Jordan McRae

Mock NBA expansion draft
(Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Mock NBA expansion draft: Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Pacers, Bucks

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

Chicago Bulls

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 7

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: Chicago keeps their young building blocks, as well as the veterans they acquired to support them. In the end, the Bulls hope that this group can finally get healthy and make a playoff push. That means protecting all of them.

Chandler Hutchison was the toughest decision among the unprotected players. He’s still on his rookie scale contract, but he hasn’t been healthy during his first two seasons. That means the Bulls prioritize a veteran or two over him. Kris Dunn is another tough player to leave unprotected, but as a free agent, there is no guarantee he’d be back anyway.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: The Cavaliers are in a spot to really clean up their cap sheet if either Kevin Love or Larry Nance Jr. are selected. That made the protection decisions pretty easy. Keep all the young guys and the guys on decent contracts. Andre Drummond doesn’t really fit either description there, but Cleveland did just trade for him.

Detroit Pistons

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 1

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: This one has some gamesmanship involved. Because the Pistons have five free agents, they only need to leave the minimum of one player unprotected. It’s that one player that makes the eight protected players easy decisions. Sure, there are young guys in that group Detroit wants to keep. But a handful are players the Pistons wouldn’t lose sleep over seeing get drafted.

On the flip side, by leaving only Blake Griffin unprotected, Detroit opens the possibility of getting that albatross salary off their books. The Pistons don’t have any extra first-round picks, but could be open to moving one of their own to entice and expansion team to take on the remaining $77.8 million in salary over the next two seasons.

Indiana Pacers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Pacers protection decisions were fairly easy. Every player they are protecting is a key rotation player or a recent draftee.

It was a little difficult to leave Jeremy Lamb and T.J. McConnell unprotected, but Lamb is coming off a major injury. An expansion team may not want to deal with that. While McConnell has been good for Indiana, he’s a little expendable with Aaron Holiday on the roster.

Milwaukee Bucks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: The Bucks deep roster works against them a little bit here. Seven of the protected players were fairly easy decisions. The only one that was tricky was Wesley Matthews. He’s a veteran with a player option, but Milwaukee isn’t taking chances with one of their starters.

On the unprotected front, it came down to Matthews vs D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown. Ultimately, neither young player has cracked the rotation on a regular basis. That makes it a little more palatable to leave them exposed in the expansion draft.

Report: Pistons to claim Jordan McRae off waivers

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Jordan McRae was not in the plans in Denver. Acquired at the trade deadline from Washington in the Shabazz Napier trade, McRae played 32 minutes over four games before the Nuggets decided to move on and waived him.

The Pistons have stepped in and are claiming McRae off waivers, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The logic for the Pistons is pretty clear: Backup point guard Derrick Rose is out at least two weeks — and maybe longer, like the entire rest of the season longer — with an ankle sprain, and Derrick Walton’s 10-day contract expired, meaning the Pistons had a roster spot and a need at the point.

Enter McRae. He played respectable offensive ball for the Wizards earlier this season, averaging 12.8 points a game in the 29 he got in, and he shot 37.7 percent from three.

Claiming him off waivers means the Pistons now have McRae’s Early Bird rights as a free agent this summer. If the Pistons want to keep him this summer, he will be an affordable option.

Pistons: Derrick Rose out at least two weeks with ankle injury

Pistons guard Derrick Rose and Jordan McRae
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If they didn’t make him outright unavailable, the Pistons at least set an extremely high asking price for Derrick Rose before the trade deadline.

And, hey, Rose was having his best season in years. He’s entertaining and carries name recognition. He was the Pistons’ biggest draw.

But there was always risk in relying on a 31-year-old with extensive injury history to maintain his production. Detroit’s season is a lost cause, but this ought to raise concern even for next season.

Pistons release:

An MRI performed Monday on the ankle of Pistons guard Derrick Rose confirmed a grade two right ankle sprain.  Rose will begin treatment and be re-evaluated in two weeks.  He’s expected to make a full recovery.

This late into the year and with Detroit tanking, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rose misses the rest of the season.

The Pistons’ top five in points per game are now unavailable. Rose, Blake Griffin and Luke Kennard are hurt. Andre Drummond got traded to the Cavaliers. Reggie Jackson got bought out and signed with the Clippers.

Where will Detroit get scoring?

Maybe Jordan McRae, whom the Nuggets waived yesterday and seemed bound for the Suns.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Detroit has turned its attention to guard Jordan McRae, who was recently waived by the Denver Nuggets, sources said.

The Phoenix Suns intend to put in a waiver claim for McRae, sources said

Because the they have a worse record than Phoenix, the Pistons would get priority if both teams submit waiver claims.

McRae appeared to have a deal to join the Suns and agreed to a buyout with Denver if he cleared waivers. But I doubt he’d balk at going to Detroit. The Pistons can offer playing time as he approaches free agency. By claiming McRae, Detroit would get his Early Bird Rights and inside track on re-signing him this summer if the next month goes well.

Report: Wizards trading for Shabazz Napier, whom Nuggets just traded for

Shabazz Napier vs. Wizards
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The four-team trade between the Rockets, Timberwolves, Hawks and Nuggets sent Minnesota’s reserves scattering – Jordan Bell to Houston; Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh and Keita Bates-Diop to Denver.

Half of them are getting re-routed.

The Rockets are flipping Bell to the Grizzlies for Bruno Caboclo. And the Nuggets are sending Napier to the Wizards for Jordan McRae.

Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

Both Napier and McRae are on expiring minimum contracts. Both are 28 years old. But Napier is better.

Napier just had no clear role in Denver behind Jamal Murray and underrated Monte Morris at point guard. McRae can flat get buckets. He’ll provide a dimension the Nuggets could use, especially after sending Malik Beasley to the Timberwolves in the four-teamer.

Washington had an opening at point guard after trading Isaiah Thomas to the Clippers. That deal landed Jerome Robinson, a combo guard. Napier is more of a pure point guard.

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.