After a rocky freshman season at Kansas, Alexander was effectively forced in the 2015 NBA draft by the threat of NCAA punishment. He went undrafted, signed with the Trail Blazers and played just eight games. The next season, he signed a 10-day contract with the Nets but never played for them.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
Three Things to Know: Some players switching numbers away from 8, 24 to honor Kobe
Now some players who have been wearing No. 8 or No. 24 are switching numbers for the same reason, a sort of unofficial number retirement. The first was Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who wore No. 8 but asked the league (and got rare in-season permission) to change to No. 26.
The next name we heard was Orlando’s Terrence Ross, who wore No. 8 but is switching to No. 31. New Orleans center Jahlil Okafor and Philadelphia guard Zhaire Smith are making changes.
Is that the best way to honor Kobe’s legacy?
Or, would it be to continue to wear his number but play with the passion, dedication, and pride that made Kobe special?
There is not a one size fits all answer to that question. Kemba Walker, who wears No. 8 for the Celtics, is grappling with that. (Walker wore No. 15 in Charlotte, but in Boston that number is retired in honor of Tommy Heinsohn.)
Would Kemba change No. 8 for Kobe?
“I’m considering it but I’m not sure yet. I definitely have tons of respect for Kobe. But everybody mourns a little bit different. For me, I’m thinking I would love to honor him by wearing that number.“pic.twitter.com/zrShVuFhzH
2) 76ers Joel Embiid returns after a nine-game absence, wears No. 24 to honor Kobe, scores 24 points, leads Sixers to win. Joel Embiid was one of many NBA players hit hard by Kobe’s sudden and tragic death.
Man I don’t even know where to start😭😭 I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!!
Embiid returned to action Tuesday after a nine-game absence and donned No. 24 for the night (getting permission from Bobby Jones, the number was retired in his honor), then went out and scored 24 points to spark the 76ers win against Golden State — yelling “Kobe” as he hit his final shot.
Philadelphia needed Embiid back in the lineup.
The Sixers did go 6-3 while Embiid was out — and Ben Simmons stepped up, he averaged 24 points a game on better than 70 percent shooting in the final five without Embiid. However, Philly’s offensive rating in the nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA in that stretch. Even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league. Ben Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not, and on the road the team really struggled.
If the Sixers are going to make any run the second half of this season and into the playoffs — if they are going to prove the best of a crowded second tier in the East — they will need a lot more from Embiid.
3) Khris Middleton makes his All-Star case, drops 51 on Wizards with Greek Freak out.Giannis Antetokounmpo has a sore shoulder and the Milwaukee Bucks — with their comfortable eight-game cushion on top of the East — gave him Tuesday night off to get healthy.
Khris Middleton said, “I got this,” stepped up and dropped a career-high 51 on the hapless Wizards’ defense (worst in the league).
Middleton was an All-Star last year and wants to get back to the game this season, but he is in the mix with players such as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo from Miami, Jayson Tatum from Boston, Domantas Sabonis of Indiana, and a lot of quality guards in the East who are deserving. There will be “snubs” when the All-Star reserves are announced Thursday night on TNT.
The NBA typically makes players wait for a new season to start to allow players to change a jersey number but Dinwiddie has been granted permission to make the switch to No. 26, according to a source familiar with the decision
Anyone who wants to honor Bryant giving up No. 8 or No. 24 should. Who’s anyone to tell them that’s the wrong way to grieve and pay tribute?
But other players will want to wear No. 8 or No. 24 to honor Bryant. That’s just as respectful. I hope they aren’t peer-pressured out of doing so.
Some players who want to wear No. 8 or No. 24 in memory of Bryant might even be among those giving up the number now.
In 2009, LeBron James – who was wearing No. 23 with the Cavaliers – said the NBA should retire No. 23 for Michael Jordan. He pledged to kickstart the movement the next season by changing his own number. He signed with the Heat – who already retired No. 23 for Jordan despite him never playing for them – and wore No. 6.
LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2010. His number during his second Cavs stint? No. 23. His number with the Lakers now? No. 23.
People change their minds on these things – especially when the cloudiness of grief subsides. Individual players should choose their number as they see fit.
So, I hope this doesn’t turn into a formal league-wide retirement of Bryant’s numbers. It seems more fitting – outside the most extreme cases, like Jackie Robinson in baseball – for that to remain a team honor.
LeBron James (Western Conference frontcourt), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Eastern Conference frontcourt) and Luka Doncic (Western Conference guards) each led their categories in all three voting segments – fans, players and media. LeBron claims the overall crown with the most fan votes.
On the flip side, Green got no player votes, no media votes and just 219 fan votes. Presumably, the Jazz waiving Green last month halted his votes, but that put him last on the complete All-Star starter voting list.
The big winners were the actual All-Star starters:
But now you can see how everyone stacked up with the NBA’s formula – which sums double a player’s rank in fan voting, his rank in player voting and his rank in media voting then divides by four for a “score.” Fan vote serves as tiebreaker.
Here’s every player’s rank in each category (total votes), sorted by score: