Shabazz Napier

Mock NBA expansion draft
(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Mock NBA expansion draft: Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, Wizards

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

Atlanta Hawks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: The Hawks protections are very straightforward. Every player they are protecting is either a rotation player, under team control for a while or both. No hard decisions here.

That means that Atlanta is leaving their restricted free agents and Brandon Goodwin unprotected. No major concerns over losing any of the four.

Charlotte Hornets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Charlotte’s decisions were fairly easy. Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington are all core pieces. Despite his suspension, Malik Monk still has upside. And the three young forwards (Cody Martin, Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels) are locked in on low salaries for a while.

Keeping the three minimum salary forwards meant leaving Dwayne Bacon unprotected. Bacon had been out of the rotation and sent to the G-League, so he’s out of the plans for now. As for Nic Batum or Cody Zeller, the Hornets would welcome getting either big salary off the books.

Miami Heat

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 1

Ineligible – 6

Analysis: Miami was really helped by having six players ineligible because they are unrestricted free agents this summer. That left just this decision point: Andre Iguodala vs KZ Okpala vs Kelly Olynyk.

Okpala is a minimum salary player, so that means he stays. Iguodala was just added and given an extension. He stays. That means Olynyk and his $13 million salary are left exposed.

Orlando Magic

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Orlando had seven fairly easy protections. Their five starters, sixth man, and their promising young big man in Mo Bamba.

That left Khem Birch vs Al-Farouq Aminu vs Wesley Iwundu. Aminu was left unprotected due to salary and coming off a knee injury. It’s unlikely he’ll be selected and the Magic will be happy to have him back. That means it came down to Birch vs Iwundu. It’s more likely Birch will be selected, given his low salary and skill as a big man, so Iwundu was left unprotected.

Washington Wizards

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

  • John Wall – $41,254,920
  • Isaac Bonga – $1,663,861 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Anzejs Pasecnicks – $1,517,981 ($250,000 Guaranteed)

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Wizards are taking a gamble. Most of the protections were pretty easy. Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant are key players. Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown, Mo Wagner and Jerome Robinson are all on their rookie scale deals.

Then things get interesting. Leaving John Wall unprotected may seem crazy, given he’s a former All-Star. But Wall is coming off two lost seasons due to injury and will be 30 years old at the start of next season. He’s also owed $133 million over the next three seasons. Ish Smith and Admiral Schofield stay and the Wizards throw caution to the wind. It’s unlikely Wall will be selected, but just the chance of clearing that salary off the books is a gamble worth taking for Washington.

Bradley Beal’s hot streak continues, scores 40 to lift Wizards past Knicks (VIDEO)

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WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal got back to his high-scoring ways with 40 points, lifting the Washington Wizards to a 122-115 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night.

Beal overcame a slow start and surpassed the 25-point plateau for the 22nd time in 23 games. His string of 21 such games was snapped Sunday when he scored 23 in a loss to Miami.

The Wizards’ win meant the Heat will have to wait at least one more day to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Miami can do so with a home win Wednesday against Charlotte.

Beal scored 27 in the second half after connecting on five of his first 15 shots against the Knicks.

Shabazz Napier added 21 points for the Wizards.

Bobby Portis led the Knicks with 20 points against his former team, while Julius Randle added 16 before fouling out.

Both teams squandered big leads. The Wizards lost a 14-point lead in the first quarter, and the Knicks blew an 18-point advantage in the third.

The teams are out of the playoff hunt in the East, and it sounded as if there were more Knicks fans than Wizards supporters in the stands.

When it was announced late in the first quarter that a 3-pointer by Frank Ntilikina was overturned by replay review, there were more boos than cheers in the more-than-half-empty arena. Chants of “Let’s go, Knicks!” and “MVP” could be heard as rookie RJ Barrett shot free throws.

Report: Pistons to claim Jordan McRae off waivers

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
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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.

Bradley Beal scores 50+ again. Wizards lose again.

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WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal, one night after scoring a then-career-high 53 points in a loss at Chicago, topped it with a 55-point effort that included 22 points in the fourth quarter and seven more in overtime against the Bucks.

The Wizards lost. Again.

Khris Middleton scored Milwaukee’s final nine points and the Bucks beat Beal and the Washington Wizards 137-134 in overtime on Monday night.

Middleton, who finished with 40 points, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 30.2 seconds left to five the Bucks a 135-132 lead.

After Beal made two free throws, Middleton was fouled with 7.8 seconds left and made both attempts from the line to make it 137-134 and Troy Brown, Jr.’s 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.

Shabazz Napier added a season-high 27 points for Washington.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out with 1:33 remaining in regulation for Milwaukee.

The Wizards rallied from 17 points down to take a 123-121 lead on Beal’s 3 with 1:01 remaining.

Eric Bledsoe‘s free throws tied it and after a miss by Beal, Middleton missed as well. Felipe Lopez blocked Rui Hachimura‘s layup attempt with 1:0 second left and Milwuaukee’s alley-oop toss at the buzzer failed.

Middleton had a career-high 51-points in the teams’ first meeting, a 151-131 Milwaukee win on Jan. 28.

The Bucks led 51-49 early in the third quarter when Middleton’s step-back jumper started a 14-2 run.

Washington rallied and Napier’s four-point play made it 102-93 with 9:29 left in the game, and his layup soon pulled the Wizards within seven. Middleton scored four straight points to push the lead back to double figures, but Beal scored 17 straight Wizards points and his 3 made it 119-116 with 2:15 left.

Knicks’ Bobby Portis ejected for throwing ball at Shabazz Napier (video)

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The Knicks’ season effectively ended weeks ago. Their All-Star break began after their loss to the Wizards tonight.

Bobby Portis got a head start on his vacation.

Shabazz Napier shot after the whistle. Portis snatched the ball before it reached the rim. Napier gave a thumbs-up. Portis threw the ball back to Napier.

That got Portis ejected.

Did Napier bait the ejection with his thumbs-up? Without that gesture, would Portis’ soft toss have been deemed an ejection-worthy escalation?

Portis probably isn’t the getting benefit of the doubt.