Why Clint Capela will have a breakout season

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 7: Clint Capela
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 7: Clint Capela /

With Chris Paul sharing the ball-handling duties with James Harden, Clint Capela will have his breakout season.

In his young three-year career, Clint Capela has shown glimpses of the dominating center that he can one day become.

Capela, a 6’10” product from Switzerland, was picked 25th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft.

His rookie year was a slow start. Capela averaged 2.7 points and 3.0 rebounds with a paint chipping 17.4 free-throw percentage in  just 12 games. Playing behind star center Dwight Howard and Tarik Black didn’t afford Clint with much playing time.

Those two years as a back-up allowed Capela to hone his skills. Last season, he averaged career-highs in points (12.6), rebounds (8.1), assists (1.0), field goal percentage (64.3) and minutes (23.9).

The 23-year-old led the Rockets in blocks and second chance points. Capela also tied for first in rebounds with James Harden and finished second in net rating. To say Capela has come a long way is an understatement.

Clint Capela has every intangible that a team wants in a center: a long, athletic, hard-working gym rat.

Capela has made progress in each of his first three NBA seasons, and his fourth year should continue that upward trend.

The Chris Paul effect

With Chris Paul making his way to Houston, the Rockets now have two of the top 5 point guards in the NBA. Harden and Paul make the jobs of other players much easier. With Houston’s floor spacing and Harden and Paul’s ability to score off of the pick-and-roll, Capela should find an abundance of opportunities.

Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan made the All-NBA third team last season. Chris Paul helped Jordan improve his game when he arrived in Los Angeles, and he will have a similar effect on Clint Capela.

Like Capela, Jordan scores most of his points off of assists. The Paul-Jordan pick-and-roll was so effective that DeAndre Jordan scored the most points per possession as the roll man in the entire NBA among players with at least 100 roll man possessions. Houston may very well become the new home of Lob City.

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Also, Chris Paul’s guidance and high expectations should improve Capela’s defense. Paul is the ultimate floor general on both sides of the ball. He’s constantly calling out coverages and communicating with his teammates defensively.

In the 2011-12 season, Paul’s first with the Clippers, Jordan posted a defensive rating of 101.8. In the 2010-11 season, prior to Paul, Jordan’s defensive rating was a much worse 107.2. Of course the Clippers roster improved, but Jordan became a monster defensively because of his commitment and in part because of Paul’s demanding expectations. CP3 gives 100% effort on every play, and he doesn’t expect anything less from his teammates. With Capela’s length and athleticism, he can become one of the best defensive centers in the NBA.

With age comes experience

This may be an obvious point, but it’s still worth mentioning: young players improve as they gain experience.

Last season was Capela’s first year in a starting role. A 22-year-old in the starting five of a 55-win team is nothing to scoff at.

To re-iterate my previous point, Capela has DeAndre Jordan’s star potential. In DJ’s third year as a 22-year-old, he averaged 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 25.6 minutes per game. At the same age last season, Capela averaged 12.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in just 23.9 minutes per game. By the time Jordan entered his prime at 25, he was averaging double digits in scoring and rebounding in addition to 2.5 blocks a game.

Clint Capela should exhibit a similar upswing in his rebounding and blocked shots as his career matures. He’ll fill out his athletic frame in the weight room, and his in-game timing and intuition will improve as the years go by.

Rebounding, running the floor, setting screens and catching lobs have become a staple for the modern-day NBA center. Clint Capela can fulfill those duties on the floor and more. Rockets fans should sigh a breath of relief, because Houston has its center for the next decade.

Next: Houston Rockets: Why James Harden’s Defense Will Improve Next Year