Jarred Vanderbilt

Mock NBA expansion draft
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Mock NBA expansion draft: Nuggets, Timberwolves, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Jazz

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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, and Pacific Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Northwest:

Denver Nuggets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: Denver had maybe the easiest protections decisions in the NBA. Two rotation players (Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee) are ineligible, so the Nuggets simply protect their other rotation players.

Keita Bates-Diop is the exact type of player an expansion team should snag. He’s shown some upside in limited minutes. Vlatko Cancar has the benefit of an additional year on his contract, and will be only 23 years old at the start of next season.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: The Wolves are keeping guys who might be a part of the future. Most were no-brainers. The decision point was Omari Spellman v.s Juancho Hernangomez. Keeping Hernangomez doesn’t mean Minnesota will definitely re-sign him, but he has more upside than Spellman.

After Spellman, the rest are take it or leave it. Also, the Timberwolves aren’t paying either expansion team to take James Johnson off their hands.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: If this was done before the season, there could have been an argument for the Thunder to expose both Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder. Both have played far too well to chance that now. Steven Adams is overpaid, but not by enough to leave him unprotected. The rest of the players, led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, are young players with upside.

Abdel Nader has been a part of the rotation at times for OKC, but he’s not getting protected over a younger player. Deonte Burton and Mike Muscala were easy decisions due to their minimal roles for the Thunder.

Portland Trail Blazers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: Portland is keeping its key veterans and younger players. The decision point was Wenyen Gabriel vs. the three unprotected veterans. In the end, the Trail Blazers chose to protect Gabriel, who they’ll likely renounce in free agency.

As for the three veterans, they all had strong cases against protecting them. Trevor Ariza is overpaid at this point his career. Rodney Hood is coming off a torn Achilles’. And Mario Hezonja just isn’t worth protecting, even despite his minimum salary.

Utah Jazz

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Utah’s first seven players were easy decisions. They are all rotation players. The decision point was keeping a non-guaranteed player (ultimately chose 2019 second-round pick Miye Oni) over either Mike Conley or Ed Davis.

The Jazz are leaving Conley and Davis unprotected because neither acquisition has worked out as hoped for. If Utah can clear Conley’s salary, that would be helpful for a team that is starting to get very expensive. Davis makes less than Conley, but the fit just doesn’t work. And of the minimum players, none have found a rotation role.

Report: Timberwolves still over luxury-tax line after Allen Crabbe buyout

Former Timberwolves wing Allen Crabbe
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
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Update: Allen Crabbe didn’t surrender quite as much money as initially reported. Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights:

 

 

Four NBA teams are over the luxury-tax line.

The Trail Blazers, Heat and Thunder aren’t huge surprises. They’ve each paid the tax multiple times in the last decade and are still at least in the playoff hunt.

The Timberwolves are an outlier. They haven’t paid the tax since 2007, and they’re plunging toward one of the NBA’s very worst records.

It’s not too late for Minnesota to dodge the tax, though. The luxury tax is assessed the final day of the regular season. So, the Timberwolves – who were $1,136,270 over the luxury-tax line – can still trim salary through waivers and buyouts.

That started with buying out Allen Crabbe.

Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News:

James Johnson has a $242,000 incentive for body-fat percentage and weight. Presumably, stemming from his time with the Heat, he won’t earn that.

Subtract Johnson’s bonus and Crabbe’s salary reduction, and Minnesota would be just $144,270 over the tax line. So close. Yet, so far.

An Evan Turner buyout went nowhere. One is technically still possible, but he wouldn’t be eligible for the playoffs elsewhere. So, that seems unlikely.

The Timberwolves could waive someone like Jacob Evans, Omari Spellman, Jarred Vanderbilt, Jaylen Nowell or Naz Reid. If that player gets claimed, Minnesota would dodge the tax. The Heat (Rodney McGruder) and Bulls (Erik Murphy) have made similar moves in recent years.

At minimum, buying out Crabbe will save the Timberwolves some money – even if they don’t escape the tax entirely. Really, the biggest surprise is that he relinquished so much. A rest-of-season minimum contract would pay Crabbe $515,744. But he was floundering in Minnesota and clearly ready to leave.

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.

Winners and losers from massive four-team, 12-player, Clint Capela trade

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NBA Fans wanted fireworks this trade deadline, well here you go:

The largest NBA trade in two decades.

The Rockets, Timberwolves, Hawks, and Nuggets have agreed to a four-team, 12-player trade — the largest NBA trade since the one that sent Patrick Ewing to Seattle in 2000. That was a pre-Twitter trade, one where everyone had to pull out their Nokia 5190 to call their friend to talk about Ewing getting moved (it was next to impossible to text on those things).

Here’s how the 2020 four-team trade ultimately breaks out:

• Houston gets: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell
• Atlanta gets: Clint Capela, Nene
• Denver gets: Gerald Green, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Keita Bates-Diop, Houston’s 2020 first-round pick
• Minnesota gets: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangómez, Jarred Vanderbilt, Evan Turner, the Nets’ 2020 first-round pick

Who won and who lost? A lot more winners than losers — and a few things still up in the air — out of this trade, but let’s break it all down.

Winner: Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has been searching for a center since last summer — but not just any center. What they needed was a quality pick-and-roll center to pair with Trae Young.

They land one in Capela. For years the James Harden/Capela pick-and-roll was one of the most-run plays in the NBA because it worked, scoring above a point per possession (well above the league average, this was one of the more effective P&R combos in the league). Houston ultimately went away from it because Harden in isolation turns out to be even more efficient, but Capela is still a strong pick-setting roll man, plus he’s a quality shot-blocker in the paint on the other end. The bottom line, this is a much better fit for Atlanta than bringing in Andre Drummond.

Plus, the Hawks got their man without having to give up John Collins or this their first-round pick this year.

Winner: Robert Covington

Covington just went from being stuck in the NBA’s coldest city on a team that has lost 12 in a row to being in warm-weather Houston playing a key role on a playoff team. That’s a win.

Covington puts up nice raw numbers — 12.8 points and six rebounds a game this season, shooting 34.6 percent from three — but the advanced value stats (such as the different types of adjusted plus/minus numbers) love Covington. When he’s on the floor, teams simply perform better. On both ends of the court. Use whatever coach’s cliche you want — “he does the little things that don’t show up in the box score” or “he just plays winning basketball” — but the Rockets will be better when Covington plays, and that is the definition of an upgrade.

Winner: Fans of small ball… that means you, Mike D’Antoni

Mike D’Antoni may be on his way out in Houston, but if so he’s walking out that door on his own terms — the Rockets have gone all-in on small ball. P.J. Tucker as a 6’5″ center is no longer a gimmick, Houston is going to run with this (and the team is 3-0 in the past couple of weeks with Tucker starting at the five).

On offense, the Rockets have Harden — and sometimes Westbrook — working in isolation and surrounded by shooters. They will remain elite on that end. Defensively, the Rockets will switch everything and be physical, and Long Beach Poly’s own Jordan Bell fits in with that. (Side note to Rockets fans, please don’t bring up the Golden State “death lineup” as a defensive comparison — those teams had peak DPOY Draymond Green at the five making it work, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson are quality perimeter defenders, and the last three years they had a strong shot blocker in Kevin Durant on the floor.)

It is going to be entertaining and a fascinating experiment, although Rockets fans may want to run to a local church and light a candle for Tucker’s knees at 35 minutes a night.

Mike D’Antoni gets to be the full Mike D’Antoni. As it should be.

Here’s why I don’t have Houston as a flat-out winner: Small ball is not going to be a successful playoff strategy in the West. I’m not convinced the Rockets get out of the first round with this roster. Maybe they weren’t going to anyway in the Harden/Westbrook era, but the West is loaded with good size — the Lakers are just huge, Denver has Nikola Jokic, Utah has Rudy Gobert, the Clippers can be big and athletic across the front — I’m not sold on Tucker as center working in the postseason. It’s fun in the regular season, I get that Caplela is not as useful as a pick-and-roll partner for the Rockets in a world of Harden isolations, but I don’t think this trade made the Rockets a better playoff team. It just committed them to a style.

Loser: John Collins as a center.

This season, John Collins has split his time evenly between the four and the five, and he’s been a little better as a center offensively. Collins has a 102.9 offensive rating as a center and a 101.6 rating as a power forward this season (stats via Cleaning the Glass). He can hit the three, but 61 percent of his shots come within 10 feet of the basket, and as a center he averaged 23.3 points and 14.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Both Capela and Collins are at their best when they set a pick then dive to the rim, but there’s only one spot for that on the roster and Caplela has the job now. Collins must become more of a floor spacer — he’s shooting 35.6 percent from three this season — but that’s not his natural game. With Capela in house, one wonders if the Hawks might look to trade Collins rather than pay him what he’s worth in an extension to his rookie deal (he’s eligible for an extension this summer).

Winner: Rockets’ owner Tillman Fertitta’s pocketbook

This trade means that for the second straight year the Rockets will slip just under the luxury tax line. Of course, Fertitta says he’s willing to pay the tax for a winning team — literally every owner says that — but actions speak louder than words and two straight seasons just under the tax line is not a coincidence.

Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves bench

In general, this trade feels like the first move of many for Gersson Rosas – the man with the hammer in Minnesota — as he works to build a team around Karl-Anthony Towns. If I were grading this trade for the Timberwolves, I would give it an “incomplete” because this feels more like the first step than anything else.

However, picking up Beasley and Hernangomez gives the Timberwolves two solid rotation players that they can re-sign (or not) this summer, giving the team solid bench depth. That’s not a big, sexy move, but it’s the kind of thing smart teams do in rounding our a roster.

Loser: A Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell pairing… for now

The Timberwolves wanted desperately to pair good friends Towns and D’Angelo Russell last summer, and part of the construction of this trade (especially in earlier iterations) was the team lining up picks and assets to send to Golden State to entice the Warriors into this trade.

It was never going to happen at the deadline. Sources have been clear to NBC Sports from the start, Russell was going to spend the entire season as a Warrior (unless a Godfather offer blew the Warriors away). Part of that is what the Warriors have said publicly: They really do want to see what Russell and Stephen Curry look like together on the court (something not happening until Curry’s likely return next month). As the USA Today’s Mark Medina notes in our latest PBT Podcast, if the pairing does work it only ups Russell’s trade value.

The other part of this is the Warriors are up against the hard cap because Russell came in a sign-and-trade. That limits the moves the Warriors can make now. From Golden State’s perspective, if it waits until this summer — when a slow free-agent market has some teams more desperate for answers — then it can find a better, more creative Russell trade that works for them. Or, they can keep him. But there was no pressure to make a move yet.

Expect the Russell to Minneota talk to heat up again next summer.

Winners: NBA Fans

You wanted fireworks, you wanted a big trade — it’s not going to get bigger than a 12-player deal. Enjoy it.

Report: Rockets, Timberwolves, Hawks, Nuggets make four-team trade

Rockets center Clint Capela (traded to Hawks) and Timberwolves forward Robert Covington (traded to Rockets)
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The Warriors pulled out of trade talks with the Rockets, Timberwolves and Hawks. So, Houston, Minnesota and Atlanta are completing a four-team trade with the Nuggets instead.

The terms, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle and Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Rockets

Timberwolves

Hawks

  • Give: Evan Turner, 2020 Nets first-round pick (lottery protected)
  • Get: Clint Capela, Nene

Nuggets

  • Give: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt
  • Get: Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, Keita Bates-Diop, Gerald Green, 2020 Rockets first-round pick

How it looks, via TradeNBA:

Robert Covington should fit excellently in Houston. He’s an elite team defender who’ll provide a major upgrade at forward. His spot-up 3-point shooting will complement James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and those stars will minimize Covington having to go outside his comfort zone as a playmaker. Covington is also relatively cheap (more on that later) and locked in two more seasons after this.

Jordan Bell should also fit well with the Rockets, who lost their starting center in this deal. As a finisher at the rim and mobile defender, Bell can replicate some of what Clint Capela provided. However, at 6-foot-8, Bell is small for the position.

Houston can also use P.J. Tucker, Isaiah Hartenstein and Tyson Chandler at center. Expect the Rockets to target someone capable of matching up with traditionally sized centers. Houston could make another trade or comb the buyout market.

Despite their earlier proclamations, the Rockets got under the luxury-tax line with this trade. The tax won’t be assessed until the final day of the regular season, so don’t write anything in pen just yet. But ducking the tax definitely appears to be a key aspect of this trade.

Nene (contract rendered a burden by NBA) and Gerald Green (season-ending injury) hold negative value. Unloading their salaries was part of the Rockets’ motivation to make this deal. As someone on a one-year contract who would’ve had Bird Rights afterward, Green could have blocked the trade. But the Houston native seems to be on good terms with the Rockets. I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs with them next summer.

So, yes, Houston upgrades on the floor with Covington and Bell. But Capela and a first-round pick surely would’ve yielded even better return if those assets weren’t partially used to dump Nene and Green.

In Capela, the Hawks get a good center who’s relatively young (25) and cost-controlled (due $51,310,344 over the next three seasons). The price – Brooklyn’s lottery-protected first-round pick and eating Nene’s contract – was relatively low. (Evan Turner’s expiring contract was a neutral-value conduit).

But I’m not sure why Atlanta made the trade now. The Hawks’ season is a lost cause. They had the cap space to pursue centers in free agency or trade next summer. They might also be positioned to draft James Wiseman, who already turned pro out of Memphis. They could have waited until the offseason, when they’ll have a clear picture of center possibilities.

Maybe Atlanta just likes Capela that much. Maybe another quality player will ease Trae Young‘s frustration.

This also raises questions about John Collins‘ future with the Hawks. Maybe they’ll keep him at power forward, but his rim running overlaps with Capela’s skill set. It’s not a clean fit.

The Timberwolves get a few solid, though no great, assets. Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez are heading toward restricted free agency this summer. Minnesota will get a chance to test both then leverage their matching rights in the offseason. (For perspective, Beasley reportedly rejected a three-year, $30 million contract extension.) Beasley and Hernangomez both showed promise in Denver, but neither got quite enough opportunity on a deep Nuggets team. That should change on the Timberwolves, who are desperate for outside shooters.

Denver loses a rotation player in Beasley without necessarily adding one – at least when everyone is healthy. Noah Vonleh can play center behind Nikola Jokic with Mason Plumlee sidelined. Shabazz Napier is also capable, but the Nuggets already have Jamal Murray and underrated Monte Morris at point guard. Perhaps, Denver will use more two-point guard lineups. Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick in 2018 draft) looks more NBA-ready than Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41 pick in 2018 draft), but neither has shown much.

The Nuggets get value for two players – Beasley and Hernangomez – who might have been too expensive to re-sign this summer. At least for a team resistant to paying the luxury tax.

But Denver is good enough to prioritize winning this season, and this trade was a step back. I wouldn’t assume the Nuggets are finished. That Houston first-rounder could be ammo in another deal before Thursday’s trade deadline.