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Houston Rockets: 4 goals for Clint Capela in the 2018-19 season

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 18: Clint Capela
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 18: Clint Capela
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Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Clint Capela will look to push his game to a new level after coming off of a career year in the 2017-18 season.

Considering the fact that Chris Paul wasn’t expected to leave, re-signing Clint Capela was the Rockets’ biggest win of the offseason.

Houston signed Capela to a five-year, $90 million contract extension. This deal is a bargain for Houston, considering that similar centers like Steven Adams (four years, $100 million) have a significantly higher annual salary.

Last season, Capela averaged career highs in points (13.9), rebounds (10.8) and blocks (1.9). He even led the league in field goal percentage, making 65.2 percent of his shot attempts. Capela’s numbers correlated to wins for the Rockets. Houston went 42-3 when James Harden, Chris Paul and Capela played together.

In the postseason, Capela proved that he could hold his own against some of the league’s best centers. The center from Switzerland outplayed Karl Anthony-Towns in the first-round, averaging 15.8 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2 blocks per game on a sizzling 67.3 field goal percentage. Towns averaged 15.2 points in the series, significantly less than his regular season average of 21.3 points per game. He also shot just 46.7 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from 3-point range, partly because of Capela’s defense.

Capela won’t turn 25 until May 18, 2019, so he still has plenty of room to improve. Let’s take a look at four goals for Clint Capela ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Next: No. 4

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

4. Play 30 minutes or more per game

Almost every team in the NBA would love to have a center like Capela who averaged just under 14 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks per game last season. Those numbers are quite impressive, but it makes you wonder what would happen if Capela played more minutes.

Capela averaged just 27.5 minutes per game last year, but that was a career high. Steven Adams averaged 32.7 minutes per game last year, but he averaged 13.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and just 1.0 block, so his numbers are inferior to Capela’s despite playing heavier minutes. Rudy Gobert averaged 32.5 minutes and his numbers are closely aligned to Capela’s.

So why doesn’t Capela average more minutes given his high production? According to Mike D’Antoni, it’s because he tends to fatigue quickly over the course of games, via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

“He can get a little bit better at the foul line, and he can get better with his endurance. When he does that, when you say what the modern center should look like, it’ll have his picture there.”

If Capela can improve his endurance next season, D’Antoni will gladly give him more playing time. An increase in minutes will inevitably give his numbers a boost, which will help Capela accomplish the next goal.

Next: No. 3

Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets blocks a shot by
Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets blocks a shot by

3. Make an All-Defensive team

One of Houston’s biggest goals last season was to finish the year as a top 10 defense, top 5 preferably. The Rockets accomplished that goal, ranking sixth in defensive rating.

Clint Capela was one of the main reasons for the Rockets success on defense. Capela averaged 1.9 blocks per game, and his stellar perimeter defense for a center allows Houston to switch everything on the pick-and-roll.

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Furthermore, Capela finished fourth in the NBA in defensive rating (100.5), sixth in defensive win shares (4.1) and 11th in defensive box plus/minus (2.9). With these numbers in fairly limited minutes, Capela has a good opportunity to qualify for at least the All-Defensive Second Team if he receives more playing time.

With the departure of both Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, Capela will have to shoulder a heavier defensive burden. For the Rockets to finish as a top 6 defensive team next season, Capela has to take the next step. He needs to become one of those shot blocking centers whose mere presence in the paint is so intimidating that opposing guards avoid driving the lane.

Next: No. 2

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

2. Lead the NBA in field goal percentage again

In the 2016-17 season, Capela capitalized on his new starting role by averaging a scorching 64.3 percent shooting from the field. Last year, Capela took it a notch higher, averaging a league-leading 65.2 field goal percentage.

Having two Hall-of-Fame point guards in James Harden and Chris Paul certainly helps Capela find open shots under the rim. Mike D’Antoni’s heavy 3-point shooting offense also helps Capela find open looks because it spreads the defense across the perimeter.

But Capela also deserves a lot of credit for his sky-high field goal percentage because he knows his role. Capela’s athleticism allows him to be one of the more effective rim running centers in the game. He’s also worked hard on simple post moves, which allows him to grab offensive boards and score with greater efficiency.

As long as Paul and Harden are handling the rock in the pick-and-roll, Capela will continue to enjoy lobs for seasons to come. Don’t be surprised if he leads the NBA in field goal percentage again next season.

Next: No. 1

(Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. Improve free-throw percentage

To say that Clint Capela was a bad free throw shooter at the start of his career would be an understatement. Capela missed his first 15 free throws and finished his rookie year with an abysmal 17.4 free throw percentage. In his sophomore season, Capela made just 37.9 percent of his free throws, which was the fourth worst free-throw percentage in league history among players with at least 150 attempts in a single season.

After hours and hours of practice over the summers, Capela has gotten a lot better. Last year, Capela shot a respectable 56.0 percent from the foul line. He was just accurate enough that many teams decided against intentionally fouling him late in games, but there’s still a ton of room for improvement.

Historically, NBA centers are often bad free throw shooters. Even NBA legends like Shaquille O’Neal (career 52.7 free throw percentage) and Wilt Chamberlain (career 51.1 free throw percentage) struggled from the charity stripe.

Next. Should the Houston Rockets pursue Nicolas Batum via trade?

The Rockets need Capela on the floor as much as possible. It would be unfortunate for Mike D’Antoni to be forced to sit Capela in late game situations due to his poor foul shooting. Capela’s goal for next season is to make at least 65 percent of his free throws.

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