Rockets: Can Clint Capela take the Next Step in a League Trending Big?
The Houston Rockets have the MVP back court, but how will Clint Capela continue to develop in a league harboring so many elite bigs?
Following a season in which he averaged career best in points (16.6), rebounds (12.7), and win shares (10.8), Clint Capela appeared to have justified the five year, $90 million contract he signed last summer. That was until he was put on the shopping block in an effort to attain more star power after another playoff defeat was doled out by the Golden State Warriors.
On the bright side, those Warriors are no more. Meaning a roster built to defeat the Death Lineup suddenly won’t ever face that five-man group again. This is a blessing, but could also be a curse.
Now when you look at the teams expecting to compete for a title, there are a lot of teams that have invested in playing big. This means the Swiss big man may become more important in the Post-Warriors Dynasty NBA.
Capela was one of only eight qualified front court players to average more than 16 points and 10 rebounds last season. This is encouraging for a player that is only 25 years old. One harsh reality is he won’t be just competing with those other seven players. Anthony Davis didn’t qualify for the list with only 56 games played , Rudy Gobert and Jusuf Nurkic both missed the cut by less than half a point, and DeMarcus Cousins was still recovering from his Achilles injury.
Next season’s potential playoff run is an absolute gauntlet of quality big men. Capela could matchup with Davis and Cousins against the Lakers, Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside against the Blazers, Nikola Jokic against the the Nuggets, Karl-Anthony Towns against the Timberwolves, *catches breath* Gobert against the Jazz, Kristaps Porzingis against the Mavericks, and LaMarcus Aldridge against the Spurs. THIS IS ALL BEFORE EVEN MAKING THE NBA FINALS.
The most likely opponents at that stage offers a healthy dose of either Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo or Al Horford and Joel Embiid. Both matchups would feature a big that can dominate the paint on defense and stretch the floor on offense coupled with a likely Defensive Player of the Year candidate with MVP offensive potential.
Capela will have his hands full to say the least. Luckily, the Houston Rockets center has proven during his time in the league that he can hold his own against elite players.
FiveThirtyEight’s DRAYMOND metric lists Capela as the number 26 overall defender since the 2013-14 season. His ability to defend in space allows him to affect shots that many other centers in the league simply can’t. And although his score dipped a bit last season, it isn’t hard to imagine it going back up under the tutelage of a former Defensive Player of the Year.
One major way Capela could make the necessary leap is in creating his own shot. Last season, 81.2 percent of his made field goals were assisted. Developing a go-to post move to alleviate pressure in the offense when one of his MVP guards is on the bench will help Capela take his game to the next level. This development will also help in the playoffs where the center still struggled last season. His scoring average dropped into the single digits under the pressure of playoff defense.
Capela making another jump is even more vital for the Houston Rockets with the revival of the NBA Big Man. The franchise is looking to win its first title in a quarter century and he could take a few pages from the man who took them there.
In the new Dynamic Duo era, it appears a majority of the Rockets’ heavy lifting will be done by James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but the team’s true championship potential could hinge on the ability of its starting center, now that the Death Lineup is finally deceased.