What if the NBA were expanding again? Which Phoenix Suns rotation player would you leave unprotected, if forced to pick someone?

Akis Yerocostas of www.sactownroyalty.com wants to find out.

He's lain out some rules (after the jump), that basically allow us to protect 8 guys on the current roster who are under contract for AT LEAST two more seasons, including those on rookie contracts.

Click the jump for the rules, and a breakdown of the Suns' current roster before you vote...

When you vote, leave a comment as to why (money, strategy, etc)

Da Rules, from Akis:

Just for fun, I've wanted to do an article for my blog on what a prospective NBA Expansion team would look like if one were to come into the league next year.  This is purely hypothetical, and I realize that if the NBA were to add an expansion team, it likely would not be for a while (especially with a possible lockout coming next year), but I still think it could be a fun exercise.

I'm contacting each of you to act as the heads of the team you blog about, and to select the players that you would protect on your team.  Here are the rules:
  1. I must select 14 players from teams, who are either under contract or restricted free agents at the end of the 2010-11 season
  2. I can't select more than one player from any team.
  3. I can only select players that are unprotected by your team.
  4. Each team can only protect up to a maximum of 8 players on its roster who are either under contract or are restricted free agents at the end of the 2010-11 season.
  5. Each team will designate which of its players are unprotected and thus eligible for selection.
  6. Each team must have at least one player eligible for me to select, even if the team doesn't have 8 players under contract/RFA at the end of the 2010-11 season.
  7. Any player I select that is under contract at the end of the 2010-11 season will be placed on the imaginary expansion team.
  8. Any Restricted Free Agent I select will automatically become an Unrestricted Free Agent, but I now have their bird rights
  9. Unrestricted free agents (that's contracts who expire at the end of 2010-11 without being rookie scale) are not eligible to be protected or selected by me.
So, let's narrow this down...

Current Suns who are excluded from this exercise, because they are unrestricted after 2010-2011:

That leaves 11 players, from which we can protect only 8.

PG Steve Nash (2 yrs, 22 mil remaining)
PG Goran Dragic (RFA, would become a UFA in this case)

SG/SF Josh Childress (5 yrs, 33 mil remaining)
SG Matt Janning (2 yr, 1.2 mil remaining, all non-guaranteed)

SF Jared Dudley (RFA, would become a UFA in this case)
SF/PF Earl Clark  (RFA, would become a UFA in this case)
SF/PF Hedo Turkoglu (4 yrs, 44 mill remaining, 4th yr 1/2 guaranteed)

PF Hakim Warrick (4 yrs, 18 mil remaining, 4th yr non-guaranteed)
PF Gani Lawal (2 yrs, 1.2 mil remaining, 2nd yr non-guaranteed)

C Channing Frye (5 yrs, 30 mil remaining)
C Robin Lopez (RFA, would become a UFA in this case)

Frankly, we're faced with some obvious choices to protect. A smart organization does not let go of key young pieces on manageable contracts. They also don't make their star available.

Off the table:
Nash, Dragic and Lopez

That leaves 5 spots remaining for protection.

But who else would you protect? Who would hate to lose, more than anything? Do you keep youth over veterans? Or veterans over youth?

Or, do you throw your long-term contracts out there so the expansion team doesn't bite on anyone?

Now it's your turn to vote.

If you're curious about my own thinking, keep reading...

I won't take the easy way out and give away a guy we acquired this summer (Warrick, Turkoglu or Childress). It's just too easy to give away someone who hasn't yet had a chance to steal our hearts.

So 3 more players are protected, giving me 6 protected players overall (with Nash, Dragic and Lopez):

Now I can only protect TWO more of the following players.

Janning and Clark are obvious candidates to leave unprotected.

But among Dudley, Lawal and Frye, who would I leave unprotected for an expansion draft?

If I leave Dudley unprotected, I'm giving away our youngest proven swingman. Richardson and Hill may just be gone next summer. At that point, we'd have a swingman rotation of Childress, Duds and Turkoglu, assuming a PF is acquired some time in the next year. Why give away a reasonable contract with a great attitude and ability to change games just on hustle?

If I leave Lawal unprotected, I'm giving away a potential future starter at PF. Lawal might turn into a great steal, but how high can his ceiling be? If he was THAT talented, someone before pick #46 would have taken him right?

If I leave Frye unprotected, I'm further disrupting the current team and giving away a guy who really set the league on fire last year and just might get even better over time. Yet, his contract is pretty big for a backup C and there is a possibility that he might regress if he doesn't expand his game.

In the end, I'm picking.....

Frye, to be left unprotected.

Why? Because his contract is big and long enough (6+ mil a year soon), old enough (27 already) and his repertoire is one-dimensional enough that I don't think he would be drafted by an expansion team. They would rather take high-ceiling kids than older big-contract folks, I would think.

Now make your call... 
If an expansion draft occurred tomorrow, and you HAD to leave one of the following unprotected, who would it be? Leave a comment explaining WHY, too. (I'm not giving you Turkoglu, Warrick or Childress - those are too easy...)
Steve Nash
51 votes
Goran Dragic
6 votes
Jared Dudley
91 votes
Channing Frye
238 votes
Gani Lawal
432 votes
Robin Lopez
12 votes

830 votes | Poll has closed

When I asked Hedo Turkoglu about the FIBA World Championship back at his introductory press conference in late July, a big smile came over his face as he welled up with pride over being the captain...

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It almost seemed like destiny, undefeated Turkey meeting up with undefeated Team USA for the 2010 FIBA World Championship. But it took every one of the 40 minutes in Turkey’s thrilling 83-82...

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El Dragon with the layup against Russia

El Dragon with the layup against Russia

View full size photo »

The Phoenix Suns' very own Goran Dragic finished his national team's tourney on a personal high, but his team faded down the stretch to finish 8th overall in the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

Today, Slovenia (not televised, so I'm just going on box score and writeup from the link provided above) was on a roll in the third quarter, up 50-36, when Russia got hot (or Slovenia faded) and eventually won the game 83-78. Russia finishes 7th, and Slovenia 8th. The 1-6 spots will be decided tomorrow.

Still, a tiny country with a TOTAL population of less than half the Phoenix metro area, should be very proud of their accomplishments. They finished 8th in the World (and 4th in Eurobasket a year ago), despite each time missing at least 1 important front-court player.

For his part, Goran can be proud of what he's done. 

For the tournament, here are Goran's per-game numbers: 12.7 points, 4.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds (over 9 games)

This is definitely a huge step up for Goran from previous campaigns with his national squad. He took over as his team's best all-around player. He shared the PG duties with 2-time Euroleague MVP Jaka Lakovic, starting every game in the backcourt with him and taking turns with the ball. He led the team in both points per game, and assists per game.

This is the first time he's had expectations to carry, from both the team and the media, and all in all he handled them with class and humility.

He never once tried to make it "the Goran show", instead always trying to stay within the scheme of his team's offense.

His assist/turnover ratio wasn't bad (1.5/1) but not great either. And after sputtering against tougher competition in his first 2 tries (7p, 4a against Team USA, and 5p, 2a against Turkey, who will likely meet in the Finals tomorrow), he responded well in his last 2 tough games (19p, 2a, 2r and 3 stls against Spain, then 15p, 7a, 3r against Russia).

The downside is that Slovenia lost all 4 of those games.

Still, Goran and Slovenia should be proud.

If there was a medal for the ratio between total population and World Championships finish, Slovenia would win gold.

Throughout the past two weeks of the FIBA World Championship, Turkey has thrashed every team in its path to the semifinals. Now only Serbia stands in the way of Turkey’s bid to reach the FIBA...

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