If the NBA were to expand to 31 or 32 teams, the Orlando Magic would face some tough choices regarding which players to protect and which players to make available in the resulting expansion draft. Wednesday morning, Zach went through Orlando’s roster and protected eight players, leaving everyone else free to be selected in an expansion draft.
And in keeping with the SB Nation NBA’s expansion theme, two pretend new franchises picked from the pool of players Zach and the rest of SB Nation NBA’s site managers left unprotected. And in that draft, the new Virginia Beach club selected Evan Fournier, while the Seattle SuperSonics—long live the Sonics!—picked Mario Hezonja.
“Evan Fournier hasn’t distinguished himself as a star in Orlando, but he hasn’t been a scrub either,” write Kristian Winfield and Whitney Medworth in picking the Frenchman for their unnamed club in Allen Iverson’s hometown. “His efficiency dropped last season, but Fournier was still a legitimate perimeter threat on a nightly basis.”
Zach left Fournier unprotected. “It’s much more about the money that he’s making, compared to the money that others are making,” he said. “With Fournier set to make roughly $17 million per season for the next four years, the Magic could open up a lot of cap space if he was selected.”
Winfield and Medworth have Fournier backing up Tim Hardaway Jr. and C.J. Miles on the wings. He wouldn’t be the sixth man, however, as Lou Williams has earned that role. Perhaps with fewer touches overall, but more opportunities against opponents’ second units, Fournier could rediscover his efficiency and become a more potent offensive threat.
Losing Fournier, arguably the Magic’s best all-around perimeter player, is a blow for a team eyeing a playoff berth in the next few seasons. Were I Orlando’s GM in this exercise, I would have protected Fournier and left Arron Afflalo in the player pool. Doing so would have enabled me to later trade Fournier and his reasonable—not great, but reasonable--contract down the line if needed.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, the Sonics took a flyer on Hezonja, who has yet to establish himself in the NBA. He was one of the last players selected overall. It’s disconcerting to think that even an expansion team might not have a role for the Croatian wing, a former fifth-overall NBA Draft selection. In the final stretch of the 2016/17 campaign, Magic coach Frank Vogel experimented with Hezonja at power forward. Perhaps Shaka Smart, the coach of these new Sonics, could find success with Hezonja there.