If there were to be an NBA expansion team, what would it mean for the Charlotte Hornets?
In a recent interview with Portland SG CJ McCollum, NBA commissioner stated that NBA expansion was "inevitable". This could possibly have ripple effects throughout the NBA. For instance, if the NBA were to add two teams, the talent level for each team would diminish a little bit. The main frontrunner to land a future NBA team right now is Seattle, Washington, a city that lost their team in 2008, when the Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City and rebranded as the Thunder.
What would it mean for the Hornets if there were to be one, two teams added to the current NBA? Well, first off, there would be an expansion draft. This means that each team could "protect" a certain amount of players, in 2004, when the Bobcats held their expansion draft, each team were able to "protect" eight players. When an existing team "protects" a player, it means that the new expansion team(s) cannot select them in the expansion draft. Most teams protect their most valuable players and leave their most overpaid and least-skilled players unprotected, and available for the new team to select. Assuming the league allows each team to protect eight players (and maybe only six/seven if there are two expansion teams), here are who the Hornets would most likely protect.
Who would the Hornets protect?
Kemba Walker: Being Charlotte's franchise player on a great value contract, Kemba Walker is easily going to be the first player the Hornets protect. This past season, Walker made his first all-star game, averaging over 20 points per game.
Nic Batum: Nic Batum, while overpaid, is still the second most talented player on the Charlotte roster. He's quite underrated as well. He averaged 15.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.1 steals this past season and is still in his prime.
Malik Monk: Malik Monk would be the third player the Hornets protect. Being the 11th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, he certainly has a lot of value. He was the Kentucky Wildcats' leading scorer, on a team with two other lottery talents (De'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo). Many "experts" claim Malik Monk could end up being a very similar player to CJ McCollum of the Trail Blazers.
Cody Zeller: Zeller is another player the Hornets will not think twice protecting. He is another player that is quite underrated in today's NBA, being a great defensive presence, while also managing 10 points and seven rebounds per game. He hasn't quite lived up to his 4th overall pick selection in 2013, but he is not a bust either.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has developed into one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. While he hasn't helped the Hornets in a major way offensively, he'll always be an amazing wing-defender.
Frank Kaminsky: Kaminsky was drafted by the Hornets with the ninth pick in 2015. Thus far, he has developed into a solid role player, and soon, he is expected to take the starting PF slot from Marvin Williams, who is now 31.
Dwight Howard: Before the draft, the Hornets packaged Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and the 41st overall draft pick for Dwight Howard and the 31st overall draft pick. With the Hornets being in a win-now mode, the Hornets should definitely protect Howard.
These are the players the Hornets would protect if they were only able to protect seven. However, if they are able to protect eight, then the final player would be...
Marvin Williams: Williams has been average at best. He's a quality starter, but he is overpaid, earning $12.5m per year to average 11.2 points and 6.6 rebounds.
The most likely scenario is that Jeremy Lamb is picked in an expansion draft. Lamb averaged 10 points and four rebounds coming off the bench as a rotational wing player. He is 6'5" but can play both the SG and SF positions due to his 7'0" wingspan.]
So, there you have it. That is the most likely scenario of what Charlotte would do if there was an expansion franchise.