Clint Capela’s role with the Rockets shouldn’t be understated

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 28: Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the national anthem prior to the game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 28, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 28: Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the national anthem prior to the game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 28, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
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As Clint Capela inks a five-year deal with the Houston Rockets, we look back on the role that he’s played since his emergence as the team’s starting center, and what the deal means for the organization and its fans going forward.

After a drawn-out pause for dramatic effect, the Houston Rockets and restricted free agent Clint Capela finally came to terms on a 5-year, $90 million deal to keep the blooming big in town for the long term.

Re-signing key free agents is a sure-fire way to get fans looking into the future, but Capela securing the bag also presents an opportunity to look back on what got him here, and what role he’s had on building the competitive team that the Rockets are today.

How did he get to this point?

Capela deserves a lot more credit than he receives for immediately filling Dwight Howard‘s shoes at the five spot. The Rockets were on the verge of plunging into mediocrity after going 41-41 in the 2015-16 regular season. Howard had spent the entirety of that year thirsting for post-up opportunities to inefficiently convert on while refusing to be utilized as a screen setter on pick-and-rolls.

Daryl Morey, Mike D’Antoni, James Harden, and the free agents the Rockets signed during 2016’s offseason get a lot of the shine for the team’s turn around the following year, but if Capela doesn’t come in and do all of the things that they had wanted and needed Howard to do, that resurgence doesn’t go over nearly as smoothly.

Capela is the picture next to the dictionary entry for “modern NBA center,”. He was probably built in a lab somewhere to play in a D’Antoni style offense. He’s lengthy, mobile and has good hands to catch the tougher passes that come his way when he rolls to the basket. He used those abilities to replace Howard’s per-36-minute production of 15.4 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks with his own 19.0 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks as a third-year guy. That’s huge for an underachieving team looking to stay competitive.

Center of the future

After his initial role in the rescue from mediocrity, he further cemented himself as the Rockets’ center of the future and as a top big in the league. He’s improved steadily from season to season as his minutes per contest increase, which bodes well for an organization that just locked the 24-year old into a contract spanning the majority of his prime years.

And what a potential prime it could turn out to be judging from the production he’s bringing early on. This season he averaged 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game (good for second highest in the league), all career highs, on a league-leading 65.2% field goal percentage that was also a career high.

There may be some wiggle room in terms of the perception of what his ceiling is, but what’s definite is what he’s already done for the team and the roles he’s already proved to be able to fill. He came in and used his skills in the ways that the team needed him to use them, and he’s worked to be a better player and to further increase his value to the team to the league in general.

Houston is fortunate that so many of his alternative free agent destinations, like Phoenix and Dallas, filled their five spots or didn’t have the cap to drive his price up. The Rockets were able to sign him for a bargain relative to the contracts that similar players like Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams signed in 2016.

Next. The Rockets could look to make a trade before training camp

Capela’s work ethic and track record should be enough to leave fans confident that he’ll prove this contract to be more than worth the money attached to it, and that he’ll continue to play an integral role on this team.

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