NBA Reportedly Wants To Expand; How Would Two New Teams Impact Celtics?

What Boston players are worth protecting?

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January 6, 2021

The NBA needs money after the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked havoc on the world.

Expanding the league to 32 teams seems like a pretty good way to ease that financial burden.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been teasing the idea of expansion, and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on Tuesday reported that the league would be looking for a fee of $2.5 billion apiece for two new teams.

Of course, a resurrection of the Seattle Supersonics and a new franchise in Las Vegas is reported to be the likely outcome, with the $2.5 billion accounting for the most expensive sale prices for a professional sports team in North American history.

So obviously this is good for the NBA. But how does it impact the other teams? Specifically, the Boston Celtics.

For starters, they make a lot of money off of the ordeal.

If two teams were added, they obviously wouldn’t be purchased from an existing owner. The right to operate would be bought from the NBA itself, and the league would generate that hypothetical $5 billion and divide the expansion fee evenly between the 30 existing teams.

So that’s an influx of about $166.7 million to have and spend as they see fit without discretion from the players, as it is not considered basketball-related income. After the pandemic, what team wouldn’t benefit from all that money in the short term?

It should be noted, however, that in the long term, more teams means more markets to split things like revenue from television rights.

Divisions, for instance, would get shaken up a little bit.

You can’t just add one new team, so any real expansion plans would have to be for two franchises. And for geographical purposes, their location is important.

Currently there are six divisions in the NBA, with three per conference. Adding two teams would allow for eight conferences made up of four teams each. Seattle and Las Vegas, maybe even Vancouver, would be ideal markets to add to the Western Conference to then bring two teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies into the East.

This realignment mockup posted by Arash Markazi checks out:

That would see the Celtics being in the same division as the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.

Now, for the fun part.

New teams can’t just pull players out of thin air. They have to acquire them in an expansion draft. Which means Boston and the other teams around the league have to make some of theirs available.

Here are the logistics of that, according to the most recent collective bargaining agreement. This could all be subject to change, but we’re rolling with it for sake of this exercise:

— Teams can protect up to eight players, including restricted free agents.
— Teams have to expose at least one player who isn’t set to become a free agent in the offseason.
— Pending unrestricted free agents can’t be protected or selected.
— Pending restricted free agents, if selected, become unrestricted but can’t re-sign with their original team.
— Teams can’t lost more than one player in the expansion draft.
— If a team’s player is selected, they receive a trade exception back if over the salary cap.
— A team can compensate expansion teams, usually with draft picks, as a means of getting them to select or not select a particular player.

That means Daniel Theis, Jeff Teague and Semi Ojeleye, all set to hit unrestricted free agency next year, would be off the table to get taken in the expansion draft, and the Celtics wouldn’t need to use any of their eight protections on them. (That is, of course, in the event that the NBA goes through with this for next season.)

And that is good, because Boston has plenty of young talent they want to keep around.

Naturally Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams would fall under that category.

But what other two members of the Celtics are worthy of protection when it comes to Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford and restricted free agents Javonte Green, Tacko Fall and Tremont Waters?

There’s a lot to consider, so we’ll revisit this when we’re presented with the question for real.

Hopefully by then we know if Pritchard is for real, if Grant Williams figures some things out or if Langford can live up to his potential once healthy.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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