Clint Capela is earning a big contract somewhere. Jason Miller
The NBA playoffs are under way and I could spend time using this space to breakdown matchups or what this postseason will mean to James Harden’s legacy. I could do that, but I won’t. I do enough of that on the radio and so do other people. I’m much more interested in the game inside the game. I’m talking about guys who could cash in on a big postseason. What is Clint Capela worth? Is Kyrie Irving being hurt the best thing that could happen to Boston’s Terry Rozier? Will the Wolves series against the Rockets change the way the NBA sees Derrick Rose?
Who is the next Jonathon Simmons? If you remember back to last year’s playoffs, Simmons became a playoff star for what he did in the Spurs-Rockets series. He helped the Spurs eliminate the Rockets while Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard were injured. He scored 12 points in a pivotal Game 5 and 18 points in San Antonio’s 39-point Game 6 victory that closed out the Rockets in Houston. Simmons averaged 6.2 points in the regular season but scored in double figures 10 times in the postseason. His overall performance led to three-year deal worth $20 million from the Orlando Magic. A modest number by NBA standards but certainly a huge increase over the $874,000 Simmons made in his final season with the Spurs. Here are three guys who have a shot to duplicate the impact that Simmons provided and earn substantial raises because of what they do in these playoffs.
Capela has done enough regular season work to get a big deal. This postseason gives him a shot to cement himself as a premiere big man in the league. He used Game 1 of his playoff run to dominate a big man with a pretty good reputation. The athleticism difference between Capela and the Wolves’ Karl Anthony Towns was a drastic one. Capela’s fluidity and his ability to get up down the court was evident and the box score reflected the difference between the two young centers. Capela put together a dominant all-around game that featured 24 points and 12 rebounds. Towns finished with eight points in 40 minutes. Capela’s impact on Houston’s success has been well documented throughout the season. Game 1 was just further confirmation of just how important he is to the Rockets. A successful playoff run for the Rockets could potentially put Capela in the discussion for max money this offseason.
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent ‘18
Much like the inspiration for the piece, Rozier has been given an opportunity due to an injury to a star. Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving is out for the playoffs and Rozier goes from backup to starter on team that entered the season with title aspirations. As the backup at both backcourt positions Rozier had his best season as pro in his third season. He saw his minutes, points and shooting percentages increase significantly. In his first game as a starting point guard in the playoffs, Rozier scored 23 points, pulled down four rebounds and dished out three assists with no turnovers. Most importantly he made multiple big shots down the stretch, somewhat duplicating Irving’s big shot ability. A strong playoff run by Rozier could place him in high demand for a team desperate for a young and improving point guard. Rozier is set to make just over three million dollars in the final year of his deal. At a premium position like point guard a productive 2018 playoff run could land Rozier a deal worth eight figures annually.
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent ‘19
Oklahoma City’s Jerami Grant
Grant’s regular season numbers are modest at first glance and they don’t make you think of a guy who is in line for a big deal but there is a precedent for springy bench players getting lucrative deals. Moe Harkless of the Portland Trailblazers used a strong playoff performance over eleven games in 2016 to see his annual salary increase from just over $2.8 million to just under $9 million. The Blazers rewarded him for his increased production over the course of those two 2016 series with a deal worth $42 million. Grant’s role as a energy bench player is important to the Thunder’s second unit. His style is a complement to Russell Westbrook’s frenetic style of play when Westbrook tries to push the pace. Grant’s energy leads to putbacks for himself and second chance opportunities for his team. Paid just over $1.5 million in the final year of his deal, a big playoff performance could see Grant’s annual salary multiplied by six.
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent ‘18
Shoutout to Matthew Dellavedova, the ultimate playoff finesser. He went from making just over $1.1 million on a one year deal in Cleveland to getting paid $38 million over four years in Milwaukee. That raise was primarily based on a postseason where he scored in double figures seven times in 20 games as Kyrie Irving’s backup for Cleveland in 2015. He became a national story for all of five days when Irving was injured in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors. He’s still in Milwaukee by the way. As I type this he’s playing in garbage time as the Bucks are about to go down 0-2 in their series with the Celtics.
The playoffs can be lucrative for potential stars or the 8th and 9th men in a rotation.
Gerald Green, go get yours.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.