There's been a lot of talk in the media about whether or not Seattle deserves to get another NBA team. The most likely scenario would seem to be the relocation of a current franchise (e.g. Da Grizz, Bobcats). The other option would be an expansion franchise.
Another NBA team would be could potentially be an extreme nuisance for our beloved Trail Blazers. Not because it would create NBA competition in the PNW, the team has dealt with that for years, but because it would result in an expansion draft.
Here are the details on how the expansion draft would work:
To summarize, each existing NBA team protects 8 players, and the expansion team gets to select any unprotected players. Teams can only lose one player. Unrestricted free agents are considered unaffiliated and thus do not need to be protected. Unsigned draft picks cannot be selected so teams don't need to waste protection on talent stashed overseas. Teams get no compensation for their lost player.
The Bobcats took a number of highly competent role players in 2004, including: Jason Kapono (Cleveland would love to have him right now), Zaza Pachulia and Gerald Wallace. Back in the day, our own Blazers lost Jerome Kersey to the Raptors. Obviously, this becomes a bigger issue for the Blazers than other teams as KP has done an excellent job building a talented roster 10-deep. For example, Imagine if Jack had been swiped in an expansion draft this year prior to the actual draft. All of the sudden KP can't get Jerryd Bayless without giving up a more coveted player. That's a problem.
Soooo...the big question, who would you protect? Here's my list broken down in to categories:
3. Oden (assuming he's the second coming of Hakeem and not Sam Bowie).
Obvious as long as they perform near or at expectation levels:
4. Outlaw: Talented swingman who could potentially become a good defender and is already a multi-faceted scorer.
5. Rudy: Awesome shooting guard who (if he lives up to the hype) could be a starter most anywhere but is possibly a #3 guard here.
6. Bayless: Starting PG of the future? Only time will tell...
On the bubble:
7. Webster: Blazers need the shooting. Underrated athlete who has shown some potential as a slasher and could also morph into an above average defender. Less valuable than Rudy or Outlaw because he is pretty much locked in to the SF role. If his ball handling improves he could play the 2 guard, but Nate and KP seem to be set on having two combo guards on the floor at most times, so that would preclude Webster.
8. Blake: Has proven he can be an excellent facilitator and was extremely valuable to the offense last year. He'd be my 8th guy because it's always good to have a true PG on the roster, he can shoot the ball well, and if any of the other three guards go down with injury or foul trouble he'd be able to step in seamlessly. If this hypothetical draft occurred a couple years down the road Peteri could easily bump Blake off this spot, especially considering Blake's age. Also, if he's not protected I almost certainly would expect him to be gone. New teams need veteran point guard who have shown they can lead an offense effectively.
On the outside:
Batum: Not proven at this point, but if he pans out he could bump Webster. In addition, somebody else would have to develop into a legit three-point threat. Possibly Outlaw? OTOH, it would be very tough not to protect a young up and comer. He is just the type of guy an expansion team would be looking for.
Joel: Unfortunately, his lack of offensive ability will be his downfall here. I have ranked him above Blake because with the ability of Outlaw, Aldridge and Frye to play multiple positions it's easier for the frontcourt to compensate for injuries or foul trouble to one of the principles. This is especially true if Freeland pans out. Also, it's less likely Joel will be selected as he is slightly older and has little offensive skill. I think there are other guys on the roster that a new team would want more.
Frye: Aldridge clone. Nice guy, good teammate, but you just can't protect a guy who's essentially redundant. I think he would be second on an expansion team's list behind Batum or Blake (whichever isn't protected).
Sergio: He's going to have to show a lot of improvement this year to break the top 10. And if some GM wants to roll the dice with him as a starter, by all means take him!
Did I forget anyone relevant?
This list also ignores contracts as we're not sure when it would be happening. RLEC would actually be surprisingly attractive to an expansion draft as the salary space could be a big asset to a new team. KP could also possibly work out a deal where he can indirectly protect 9 guys by not resigning an unrestricted free agent until after the draft, thereby not wasting a protected spot. He would then be free to sign that guy after the draft. But for the purposes of this exercise I have ignored that fact as we don't know who this would be possible with.
I think the bottom line is that if an expansion draft happens it would mess up some of the excellent work KP has done. It would absolutely suck to give up a valuable role player with a decent trade value, like Blake, for nothing.