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SB Nation Mock Expansion Draft: Sixers protected the young core at all costs

Feel free to offer all your complaints.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In late July, NBA commissioner Adam Silver hinted that the league would be looking at expanding the league in the not-so-distant future. “I think it’s just a question of when the right time is to seriously start thinking about expansion,” he said at the time, sparking another wave of hope in Seattle residents that the city would finally have an NBA team once again.

Internally, the SB Nation NBA crew decided we’d turn that into a bit of offseason debate, and the SB Nation Mock Expansion Draft was born. The rules were simple: each team was allowed to protect eight players on their roster, leaving the rest of their guys up for grabs. As of this writing, we still don’t know who ended up being selected by the fake expansion team, but I can offer the list of players we protected and why.

Here’s who I made sure our fake Sixers kept, and a few explanations on the logic.

The Protected Group

The No-Brainers

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric

This core five went down in ink almost immediately. The trio of potential stars has to be kept together at all costs, Dario Saric should be the team’s impact bench guy and spot starter for a decade-plus, and Robert Covington’s combination of defense and three-point shooting makes him an easy pick. There was no chance I would leave any of these players unprotected.

The Upside Plays

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Richaun Holmes

TLC was a quicker selection than Holmes was, simply because I think there’s a more logical path for him to become a key contributor in the best possible version of the Sixers’ future. If everything goes right for the Sixers, Holmes will ultimately max out as a really good backup to Embiid.

However, I think he’s the perfect sort of backup to Embiid, as well as a player who has shown a willingness to serve as a change of pace off the bench. Good guy to have on the team.

The Wild Card

JJ Redick

This is the only decision I agonized over, and it was a little difficult to leave Furkan Korkmaz unprotected in order to preserve a roster spot for a 33-year-old veteran. It’s an admitted gamble, and one in which I basically hoped that Korkmaz would fly under the radar enough to keep him in Philly anyway.

I just think Redick’s addition means too much to the Sixers both on and off the court to leave him vulnerable. His floor-spacing ability is going to be a big part of helping the young guys develop, and the hope will be he’ll serve as a liaison to bigger fish the Sixers will chase in free agency next offseason.

This felt very anti-Process, and just know I agonized over it immensely.

The Unprotected Group

The Tough Call

Furkan Korkmaz

Truthfully, this is the only decision that really gave me any pause. I think Korkmaz could potentially be a microwave shooter for the franchise for a long time, even though he’s going to get bullied a little bit this year because of his frame.

Cross your fingers and toes with me that he sticks around.

The Rest

Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, Amir Johnson, Jerryd Bayless, TJ McConnell, Justin Anderson, Alex Poythress

Some of these calls were tougher than others on a sentimental level—I would miss crunch-time scorer TJ McConnell—but ultimately, these guys are all here because of how the team’s resources are lined up, how important they are to the team’s long-term future, and in some cases, just how good they are as basketball players.

If one of these guys ends up on the fake Seattle expansion team, feel free to yell at me about it. Otherwise, let me know what you would have done differently, because I don’t think there were a lot of debatable spots within this format.

UPDATE: The selections were made in our mock expansion draft, and things came up looking wonderful for our alt-universe Sixers. The only man we lost in the struggle was the other signing this offseason, former Celtics big man Amir Johnson. Here’s what the rosters ended up looking like, plus Sonics Rising’s explanation behind taking Johnson:

VA. Beach Expansion Team

George Hill - Sacramento Kings

Tim Hardaway Jr. - New York Knicks

Trey Lyles - Utah Jazz

Robin Lopez - Chicago Bulls

Lou Williams - Los Angeles Clippers

Evan Fournier - Orlando Magic

John Henson - Milwaukee Bucks

Marcus Morris - Boston Celtics

Bryn Forbes - San Antonio Spurs

C.J. Miles - Toronto Raptors

Taj Gibson - Minnesota Timberwolves

Nick Young - Golden State Warriors

Ian Clark - New Orleans Pelicans

Thomas Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers

Isaiah Whitehead - Brooklyn Nets

Seattle Expansion Team

Greg Monroe - Milwaukee Bucks

Tyler Johnson - Miami Heat

Iman Shumpert - Cleveland Cavaliers

Kenneth Faried - Denver Nuggets

Jamal Crawford - Minnesota Timberwolves

Wesley Matthews - Dallas Mavericks

Tyson Chandler - Phoenix Suns

Ryan Anderson - Houston Rockets

Bojan Bogdanovic - Indiana Pacers

Jeremy Lamb - Charlotte Hornets

Thabo Sefolosha - Utah Jazz

Amir Johnson - Philadelphia 76ers

Why we picked him: We needed a backup big man and while Johnson’s numbers don’t jump off the page, he’s a solid contributor who can play the four or the five in a small ball setting. He’s not going to light up the scoreboard or fill up the stat sheet, but he’s a solid role player coming off the bench.

Frank Mason III aka El Tercero Miedo - Sacramento Kings

Mario Hezonja - Orlando Magic

Jake Layman - Portland Trailblazers

Looking at the rosters for both teams, I think I made the right call by protecting Redick over Korkmaz. The compositions for both teams are, at least stylistically, a lot different than I would have shot for if I was building an expansion team. I think the priority in this instance needs to be playing the long game, minimizing salary commitment and focusing almost exclusively on young players with upside.

The gamble I took was that Korkmaz, by virtue of being an overseas player, would have less cache in this sort of exercise. It paid off, though I’m not sure I’d make the same decision if I knew actual NBA executives were making these decisions on the other end, just because they have different priorities and access to information us people behind the keyboards do not. I can’t envision a scenario, for example, where I’d feel good about an expansion team I was hoping to cheer for picking late-career Nick Young over a 20-year-old shooter on a bargain contract.

If you think you can make a better—or at least higher-upside team—the index post with all the available players can be found here.

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