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SB Nation Mock Expansion Draft: Cavs protected players

Who would Cleveland value if the NBA had an expansion draft?

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Five Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Today across the SB Nation NBA network is Mock Expansion Draft day. At every team site, we are deciding the eight players we would protect and the seven players we’d leave unprotected in the wake of Adam Silver’s recent comments about expansion. And be sure to stay tuned for and Sonics Rising to draft teams from the pool of players made available.

Here’s how the Cavs roster breaks down. Be sure to share your thoughts below and follow along to all 30 teams on Twitter using #sbnmock.

Who the Cavs are keeping

LeBron James

He’s LeBron James.

Kyrie Irving

Does Kyrie want out? Yes. Is he going to be off the roster come October? It seems likely. But if he’s going to leave, it’s not going to be via an expansion draft where the Cavs can’t get value back in return.

Kevin Love

Love, for all of his flaws, is really, really good at basketball. He’s also coming off the best season of his Cavs tenure and should continue to be a solid running mate for LeBron even if Irving is dealt.

Are his knees and back a concern? Absolutely. But in the short term, he’s a piece the Cavs want to keep. And like Kyrie, if the Cavs are to go in a different direction, they’ll want to get value back for him in return.

Tristan Thompson

Thompson would not be replaceable if the Cavs were to leave him unprotected and he were to get picked. His rebounding -— particularly on offense — and defensive versatility make him an essential part of any Cavs team with LeBron around. And at 26, he’s still heading into his prime and could improve in some ways. For instance: he’s become an effective passer out of the short roll in the last 12 months. He’s someone you keep around even if a teardown happens.

J.R. Smith

Out of the Cavs’ remaining talents, Smith feels the most essential. He’s played his best with LeBron and is arguably the Cavs’ best two-way wing at the moment. (Whether that’s a problem is a discussion for another day.) His reputation with other teams could keep an expansion franchise from picking him, but leaving him unprotected isn’t a risk worth taking.

Cedi Osman

As the Cavs’ best young prospect, Osman is a must-keep for the Cavs. Even if he can’t contribute right now, he could with some NBA or G-League seasoning. And, if the Cavs decide they need to make a move in a few months, Osman could be used a deal sweetener then.

Kyle Korver

Korver’s skill is a luxury to be sure. And he’s a bit older than the rest of the players on the protected list. But he can play a role because he will play within what he does well and the Cavs are primed to maximize that skill.

Richard Jefferson

Jefferson will probably retire sooner rather than later, sure. And it’s unlikely the 2015-16 Finals Jefferson still exists. But he’s one of the few players Cleveland has who can switch, guard multiple positions and shoot. And it’s not hard to imagine a new team adding him to serve in a mentor role. It’s also possible there’s no need to protect him because he could convey that he’d retire if picked by another team through backchannels.

Who the Cavs are leaving unprotected

Derrick Rose

Rose is what he is at this point, and it’s unlikely he’ll be attractive to other teams when there was no market for him this summer. Maybe an expansion tams talks itself into having him put up raw numbers in a lost season. But were that to happen, that’s fine — the Cavs don’t really need Rose.

Iman Shumpert

Shumpert was a tough choice to leave off because the idea of him is incredibly valuable to the Cavs. But more often than not, his overrated defense and tendency to freelance make him a liability. Plus, his $10 million probably will scare teams off.

Channing Frye

Not protecting both members of the Road Trippin’ podcast was a tough decision. But Frye’s one skill can be replaced by others and teams may not want to add a seven-footer who isn’t good at rebounding or defense. If he were to be selected, the Cavs would miss his voice in the locker room as much as anything.

Edy Tavares

Tavares could be something, but he’s a big, slow center in a league that is getting smaller and faster. If a team takes him, it’s not a big deal.

Kay Felder

Felder was solid in the G-League last year, but struggled in the NBA and at this year’s Las Vegas Summer League. He’s someone the Cavs could still work to develop, but they won’t lose much if another team poaches him.

Jeff Green

Green will probably be picked because every team, at some point, talks itself into thinking they be where he finally figures it all out. And if he does get picked, there are bargain bin replacements like Derrick Williams, Alex Poythress or James McAdoo readily available.

Jose Calderon

It’s still hard to figure out why the Cavs signed Calderon on the first day of free agency. And if an expansion team is picking a new point guard, there are sure to be far better options.