With Kawhi Leonard now in Toronto and Marcus Smart back in Boston, almost every major offseason storyline in the NBA has reached its end, at least for this summer, which leaves us in the dead period for major news.
There’s still the matter of Clint Capela’s restricted free agency that must play out, but otherwise there won’t be much happening in the Association for a couple months. That leaves plenty of time for the mind to wander and start thinking of grand hypotheticals that likely will never happen, but are fascinating to imagine. That happened to me on Thursday as we learned the Warriors and Kings will play a preseason game in Seattle, which naturally sparks conversation about the league expanding back into Seattle and relaunching the Sonics.
Whenever there is an expansion team added to the league, that team gets to participate in an expansion draft in which they get to fill their rosters with players from other squads that are left unprotected. In the past, the NBA has allowed teams to protect eight players, but for the sake of a way more fun and intriguing hypothetical situation that creates maximum chaos, let’s imagine teams are only allowed to protect three players because the league wants to really shake things up and break up some of the budding super teams.
The NBA would likely not want to play with 31 teams, so along with Seattle they’ll also be expanding into Las Vegas in this scenario, shifting Memphis and New Orleans (rightfully) to the Eastern Conference. Under the rules that I have made up, the Sonics and, I don’t know let’s call them the Jacks (since Kings and Aces are already taken in the NBA and WNBA), can only select one player from each roster to bring onto their 15-man squad, meaning the most any one team can lose in the draft is two players, and they must have contracts that work under the salary cap.
With that in mind, let’s figure out which players would be off limits from each team if they can only protect three. Some decisions are easy, while others are almost impossible (see: Warriors, Celtics) which is the whole point of this ridiculous exercise.