harkless, 2020 first-round pick
Washington: Jerome Robinson

Analysis: Morris will bring both floor spacing and some interior toughness to the Clippers (plus a few technicals). Morris leads the Knicks scoring at 18.5 points per game. The Clippers will not keep Thomas.

• Dwayne Dedmon traded back to Atlanta

Atlanta gets: Dwayne Dedmon, a 2020 and 2021 second-round pick
Sacramento gets: Jabari Parker, Alex Len

Analysis: Dedmon returns to Atlanta to be the backup center for Clint Capela.

• Warriors trade Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks to the 76ers

Philadelphia gets: Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks
Golden State gets: Second-round picks in 2020 (Dallas), 2021 (Denver), and 2022 (Toronto)

Analysis: Philadelphia needs shooting and it just added some.

• Clippers trade Derrick Walton to Atlanta

Atlanta gets: Derrick Walton
L.A. Clippers get: A second-round pick, $1.3 million in cash

Analysis: This clears a roster spot for the Clippers to make another, more significant move.

• Denver flips Shabazz Napier to Washington for Jordan McRae

Washington gets: Shabazz Napier
Denver gets: Jordan McRae

Analysis: And interesting flip of reserve guards (both 28-years-old, both on expiring minimum contracts). Nappier has played well as he has grown out of LeBron’s shadow. I really like this deal for Denver, however, as McRae can just flat out go get buckets, and Denver could use more of that off the bench.

• Golden State trades Willie Cauley-Stein to Dallas

Dallas gets: Willie Cauley-Stein
Golden State gets: A second-round pick

Analysis: After Dwight Powell tore his Achilles Dallas needed depth at center.

• Cleveland trades Jordan Clarkson to Utah

Utah gets: Jordan Clarkson
Cleveland gets: Dante Exum, two second-round picks

Analysis: Utah needed more bench scoring and Jordan Clarkson provides that.

• Minnesota trades Jeff Teague to Atlanta

Atlanta gets: Jeff Teague, Treveon Graham
Minnesota gets: Allen Crabbe

Analysis: Atlanta needed a quality backup point guard for Trae Young, so they traded for one.

• Philadelphia trades James Ennis to Orlando

Orlando gets: James Ennis
Philadelphia gets: a second-round pick

Analysis: Long Beach State’s own James Ennis was going to be crowded out on the improved Philly bench so he waived his no-trade clause to be sent to Orlando, where he should provide desperately needed shooting.

• Rockets send Jordan Bell to Grizz

Houston gets: Bruno Caboclo, Second-round 2023 pick
Minnesota gets: Jordan Bell, Second-round 2023 pick

Analysis: Bell doesn’t fit as well in Memphis with the Grizzlies also acquiring Gorgui Dieng. But I’d generally rather have Bell than Caboclo.

• Blazers trade Skal Labissiere to Atlanta

Atlanta gets: Skal Labissiere, plus $2M
Portland gets: Luxury-tax savings

Analysis: The Hawks get a more-than-fully subsidized flier on Labissiere, who’s due $924,968 the rest of this season then will be a free agent this summer.

Kings sent Trevor Ariza to Portland for Kent Bazemore

Sacramento gets: Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, two second-round picks
Portland gets: Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan, Wenyen Gabriel

Analysis: Portland had the highest payroll in the league and was going to shell out a lot of luxury tax for a team that might not even make the playoffs. This trade cut their tax bill by more than half. Ariza also has played well for Portland.

Report: Rockets trading Jordan Bell to Grizzlies for Bruno Caboclo

Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo vs. Rockets
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The Rockets really have no interest in playing a center, huh?

Houston just traded starting center Clint Capela to the Hawks. In that four-way deal, the Rockets also got Jordan Bell, who can play center.

But Houston is re-routing Bell to the Grizzlies for Bruno Caboclo.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Both Bell and Caboclo are on expiring minimum contracts.

Houston has a fascination with Caboclo. There’s still time for the Rockets to add a center, including someone bought out. But for now, it’s the P.J. Tucker show with Thabo Sefolosha, Isaiah Hartenstein and Tyson Chandler in relief.

Bell doesn’t fit as well in Memphis with the Grizzlies also acquiring Gorgui Dieng. But I’d generally rather have Bell than Caboclo. Bell’s minimum salary is also slightly lower than Caboclo’s.

And in case you’re wonder, Houston can afford the salary difference while remaining under the luxury-tax line. What a strange coincidence.

Report: Heat getting Jae Crowder with Andre Iguodala (probably no Danilo Gallinari)

Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder vs. Heat
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Update: Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Both James Johnson and Gorgui Dieng are under contract next season. The Timberwolves save a little money as they work toward getting back under the luxury-tax line. The Grizzlies get the more-dependable player.

 

 

The Heat’s bold plan to trade for and extend both Grizzlies forward Andre Iguodala and Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari has seemingly failed.

Miami is left with an absolutely great trade.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Iguodala and Jae Crowder can help the Heat, who look even more dangerous this season. They’re both hardnosed defenders who find ways to help offensively.

Solomon Hill provides depth. But he was mainly in the trade for his large neutral-value expiring contract.

Miami also unloads the negative-value contracts of James Johnson (due $16,047,100 next season) and Dion Waiters (due $12,650,000 next season).

The Heat now project to have about $29 million of cap space this summer. They’re targeting 2021 free agency, but that $29 million could lure a helpful player or two with only one season guaranteed. What a way to build momentum toward the summer of 2021!

Justise Winslow is such a small price to pay to accomplish all that.

Winslow is a good young player. But he’s not healthy and still searching for his niche. At least he should fit well between Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke in the Grizzlies’ young core.

Merely taking Johnson’s and Waiters’ contracts would have been slightly too high of a burden for landing Winslow. Memphis also gave Iguodala. And Crowder.

This is the most overvalued Justise Winslow has been since draft night 2015.

Timberwolves trying to orchestrate four-team trade with Rockets, Hawks, Warriors

Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell and Rockets center Clint Capela
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The Rockets want Timberwolves forward Robert Covington and would trade center Clint Capela. But with Karl-Anthony Towns starring, Minnesota doesn’t need another center. The Timberwolves reportedly want Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell. The Hawks could use Capela, though.

Is there a way for all four teams to achieve their goals?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are orchestrating multi-team trade discussions with Houston and Atlanta – with hopes of ultimately turning discussions into a four-way deal that brings Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota, league sources tell ESPN.

The Timberwolves, Rockets and Hawks possess the assets to fulfill some of each team’s goals: forward Robert Covington to Houston, center Clint Capela to the Hawks and potentially two first-round picks and an expiring contract to Minnesota, league sources said.

The huge question: What would the Warriors get?

They reportedly rejected an offer for Russell that would’ve netted the Timberwolves’ 2020 first-rounder and, via the Hawks, the Nets’ lottery-protected 2020 first-rounder. But I suspect there’s more to the story.

Russell is earning $15,983,781 more than Covington. So, the Timberwolves must send out more salary in a deal for Russell. A prime candidate: Gorgui Dieng.

But due $17,287,640 next season, Dieng has negative value. If Golden State also had to take Dieng, the return looks far worse.

The Hawks could help. They’ve shown a willingness to eat bad salary for a sweetener, and Chandler Parsons‘ or Allen Crabbe‘s large expiring contracts could prove handy.

Here’s a trade framework that could appeal to all teams (via TradeNBA):

The key would be sorting out picks.

The Warriors would obviously need substantial value for Russell. Parsons is just a neutral-value conduit.

The Hawks would give up less for Capela if forced to take Dieng, too. Atlanta might even demand a sweetener in addition to Capela, whom Houston seems eager to unload.

How much would the Rockets and Timberwolves add to the pot to get this done before the NBA trade deadline on Thursday?

This would have been easier if Minnesota hadn’t already traded Jeff Teague to the Hawks for Allen Crabbe. Teague’s expiring contract would have been far easier to include in this deal than Dieng’s burdensome contract, especially because we know Atlanta wanted Teague.

As if four-team trades needed any extra sources of tension.