It’s officially contract year for the class of 2015. Time for your close up. Players can forget about everything that happened in the past three years- the spotlight is on you this year. Show up and perform at a high level in your contract year? Let’s get you that brand new Bentley you dreamed of. Get injured or disappoint? Kiss your money goodbye. Just look at what happened to Isaiah Thomas this past summer. He went from “bring the Brink truck” to signing the Veteran’s minimum deal.
Let’s take a look at three players from the 2015 class that literally have millions of dollars on the line this year.
Roziers playoff battle vs Eric Bledsoe was the most entertaining storyline of the first round last year. Quick recap for those that didn’t follow: Rozier “accidentally” called Eric Bledsoe “Drew Bledsoe” in a post-game conference when asked about Eric Bledsoe. Yes, Drew Bledsoe, the former quarterback of the New England Patriots.
Drew Eric Bledsoe didn’t find it funny, and when asked about Roziers play in Game 1 the next day, he responded, “Who? I don’t even know who the fuck that is.” Rozier and the Celtics eventually took care of Bledsoe and the Bucks, but the petty war wasn’t over. Rozier decided to show up to Game 1 of the Celtics second round playoff matchup against the 76ers rocking a Drew Bledsoe jersey. What a fuckin troll.
Oh the pettiness. You have to love the NBA. Guess what? That’s not even the BEST part of this beef. The funniest part is that Jalen Rose compared Rozier to Eric Bledsoe at the 2015 NBA Draft!!!! Are you not entertained?!?!?!
After Irving’s season ended last year, Rozier stepped into Kyrie’s shoes (literally) and emerged as a more than reliable starting point guard for the Celtics. Prior to Irving’s injury, the third-year guard was averaging an impressive 11.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 25.8 minutes. Post-Kyrie injury, his numbers increased significantly to 15.2 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in 32 minutes without Irving. In the playoffs Rozier averaged 16.5 points a game, 5.7 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game (WHOA!). Rozier finished 19th in RPM wins last year for all point guards, finishing just a shade under Kyrie and higher than All-Stars Goran Dragic and John Wall. The Celtics were also +21 with Rozier on the floor in the playoffs- the third best, only trailing Horford and Tatum.
Does Rozier deserve more playing time? Probably, but he’s not going to get the minutes he thinks he deserves on this loaded Celtics team. Scary Terry (awesome nickname by the way) showed that he’s capable of handling the ball and running the offense for the Celtics last year. Unfortunately, his opportunities will significantly decrease with the return of Irving and Hayward. It’s hard to see Rozier having the same impact on the offensive end for the Celtics this year. The Celtics will likely have two of either Irving, Hayward, Tatum, or Horford on the floor at all times and they will serve as the primary ball handlers/playmakers. Rozier will have his spots, but he’ll have to take full advantage of those moments to maximize his value. Rozier was an effective (44.9%) catch-and-shoot shooter from 3-point range in the playoffs so he can be an effective player for the Celtics even without the ball in his hands.
The Celtics will be in a tricky spot this summer with Rozier, especially after the extension of Marcus Smart last year. The Celtics would obviously like to keep Rozier, but its unlikely they’ll be able to match the offers Rozier will field next summer. Will Rozier have the opportunity this year to further prove that he can be a starting point guard in the league? Probably not, but last year’s performance was enough for teams to offer Rozier a long-term contract next summer (hello Phoenix!!!!!!). For Rozier, the most important thing is to stay healthy heading into free agency. By the way, Terry Rozier is my starting PG on my All Dark Alley NBA team.
Coming out of the draft, Russell was over-hyped as the next Manu Giobli/James Harden, but those comparisons tapered quickly. Remember this? I can’t believe Kobe agreed to this. This might be worse than the “this is going to be fun” Dwight Howard/Steve Nash cover.
I have to admit, Russell was handed an unfair deck during his time in Lakerland, most of which he brought upon himself. The Snapchat debacle was an absolute train wreck. We’ll never know what he was thinking, but he was never able to recover from that. Guess what else? If you think about it, Iggy Azalea is responsible for PG not signing with the Lakers (George and Russell share the same agent). There were always concerns about his immaturity and Snapgate was the tipping point for the Lakers.
In his first move as president, Magic Johnson used D’angelo Russell to get rid of Timofey Mozgov’s contract. When asked about the Russell trade, Magic didn’t hold back either. “D’Angelo is an excellent player, he has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody also that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with.” Geez, that’s probably something you don’t want to hear from the greatest point guard of all time. Unfortunately for Russell, Johnson wasn’t the only Laker to bash Russell. Lakers former coach, Byron Scott, consistently spoke negatively about the young player. Things this past summer didn’t get much better for him either. He saw two of his best friends, KAT and Booker, get maxed by their respective teams.
Russell is a gifted scorer and he has the size/stroke to become an impact player in the league. He’s demonstrated the ability to average 20 PPG in the league. For a young point guard, he takes care of the basketball and he’s effective in the pick n roll. Unfortunately for Russell, his lack of explosiveness makes it difficult for him to get to the rim and finish. He also struggles often times on the defensive end, but that’s mainly due to his lack of effort.
By year three we usually know if a player has the POTENTIAL to become a special player. Russell hasn’t showed us much, but I’m not ready to label him off yet. What’s Russell’s ceiling? Best case scenario, can he be the second best player on a championship team? Ehhhhh maybe, but probably not. Or is he going to be a “bad team, good stats” guy his entire career? It sure feels like he’s headed down that road, doesn’t it? But guess what? You can make the All Star team that way- just look at Stephon Marbury! With Kenny Atkinson at the helm, Russell will all have the tools, resources, and opportunities to blossom and prove he can become a valuable piece for the Nets.
In year four, can D’Angelo show that he’s matured on and off the court? Can he demonstrate the leadership ability at the point guard position that the Nets desperately need? Can he stay healthy (he’s missed over 50 games the past two years)? Is D’Angelo someone we will look back on in fifteen years and ask, “why wasn’t be better?” There’s so many questions, but he’s only 22 years old. Unfortunately for the Nets, they’ll have to make a decision by next summer. Time is ticking……
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Kelly Oubre aka “Wave Papi” is entering the final year of his rookie contract. “That’s my alter ego,” Oubre explained. “Wave Papi is all about good vibes. He’s about staying cool, calm, and collected.” Doesn’t that sound like something you would hear come out of Swaggy P’s mouth? Oubre has made a bigger name for himself through social media vs on court performance which is never a good sign. UPDATE – Oubre just evolved into TSUNAMI PAPI. Oh no Kelly, what are you doing?
The 6’8” small forward averaged 12 points and 4 rebounds for the Wizards in 28 minutes last year. Oubre playing 28 minutes a night tells you all that you need to know about the Wizards roster. Tsunami Papi has improved in each of his first three years in the league, but he hasn’t developed into the valuable 3 and D player the Wizards were hoping for when they selected him with the 15th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
This past summer, Oubre worked with Drew Hanlen who has become a go-to trainer for NBA players. Oubre knows what is at stake this year. His next contract can help him evolve into Megatsunami Papi or dry him up like Southern California. To maximize his value, he’ll have to prove to teams he can defend and hit three pointers at a consistent rate. Oubre will be counted on as one of the Wizards’ go-to players off the bench. Whether he can answer or not will be the question. If Oubre can stay consistent this year, he’s looking at a nice pay raise this upcoming summer from a team in need of a 3 and D player.