While it’s still unsure whether Dwight Howard will opt out of his contract or not in the postseason one thing is for certain: the heir of the center position in Houston is already settled: It’s the young big man from Switzerland: Clint Capela
The former 25th overall pick from the 2014-2015 Draft, Clint Capela in many ways had a very positive year. After mostly playing in the playoffs in his rookie season Capela enjoyed some minutes as a starter as well as a first option after Dwight Howard, coming off the bench.
However what continuously amazed us game after game throughout the season is Clint Capela’s potential which seems limitless. While he enjoyed only 35 games as a starter (whether as a PF or a Center) every night we were given the sense that this young man is destined for big things.
Capela is not afraid of sacrificing himself for the team, he is a monstrosity inside the paint defensively and offensively, but most importantly: he doesn’t require the ball or plays that often thus making him the perfect complement for the ball dominant James Harden, while being just as much of a danger as D12 on the alley-oops or the post up plays.
And even if some might think Clint Capela should’ve been given even more playing time to develop himself, everything points out to a brighter future: with Howard likely opting out by the end of his contract, the Swiss man is set to be the ruling king of Houston Rockets’ paint for years to come.
Next: A Season of Growth
Feb 19, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets forward Clint Capela (15) dunks against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Rockets won 116-100. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
2015-2016 Regular Season Overlook and Comparison
77 Games, 19.1 Minutes per game, 7.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 58.3 FG%, 37.9 FT%
Clint Capela’s progress in this regular season is evident. It’s true that he only played 12 games last season and mostly on games beyond reach or as a third and sometimes even fourth option, so it was obvious he was due a bump on his numbers specially after the spike on his playing time.
His evolution was acknowledged by the league as well and Capela was invited to the Rising Star Challenge on All-Star Weekend playing for the World Team and scoring 12 points in 15 minutes.
Nevertheless what happened to Clint Capela numbers and opportunities as the year progressed is somewhat hard to understand:
Before the all star game, Clint Capela was playing around 21 minutes per game, scoring 7.2 points per game and grabbing roughly 7 rebounds while taking part in 53 games. Meanwhile after the All-star game his minutes dropped considerably: from 21 minutes to 15.2. It’s also true that although his minutes fell he kept his production high: maintaining 6.7 ppg and 5.4 rebounds.
He might be just another player that fell victim to J.B. Bickerstaff’s wacky rotations.
However the question must be asked: shouldn’t a player that is on a development path and was supposed to be nurtured for a spot in Houston Rockets near future have his numbers increased as the season advances instead?
It’s entirely possible that his growth may have reached a slight halt due to the lack of opportunities by end of the season.
But whenever we are talking Capela, the most tempting comparison to make is regarding his productivity in opposition to Dwight’s in an effort to find out whether Capela is able to fill the big man’s shoes.
And while putting side by side both of their regular season per game numbers would be unfair, when we take their “per-36 minutes” stats the competition is fierce:
Howard: 15.4 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks
Capela: 13.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks
When all is said and done it’s still a monumental job for Capela to take Houston Rockets center starting position next year but as far as confidence goes Red Nation sure thinks he is ready.
Next: Disappointing Postseason
Mar 25, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Clint Capela (15) reacts on the court against the Toronto Raptors in the second half at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 112-109. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
2016 Playoffs Stats (?)
Clint Capela’s usage on the playoffs is a joke in bad taste. It’s not even funny how misused and underused he was by J.B. Bickerstaff.
Capela got buried way down in the bench and had as much chance this year as he had last year in the playoffs when he unexpectedly came off the bench for a couple minutes as an important surprise factor.
But this time with the team struggling and under performing former interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff decided to simply give up on his only other big besides Howard that plays both ways inside the paint.
Take a look and compare Capela’s 2014-2015 Playoffs usage to this year’s Playoffs:
2014-2015: 17 Games Played, 7.5 Minutes per game, 3.4 points per game, 2.5 rebounds.
2015-2016: 5 Games Played, 8.6 Minutes per game, 1.6 points per game, 4.0 rebounds.
Granted he did get more playing time this postseason: a whole minute more to display his talents and improvements on court.
As far as the reasons for that, the most likely explanation is Bickerstaff wanting a faster and lighter team on court to challenge the Warriors pace thus diminishing Capela’s opportunities.
With Corey Brewer playing over 15 wasteful minutes every night in the playoffs one has to wonder if all those minutes wouldn’t best serve the Rockets if shared with players that actually bring something different to the table and could indeed be game changers.
Next: Highlights... and Mamba's Dunk
Jan 7, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) dunks against Houston Rockets forward Clint Capela (15) in the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Naturally coming off a 12 game season Clint was bound to break a lot of records and establish new career bests. So even though he is still 2 points below breaking the 20 point mark the Switzerland big man had many strong showings.
The most notable of them was his career-high 18 points exhibition against the Knicks at MSG on November 29th:
In addition to his 18 points, Capela grabbed 11 rebounds and stole the ball 3 times.
The big man also had huge rebounding nights like April 13th when playing against the Kings in the last game of the season Capela crashed the boards for incredible 17 rebounds to go with 6 points and 3 blocks on just 23 minutes. It was also his highest +/- performance with +25.
However his favorite adversary really seems to be the Knicks as another of his strongest efforts came against New York when he tallied 16 points (7-of-9 shooting) and 14 rebounds:
Unfortunately we can’t finish off without seeing one of the biggest moments of the year: Capela getting dunked on by a vintage Kobe Bryant in what was likely one of the top plays of the entire season.
Next: The Capela Era
Mar 9, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and forward Clint Capela (15) talk during a break in the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Houston Rockets won 118-104. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
A Bright Future
With Clint Capela locked for the next year and with a team option beyond that, the Rockets have one of the best deals of the NBA. Capela is already a reality in this league and with his sights set on becoming a starter next season his development is bound to have an exponential growth.
Furthermore Capela’s deal and salary is so flexible that the Rockets now find themselves in a very comfortable position towards letting Dwight Howard walk in the free agency. Throughout the 2016-2017 season Capela will be paid $1,296,240 and then a team option small bump for the 2017-2018 season: $2,334,520.
Therefore having a competent and now seasoned Capela starting at Center would leave the Rockets with a flurry of options and room to maneuver their cap space with views on bringing another star to Clutch City.
This writer fortunately doesn’t see any scenario in which Daryl Morey would even remotely consider the possibility of trading Clint Capela right now as he is young, strong, ingenious and the rightful owner of the Center position in Houston.
I believe it’s safe to say: ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Capela Era.
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