How will Expansion Draft Work?

Monday, Feb. 2, 2004

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Q. I just read about a little bit about the future roster-making of the Charlotte Bobcats. It said that each team is allowed to protect eight players from moving to Charlotte (through the expansion draft). What does that mean in Pacers terms? What eight players do you see getting protected and is there any major concern about losing players to Charlotte? What does it mean for the players who don't get protected? (From Jacob in Copenhagen, Denmark)

A. The Pacers could well lose a player in the expansion draft, which has been set for June 22 (although, if the NBA Finals goes to Game 7, the expansion draft would be June 23). The NBA Draft then follows on June 24. Each team can protect up to eight players who are under contract. The Bobcats must select at least 14 players, but no more than 29. Unrestricted free agents will not be eligible for the draft. Restricted free agents can be left unprotected but would become unrestricted if Charlotte selects them. If a team has fewer than eight veterans under contract, it must make at least one player available. No team can lose more than one player. And there is an interesting sidelight: teams can offer draft picks and/or cash as an incentive for the Bobcats to select their player (a method to move a weighty contract and clear cap space).

During the expansion draft itself, they won’t be restricted by the cap. Players they select can be waived (before the season begins) and not count against the cap, but the Bobcats will be obligated to pay their salaries. The Bobcats will get three-fourths of the cap to work with in 2005-06, and the full cap in 2006-07. This means they’ll likely be attracted to players whose contracts expire after 2005-06, giving them more flexibility for the free agent market that summer – when Shaquille O’Neal will be the head of the class. If a team is at or over the cap (as the Pacers are) and loses a player to the Bobcats, it will get what amounts to a trade exception it can then use to acquire a replacement. The Pacers likely will have 12 players under contract for the draft, meaning four players would be exposed. I wouldn’t begin to speculate on who’d be made available, but it’s safe to assume the nucleus of the team will be protected.