According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the NBA is looking at expanding its league, welcoming in two new franchises to bring the total to 32 teams. As Brian mentions, the reason this is such big news without an actual plan or announcement in place is due to the change in tune from Commissioner Adam Silver. After years of completely shutting down the idea, Silver recently said the NBA has “dust off” their expansion plan. This is by design, it is not a situation where the commissioner misspoke. These are legitimate discussions being had, and I would brace for an expansion plan sooner rather than later. So what does that mean for the Oklahoma City Thunder?
In the NBA Expansion draft, the two teams will alternate picks until they fill out their roster to satisfaction. They can only select one player from each current NBA team, so the most a team could lose in the draft is two players. However, the entire roster is not up for grabs, teams to get to protect eight players from the draft. Let’s act as if the expansion draft is tomorrow, who would the Thunder protect?
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Darius Bazley
- Lu Dort
- Theo Maledon
- Aleksej Pokusevski
- Ty Jerome
- Hamidou Diallo
- Josh Hall
I understand the want to freak out about this situation, as the league could once again implement a change to the system that dramatically hurts the Oklahoma City Thunder, however, this is not going to be one of them. The odds of the Thunder having NINE players that they absolutely NEED to protect are slim to none.
Even if this draft goes perfectly, and the Thunder land picks 1 and 5, and somehow stumble into a Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green those two players can replace one of Jerome, Diallo, and Hall, and if you lose out on both the guys you “unprotect” it doesn’t impact your future.
Even if the Warriors continue to surge, you still have 6-8 to protect whoever you would draft in the first round of this year’s draft.
The expansion would be fun, exciting, and new. I think the NBA is really the only sport that can comfortably expand due to the high volume of talent around the world in this sport that is simply waiting for a chance. Josh Hall and Lu Dort went undrafted, two guys who I think have real staying power in the league (Which Lu Dort has already shown, obviously)
What becomes interesting for OKC, is the cities the NBA selects. The NBA goes with the popular Seattle and Vegas combo, which will shift one team to the Eastern Conference. In all likelihood, it will be Minnesota, and while many teams would put in a request to go East, OKC surely is not in good enough standing with the League to get the advantage of going east. The league would obviously give almost any other team that preferential treatment.
Nevertheless, with the T-Wolves going East–let’s just assume that for now–obviously the divisions would need to change in this new format. It would make a ton of sense for the Thunder to join a division with the Mavericks, Spurs, Rockets, Pelicans, etc.
Basketball is changing, but this change will be extremely fun!
Where would you put two teams? I would have to go with Seattle and Kansas City as my dream picks. Can not wait for that artificial Seattle Vs OKC rivalry!