Expansion Draft Analysis - Part 1

  • By Bedouin, Day 1, 2020


In the 2021 season the JBL will be expanding to 30 teams. Whilst this will lead to many exciting changes for the league, there will be an impact on the existing franchises. This impact will be felt primarily through two events; the expansion draft and a turbo fuelled free agency period buoyed by new teams with money to burn. This article will focus on the expansion draft for the first ten teams. Future articles will discuss the second 10 teams as well as the free agency marketplace.

Prior to the expansion draft each franchise will be required to protect 6 players, including their 2021 draftees. Free agents will not be eligible to be protected, however players signed to contract extensions ahead of their impending free agents will be. For some franchises choosing how to deploy their protections will be an easy decision, however for other franchises there will be some challenging choices if rosters remain unchanged. Keep in mind that teams can ONLY lose two players to expansion teams, meaning that any potential loss of players or picks is minimised.

To assist GMs beginning to plan for the expansion draft this article will examine each franchise and attempt to determine who are obvious candidates for protection and who are competing for the final slots. The article will also attempt to value each team's draft assets (based on projected 2020 results) and whether the team's free agents are likely to have signed extensions. Each team's analysis will conclude with some general commentary on the choices they face. We will commence with the Atlanta Devils.

ATLANTA DEVILS (10 under contract)

Free Agents
Jamal Wilkinson (SG)
Dartray McIntosh (SG/SF)

Surefire Protections
Orpheus Swayda (SF)
Taquan Slattery (PF)
Marques Thomas (PG)
Roy Ellington (PF)

Under Consideration
Ivan Vujosevic (C)
Marcus Enright (C)
1st Round Pick (Est. Pick 17)

Expansion Draft Eligible
Keemar Campbell (C)
Shammell Dench (PF)
Sebastian Kidd (PG)
Tyrone Russell (SG)
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 50)

Commentary

The biggest decision facing the Devils surrounds how to move forward at the Center position. Assuming the team will likely protect their 2021 first round pick they face a choice between Marcus Enright and Ivan Vujosevic. Enright should be the more productive player for the next season or two whilst Vujo develops but he carries a much larger salary. Given that their Jamal Wilkinson will be a FA, and is in line for a hefty salary bump, the cap play may be the smarter call here.

AUSTIN ROCKETS (6 under contract)

Free Agents
Cedric Freeman (PF)
Darius Hammond (SG)
Tex Ireland (PG)
Kaiama Nyambi (C)
Derek Snow (SG)
Owen Tasker (PF)

Surefire Protections
Ruben Wingfield (PG) (EXT)
Reggie Goodwin (SG)
Emmanuel Mejia (SF)
Dwight Hill (C)

Under Consideration
Shandon James (SF)
Kevin Stapleton (C)
1st Round Pick (Est. Pick 27)

Expansion Draft Eligible
Tanor Dembele (C/PF)
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 56)

Commentary

The Rockets enter this season with their two lynchpin players, Nyambi and Wingfield, both on expiring deals. Wingfield is certainly due a raise after winning an MVP during this contract and I anticipate he will sign a contract extension with the team, occupying one of the 6 protection slots. Alternatively, I think it is likely that the 34 year old Nyambi enters free agency, as it would be insane for the Rockets to offer him a 5 year super max. The market will set Nyambi's value.

The only other question is should the Rockets use the expansion draft as an opportunity to rid themselves of Shandon James' contract. James had potentially a career best season in 2019 but has a huge contract. He would be highly attractive as an offensive centrepiece for an expansion franchise and the Rockets did just draft a replacement at his position. Nevertheless this would be the boldest move the league has seen in years.

CHICAGO JAILBIRDS (8 under contract)

Free Agents
Marques Bowen (SF)
Jason Cheaney (SG)
Darome Ervin (PF/SF)
Jaquan Garrett (C)
Jonah Kettle (SG)

Surefire Protections
Keydren Carter (SF) (EXT)
Dameon Clarke (PF)
Cedric Brisby (PG)
Rasheed Stone (C)

Under Consideration
Ivan Obradovic (C)
Isiah Harris (PF)
Emeka Nwandu (SF)
1st Round Pick (Est. Pick 21)

Expansion Draft Eligible
Kori Dupree (C)
Jose Diaz (SG)
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 52)

Commentary

The Chicago Jailbirds enter this offseason with two of their big names entering free agency. I anticipate that they will extend Keydren Carter but will allow Cheaney to test the market, knowing they hold his tenure rights. After drafting their center of the future in Rasheed Stone this year they could consider not protecting Obradovic to free up additional cap space but this is unlikely. This means that their final protection slot will come down to a choice between rookies Harris and Nwandu and their coming first round pick. This means Harris and Nwandu are literally playing for their Jailbirds career.

CINCINNATI KINGS (8 under contract)

Free Agents
Lamar Claxton (SG/SF)
Ben Elwood (SG)
Clayton Everett (PF/SF)
Kenyon Hammick (PG)
Dimitri Karacic (SF/PF)
Dyron Mays (PG)
Goran Vujanovic (PF/SF)

Surefire Protections
Kelvin Black (C)
Pace LaGarde (SF)
Jamar Strickland (PG)
Xavier Turner (SG/SF)
Kierall Richardson (SG/SF)

Under Consideration
Nwosu Odiambo (PF)
1st Round (Cincinnati Kings) (Est. Pick 5)

Expansion Draft Eligible
Richmond Benson (C)
Marlon Burton (C)
1st Round (NY Renegades) (Est. Pick 28)
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 44)

Commentary

The Cincinnati Kings have an easy selection process ahead of them. The only real choice they face will be between their starting PF Odiambo and their upcoming 1st round pick. However while Odiambo is a productive starter his ceiling is nowhere near as high as who they could draft if their pick falls as high as it is currently projected. The smart money is on Odiambo manning the 4 spot for an expansion team come 2021.

DETROIT MUSTANGS (9 under contract)

Free Agents
Jarrett Bryson (SF)
Travon Fortune (SG)
Quan Levoir (PF/C)
Dante Rutledge (C/PF)
Keith Woodberry (PG)

Surefire Protections
Demetric Vaughn (SG/SF)
Reggie Dawkins (C)
Christian Vickery (PG)
Hassan Bundu (PF)
1st Round Pick (Est. Pick 11)

Under Consideration
Wesley Sherman (PF)
Jarhon McLeish (SF/SG)

Expansion Draft Eligible
Maurice Burns (PG)
Juwan Voss (SF)
Isaiah Foreman (C)
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 47)

Commentary

The Detroit Mustangs should use 5 of their protection slots with very little thought unless the team considerably outperforms projections and their 1st round pick loses value. The final protection slot should come down to a choice between depth in the post or on the wing. Wesley Sherman has proven himself a solid if unspectacular player to date but will take a bench role this year behind rookie Hassan Bundu. Meanwhile Jarhon McLeish hasn't played much but has been productive in his limited court time with some strong Mazer-fied statistics. I don't believe rookie Isaiah Foreman will get sufficient opportunity to earn a protection slot.

HOUSTON LIGHTNING (8 under contract)

Free Agents
Adam Booth (SG/SF)
Isaiah Clarkson (PF/C)
Theron Cox (SF)
Aaron Gayle (SG)
Rahsaan Hayes (C)
Kendall Nash (SG)
Lucas Rush (SF)
Sebastien Tallec (PG)

Surefire Protections
Lamar Francis (SG)
Derrick Griffin (SF)
Stephan Hood (PG)
James Spencer (C/PF)

Under Consideration
Ryan Collinson (PF)
Shadrach Robinson (PG/SG)
1st Round Pick (Est. Pick 9)
Kai Navigato (SF)

Expansion Draft Eligible
Kane Thomas (SF)
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 46)

Commentary

The Houston Lightning don't have a choice, they have a conundrum. They're loaded with more young talent than anyone else in the league but when you can only protect 6 players that's problematic. They're a hard team to analyse now because they will almost certainly make some moves across the course of the year. But I'll try anyway.

Due to the sheer number of quality assets I anticipate the Lightning will choose not to extend Clarkson prior to free agency. This is a risk but they will hold his tenure rights and few teams have a brighter future. This will leave the team 6 protection slots to use on 8 desirable assets. I anticipate that 4 slots will be used to protect the other projected starters (alongside Clarkson).

For the remaining 2 slots I would probably lean towards Navigato, who could be the first wing of the bench and the upcoming 1st rounder. However, should Navigato struggle, or their pick lose value vs the projection then its all up in the air. It's worth noting that should the team leave Shadrach and Collinson to the expansion draft both would almost certainly be first round picks.

KANSAS CITY KNIGHTS (6 under contract)

Free Agents
Craig Leonard (PG)
Cliff McCaffrey (PF)
Jamarcus Norwood (PF/C)
Jarvis Perkins (PF)
Kardos Royten (PF)
Marcus Wilkins (SG)

Surefire Protections
Kelvin Hawes (C)
Aaron Honeycutt (SF/SG)
Tarvis McWilliams (SF)

Under Consideration
Curtis Price (PG)
Myree Billings (PG)
1st Round Pick (Est. Pick 25)
Dominique Respert (SG)

Expansion Draft Eligible
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 54)

Commentary

The Kansas City Knights will enter the 2021 season with only 6 players under contract meaning their only choice will be between one of their two point guards and their upcoming 1st round pick. The obvious play here is to protect Curtis Price and the pick and let Myree Billings fall into the expansion draft. However, if you look a little closer there is an interesting choice here. The 6 players under contract in 2021 account for the entire salary cap and in 2022 Aaron Honeycutt will be looking for a max deal.

Leaving Curtis Price unprotected instead of Billings could see the team shed more than 15 million in cap space and make the team the dominant FA player in 2022. It would be a bold move, and would likely hurt the team in 2021 but sometimes you need to take a step back before you move forward.

LAS VEGAS SCORPIONS (7 under contract)

Free Agents
Kevan Bailey (C/PF)
Malik Benjamin (SG)
Omar Grant (C/PF)
Vadrej Kaliljenko (SF)
Valentino Marley (PF)
Daniel Seaborn (PG)

Surefire Protections
Dontay Sowder (SF)
Hilton Phillips (PG/SG)
Orien Young (PF)
Lorenzen Eyles (SG/SF)

Under Consideration
Janev Ciszkiwicx (C)
Lorenzo Charles (SG/SF)
Lucious Barclay (PG)

Expansion Draft Eligible

Commentary

The Las Vegas Scorpions enter the 2021 offseason with only 7 players under contract, but with Bedouin as GM this will potentially, if not certainly, change. Assuming they enter the latter half of the season as currently constructed they are unlikely to extend the contract of Omar Grant as they will require their protection slots for their rotation players off the bench. Due to their cap situation they cannot afford to lose an additional contributor with a team friendly contract. Whoever they leave unprotected will almost certainly be selected and will only be able to be replaced with a minimum contract.

LOS ANGELES FIREBALLS (11 under contract)

Free Agents
Ty Davidson (SG)
Dwight Simmons (PF)
Stoyanov Vitas (PF/SF)

Surefire Protections
Chris LaCruz (PG)
Drayton Banks (PF)
Jordan Carstensen (SG/SF)
Vlado Dvoracek (C)
Liu Jinghau (SF)

Under Consideration
Tahric Kimbrough (C)
Jared Monroe (PG)
Curtis Westley (SG/SF)
1st Round Pick (Est. Pick 24)

Expansion Draft Eligible
TJ Holloway (PG)
Dejuan Jefferies (SG)
Calvin Woodard (SF/PF)
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 53)

Commentary

The Los Angeles Fireballs initially appear to be in trouble with eleven players under contract entering the 2021 offseason, one of the highest totals in the league. However a closer analysis shows that whilst the expansion draft may impact the depth of the team there is also significant opportunity. The first 5 protections will be allocated to the team's likely long term starting 5, securing the core of the team. Beyond that there is a choice on how the team utilizes the final protection slot. If 'The Dragon' fails to develop sufficiently this year then Curtis Westley can be retained to provide wing depth.

Alternatively, the team may wish to secure the cheaper Jared Monroe, who was key to unlocking the potent LaCruz at SG lineups the team often utilized prior to the Curry trade. In this scenario the team wouldn't secure it's 2021 first round pick, but the team could trade this asset for a future pick. This scenario also has the not insignificant benefit of potentially opening up a max salary slot should Westley and Kimbrough both be selected in the expansion draft. As I said a team with significant opportunity.

MEXICO CITY JAGUARS (11 under contract)

Free Agents
Corey Anderton (C/PF)
Ricky Ayers (SG/PG)
Mirko Blazevic (C)
James Drake (SG)
Jesus Martinez (PG)
Tremaine Miles (SG)

Surefire Protections
Kahlil Hooker (C/PF)
Antonio Vega (SF/SG)
Ashley Winters (PG)
Quinton Rice (SG)
Jamaal Adams (PG/SG)

Under Consideration
Bryant Rodgers (PF/C)
Sidney Cavenell (SF)
1st Round Pick (Est. Pick 3)

Expansion Draft Eligible
Jalen Jackson (SF)
Davon McKay (SF)
Luke Wampler (SF)
Jabari Warren (SG)
1st Round (LV Scorpions) (Est. Pick 29)
2nd Round Pick (Est. Pick 43)

Commentary

If the Lightning have a conundrum, the Mexico City Jaguars have a clusterfuck. With 11 players under contract, and 2 first round picks they can't possibly protect everything if they proceed into next offseason without change. While I anticipate that the team will move to consolidate their assets I will assess the team as it stands.

The Jaguars currently have 2 highly paid veterans in Rodgers and Cavenell and then their youth brigade, the spoils of their recent poor performance. I would utilize the first 5 protection slots of secure the young core. This would leave the final slot to a choice between the veterans and their upcoming draft pick, which is currently projected as 3rd. I would probably choose to protect the draft pick and leave Rodgers and Cavenell available assuming that it is unlikely that the Jags will be ready to contend whilst Rodgers and Cavenell are still productive. Whilst this would not be the best outcome for the team's short-term performance this would open up almost 2 max contract slots to add pieces in free agency or reserve for the youth brigade who start to hit free agency in 2022.

And this concludes Part 1 of our expansion draft analysis. Keep an eye out for Part 2, coming soon.