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Mock NBA expansion draft: Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs

Mock NBA expansion draft

Memphis Grizzlies’ Kyle Anderson, center, is fouled by San Antonio Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan (10) as Spurs’ Rudy Gay looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)


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

Dallas Mavericks

Protected – 8

  • Kristaps Porzingis - $29,467,800
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. - $18,975,000 (Player Option)
  • Maxi Kleber - $8,250,000
  • Delon Wright - $9,000,000
  • Luka Doncic - $8,049,360
  • Seth Curry - $7,834,449
  • Dorian Finney-Smith - $4,000,000
  • Jalen Brunson - $1,663,861

Unprotected – 4

  • Dwight Powell - $11,080,125
  • Justin Jackson - $5,029,650
  • Boban Marjanovic - $3,500,000
  • Willie Cauley-Stein - $2,286,357 (Player Option)

Ineligible – 3

  • JJ Barea
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  • Courtney Lee

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.

Houston Rockets

Protected – 8

  • Russell Westbrook - $41,358,814
  • James Harden - $41,254,920
  • Eric Gordon - $16,869,276
  • Robert Covington - $12,138,345
  • J. Tucker - $7,969,537
  • Danuel House Jr. - $3,717,000
  • Austin Rivers - $2,436,046 (Player Option)
  • Ben McLemore - $2,283,034 (Non-Guaranteed)

Unprotected – 2

  • Isaiah Hartenstein - $1,663,861 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Chris Clemons - $1,517,981 (Non-Guaranteed)

Ineligible – 5

  • Bruno Caboclo
  • DeMarre Carroll
  • Tyson Chandler
  • Jeff Green
  • Thabo Sefolosha

Analysis: No decision points for the Rockets. Houston is protecting the entirety of their eight-man rotation.

Chris Clemons could make for an interesting expansion pick because his scoring ability at guard. Isaiah Hartenstein has shown some flashes in the G-League as well.

Memphis Grizzlies

Protected – 8

  • Jonas Valanciunas - $15,000,000
  • Justise Winslow - $13,000,000
  • Dillon Brooks - $11,400,000
  • Ja Morant - $9,166,800
  • Tyus Jones - $8,173,143
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. - $7,257,360
  • Brandon Clarke - $2,602,920
  • De’Anthony Melton – Restricted Free Agent

Unprotected – 5

  • Gorgui Dieng - $17,287,640
  • Kyle Anderson - $9,505,100
  • Marko Guduric - $2,750,000
  • Grayson Allen - $2,545,320
  • Jontay Porter - $1,517,981 (Team Option)

Ineligible – 1

  • Josh Jackson

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.

New Orleans Pelicans

Protected – 8

  • Jrue Holiday - $26,231,111
  • J. Redick - $13,013,700
  • Lonzo Ball - $11,003,782
  • Zion Williamson - $10,245,480
  • Jaxson Hayes - $5,105,160
  • Josh Hart - $3,491,159
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker - $3,113,160
  • Brandon Ingram – Restricted Free Agent

Unprotected – 4

  • Darius Miller - $7,000,000 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Nicolo Melli - $3,897,436
  • Frank Jackson – Restricted Free Agent
  • Kenrich Williams – Restricted Free Agent

Ineligible – 3

  • Derrick Favors
  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Jahlil Okafor

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.

San Antonio Spurs

Protected – 8

  • DeMar DeRozan - $27,739,975 (Player Option)
  • LaMarcus Aldridge - $24,000,000
  • Dejounte Murray - $14,286,000
  • Derrick White - $3,516,284
  • Lonnie Walker IV - $2,892,000
  • Luka Samanic - $2,824,320
  • Keldon Johnson - $2,048,040
  • Jakob Poeltl – Restricted Free Agent

Unprotected – 4

  • Rudy Gay - $14,500,000
  • Patty Mills - $13,285,714
  • Trey Lyles - $5,500,000 ($1,000,000 Guaranteed)
  • Chimezie Metu - $1,663,861 (Non-Guaranteed)

Ineligible – 2

  • Marco Belinelli
  • Bryn Forbes

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.