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Houston Rockets early season review: Clint Capela

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 21: Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets on guard against Marcin Gortat #13 of the LA Clippers on October 21, 2018 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. 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 Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 21: Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets on guard against Marcin Gortat #13 of the LA Clippers on October 21, 2018 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. 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 Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Clint Capela had a breakout year for the Houston Rockets in 2017-18, posting career highs in almost every major statistical category and helping the Rockets to a Western Conference Finals appearance. This season, he has been even better.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey made it clear that one of his first priorities this past offseason was to re-sign Clint Capela. He did just that in late July, inking a five-year, $90 million deal with the 6’10” center, keeping the Rockets’ Big 3 of Capela, James Harden and Chris Paul intact.

Though he had a breakout campaign last season and was runner-up for the league’s Most Improved Player, Capela has been even better this year.

Hot November

Similar to most other Rockets, Capela got off to a slow start to the season. He missed the entire preseason with a knee injury and scored only eight points in Houston’s opening night loss to New Orleans. It also seemed like he was having a hard time getting on the same page with Harden and Paul in the early going.

But recently, Capela has reached his level of production from last year, and then some. He has scored in double-figures in every game since the Pelicans debacle and has really stepped up big in the Rockets’ last five games. In those contests, he has posted 22.6 points per game and 14.2 rebounds per game while shooting 69.9% from the field.

Capela is also not backing down from any challenge, which is fun to see. In back-to-back games against one of the league’s best centers in Andre Drummond, Clint has posted lines of 27 points with 15 rebounds and 29 points with 21 rebounds, respectively.

His confidence seems to be rising by the day as he continues to dunk on unfortunate defenders and swat shots left and right. Even though he is only 24 years old, he should be considered as one of the league’s best big men.

Contract Incentives

In Capela’s previously mentioned new contract, only $80 million is guaranteed. The other $10 million are incentives that can be earned through hitting three goals: reaching the Western Conference Finals, achieving a 30% defensive rebound rate, and shooting 65% from the free throw line.

As for the defensive rebound percentage, which is an estimate of the percentage of available defensive rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor, Capela is falling behind. After posting a 30.8% mark last year, Clint is at 25.5% so far this season.

Clint has also struggled with his free throws at 57.1% this season, and he has sometimes even fallen victim to the Hack-A-Shaq treatment at the end of games. But after shooting a dismal 37.5% from the stripe in October, he seems to be making strides in the right direction in November with a 63.8% mark.

If Capela wants a few extra million in his bank account at the end of the season, which I assume he does, he’ll need to continue to improve his rebounding and free throw shooting.

Stats

Here are the stats for Clint Capela so far this year, including his last two incredible games against the Pistons:

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table

The Swiss Army Knife

Capela has proven to be essential to the Rockets on both offense and defense. His athletic rim-running is the perfect complement to Harden and Paul’s passing ability, catching and finishing lobs with ease.

While Isaiah Hartenstein has been a sufficient backup center, he just doesn’t have Capela’s talent of throwing down alley-oops, leaving something to be desired on the offensive end when he is on the bench.

He is also a top-notch defensive center as he is swatting 1.9 shots per game, good for seventh in the league.

Next. Rockets early season review: Chris Paul

If the Rockets can keep Capela healthy alongside their two future Hall-of-Famers, chances are high that they will continue to make a run at a top spot in the Western Conference.

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