Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Davon Reed
I believe that if there was to be an expansion draft this offseason, the Phoenix Suns would save all of their youngest players and hope for the best this season. Obviously their entire inventory of veterans would not be pilfered so Phoenix would be left with a number of (if not all of) them on the roster meaning that nothing really changed in the planning of the 2018-19 season.
That said, allowing any of the top young players that Phoenix has selected over the past few years to be left unprotected would mean that they are gone. Thus, they have to be covered.
Veterans on one-year deals like Chandler, Ariza, and Daniels would probably be safe because the new expansion teams wouldn’t want players that hold little value in trade. If an expansion team is going to select a veteran player, they’ll want a few years remaining on their contract so they can find a buyer in trade and acquire more assets with which to build around.
Take former Chicago Bulls point guard B.J. Armstrong, for instance.
Toronto selected Armstrong first overall in the 1995 expansion draft and was able to flip him to the Golden State Warriors for Victor Alexander, Martin Lewis, Michael McDonald, Carlos Rogers, and Dwayne Whitfield. None of those players were great by any means, but Toronto did open their first season with a 21-61 record compared to Vancouver’s 15-67, and by the following season had jumped up to 30 wins while Vancouver slipped to 14, and the rest is history.
Brandon Knight, if left unprotected, could be the B.J. Armstrong of this fantasy expansion draft, however I believe that he would be safe because of his continued recovery from his ACL injury, and poor play in 2016-17. If an expansion team did select him, they wouldn’t get nearly the potential trade haul that Toronto got for Armstrong and would be hampered with a player who might not be able to help them win, and if he did help them win, that alone might be counter-productive.
Phoenix too would have a big boost in cap space with his $14.6+M gone this season and $15.6+M in 2019-20.