The Pallilog

Texans still have work to do, right move for Oliver and Rockets-Warriors

Tytus Howard out of Alabama State could develop into a tremendous offensive tackle who protects Deshaun Watson for the next decade. He probably won't but he certainly could. If Howard is a good, dependable starting tackle he's a good pick. He went 23rd overall not third. It's still difficult to not think that Texans' General Manager Brian Gaine got beaten to the punch for his first first round selection, and was forced to some extent, settle. To my knowledge, no one credible thinks Howard is the tackle prospect that Andre Dillard is. The Texans had been regularly linked to Dillard. The Eagles paid a modest price of fourth and sixth round picks to trade up three spots and select Dillard immediately before the Texans went on the clock.

The Texans aren't thinking they got a stud o-lineman from Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, right?

With two second round picks and one third rounder, the Texans absolutely should be thinking another offensive lineman and a cornerback for two of those selections. With the other pick "best player available" expanding to running backs to complement/challenge/succeed Lamar Miller, wide receivers to give depth beyond the fragile Will Fuller and Keke Coutee, and a pass rusher since J.J. Watt is 30, Jadeveon Clowney's future is up in the air, and Whitney Mercilus enters the last year of his contract having produced just five sacks in 21 games over the last two seasons.

Oliver to the Bills

Only silly people criticized Ed Oliver for not playing in the University of Houston's bowl game. Playing would have entailed only risk, no reward. Especially for a guy whose final UH season was disrupted by a knee injury. Oliver's decision needed no validation, but going number nine in the draft to Buffalo made for a very good Thursday night for him. The ninth pick last year (o-lineman Mike McGlinchey to the 49ers) signed a guaranteed four year contract worth more than $18 million dollars.

Oliver is just the sixth UH Cougar to go in the top 10 overall. Of the prior five, Riley Odoms is the only one to start an NFL game after he turned 28 years old. Those who didn't: Mack Mitchell, Wilson Whitley, Andre Ware, and David Klingler.

​Finally, Rockets-Warriors

Unless the Golden State Warriors complete an epic collapse we will get the long anticipated Rockets-Warriors rematch. The champs are clearly vulnerable having lost two home games already to the Clippers. If the Warriors close out in six they face a quick turnaround to game one with the Rockets Sunday afternoon in Oakland. If the Clippers force the two-time defending champs to a Game 7 the Rockets would have time to kill until Tuesday. If somehow the Clippers win the series the Rockets would get homecourt advantage for round two.

With loads of respect to the Clippers pushing things this far, Rockets-Warriors remains the desired marquis attraction. It should be a tremendous series. It better be a tremendous series, because other than one incredible game and shot from Damian Lillard, the first round of the NBA playoffs has generally been awful.

On paper it still sets up as advantage Warriors. If both teams play their best ball, Golden State simply has more top end talent, with the tipping point player being Kevin Durant. James Harden didn't have a great series vs. Utah (37.4 percent field goal shooting stinks) but as a player he's better than he's ever been, and he'll have to be because Chris Paul isn't. In boxing terms, and probably basketball terms, as a tandem Harden and Paul have to outpoint Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Eric Gordon probably needs to be outstanding. He's not remotely of Durant's caliber but needs to score well, and likely is the primary defender on Thompson, with Harden hidden on Bogut, Andre Iguodala, or Draymond Green.

The injury loss of DeMarcus Cousins takes away one very potent Golden State option, which makes life easier for Clint Capela. But having brought back Andrew Bogut was a shrewd Warrior moves. He's not an offensive threat, but Bogut is a better and smarter defender than Cousins.

Along with the historic ramifications of winning a third straight title and fourth in five years, before moving across the Bay to their billion dollar playpen palace in San Francisco next season, the Warriors want to finish their Oakland era with one last title at Oracle Arena. The Rockets would so love to be the detonator that demolishes Oracle a few weeks early. All dynasties end. I just don't think this one does quite yet.

Buzzer Beaters

1. John Havlicek died Thursday at 79. An acknowledged all-time great, eight time NBA champion, but I think underappreciated as more time passed. 2. The Rockets have zero reason to regret trading for Chris Paul, but given the circumstances the Clippers did great in getting Pat Beverley, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell. 3. Best Paul/Harden insurance commercials: Bronze-Clutch Fires Away Silver-The Bot Gold-The Microwave

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The clock is ticking. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If he is indeed to become an ex-Astro George Springer can officially sign with his new team starting at four PM Houston time this Sunday. Michael Brantley the same. All free agents can sign contracts starting Sunday afternoon. If the die isn't cast that Springer is leaving, it certainly feels like his renewing vows with the Astros would be an upset.

The Astros will make Springer a 18.9 million dollar qualifying offer for 2021. He will of course reject that because contract offers of at least five years and over 100 million dollars likely await. Should Springer move on the Astros would then get a compensatory draft pick. Brantley won't get anything in close range of Springer's haul-to-be but still should at least get multiyear offers. The Astros should make the qualifying offer to Brantley (if they don't they forfeit any compensation for his departure). If they don't out of fear that he'd accept the one-year deal, the Astros would look lame. I don't think it comes to that. Losing Springer would be a huge blow on multiple levels, but if somehow they were to keep Brantley while getting back Yordan Alvarez at even 80 percent of his rookie performance level the Astros' lineup would look to be in decent shape.

With MLB's economic outlook shaky for 2021, it's unreasonable to say Jim Crane and his partners should give Springer whatever he wants. A six or seven year megadollar contract for a 31-year-old player with some durability questions on his resume is an iffy proposition. At the same time, the Astros have been quite profitable in recent years (before 2020), and Crane said over the summer the Astros were positioned to be "aggressive, whatever the market looks like." 13 million Josh Reddick dollars are off the books for 2021, 10 mil of Roberto Osuna is gone. After next year more than 57 mil of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke clear.

MLB's postseason awards will be doled out over the next couple weeks but for the first time in years the Astros don't have a credible candidate for any of the big ones (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year). The Astros do have three American League Gold Glove finalists. I think Carlos Correa wins the shortstop honor. Correa had a weak regular season at the plate but his defense was stellar, plus the two guys who divvied up the last four AL SS Gold Gloves (Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons) had down seasons and aren't finalists. Quick: name the teams of fellow finalists J.P. Crawford and Niko Goodrum. Hard to see either winning over Correa. Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker were also named top three at their positions. For the first time the finalist selections were driven entirely by stats and analytics.

Big week for the Rockets

With the Rockets settling on Stephen Silas as their new Head Coach, that hire coupled with the in house promotion of Rafael Stone to General Manager makes it appear as though owner Tilman Fertitta is doing more things on the cheap. The NBA economic environment is challenging and huge portions of the rest of Fertitta's portfolio are submerged in a COVID-driven bloodbath. Silas has paid his dues for a good while and most recently worked under the outstanding Rick Carlisle in Dallas. He has earned a lead chair opportunity. But with no prior head coaching experience and no bidding war for his services, Silas signs on at a much lower rate than, say, Jeff Van Gundy would have commanded. Former head coaches (and former Rockets' player rivals of the 90s) Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan would make for two strong Silas assistants. From their playing days if you combined Hornacek's offense and McMillan's defense into one player you'd have one of the top 20 or so greatest guards in NBA history.

Silas and Stone take the reins at a challenging time for the Rockets with their messy salary cap sheet, reduced draft capital, and one of the oldest core player groups in the league. Polite public statements aside, it's part of why Daryl Morey left. Maybe Mike D'Antoni too though that seemed more about feeling disrespected by the lack of a contract extension before this past season. D'Antoni may have overplayed his hand since he did not get fill any of the coaching vacancies elsewhere in the NBA. Only Oklahoma City remains open, and D'Antoni has gotten no run there.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It seems sadly appropriate that the first meaningful positive in the Texans' 2020 season came in form of a COVID test result.

2. If we all commit to getting through it together, I think we can get by without a Texans' game this weekend. Remember, it's their open week, not a bye!

3. One hit wonder goodbye songs: Bronze-Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun" Silver-Norman Greenbaum "Spirit In The Sky" Gold-Steam "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

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