With the Houston Rockets emphasizing a quicker pace of play and defensive rebounding, the table is set for Clint Capela to have a career year.
Since his first NBA season with the Houston Rockets in 2014-15, Clint Capela has improved in virtually every major category. Last season, the Swiss center posted career bests in points (16.6) and rebounds (12.7) per game. Capela’s 16.6 points per game were sixth-best among NBA centers last season, and his 12.7 rebounds were fifth-best.
Last year, Capela’s numbers dropped off substantially in the playoffs as he averaged 9.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in 11 appearances. His poor play was especially evident in the second-round series versus the Golden State Warriors and subjected him to criticism from Houston Rockets media and fans. His poor play even led to some trade rumors, but ultimately nothing ever came of them.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni defended his center against criticism of his poor play, citing a virus that Capela battled throughout the playoffs. Regardless of last year’s performance, Capela is now healthy and the Rockets enter this season with a legitimate chance to make the NBA Finals.
Last season, Houston ranked in the bottom third of the league in team possessions per game and 27th in rebounding rate. Emphasizing the pace of play and defensive rebounding are the two keys to this season, according to D’Antoni.
With the addition of All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, Houston now has the personnel to play faster. Westbrook is one of the quickest, most explosive point guards in the league and is much more athletic than Chris Paul. More importantly for Clint Capela, Westbrook is also a very willing passer.
Capela is at his best when running the floor, catching lobs and scoring on easy layups, dunks or put-backs. With Westbrook and James Harden in the backcourt, Houston will now start two of the league’s assist leaders and the Rockets’ center will be the biggest beneficiary of their passing.
With this faster pace of play, Capela’s easy buckets should increase even more than usual, as what happened frequently against the Clippers in the second preseason game.
It’s no secret that Houston shoots a lot of 3-pointers. In fact, the team has led the league in attempts from outside each of the past three seasons. With this volume of attempts, the opportunity for rebounds and put-backs is always there. Capela has always benefitted from these opportunities, but with an emphasis on rebounding this season, defenses will have to focus on boxing out players besides him.
Westbrook has led all point guards in rebounding since the 2014-15 season, including double-digit rebounding numbers over the past three seasons. He is far superior to Chris Paul when it comes to rebounding, and his addition will only help the team’s rebounding totals.
Danuel House Jr. split time between the Rockets and the Vipers, Houston’s G-Leauge affiliate, last season, so his impact was never completely felt. Now, with a three-year deal with the Rockets, House Jr. can use his speed, length and 6-foot-7 height to make his presence felt on the boards.
The Rockets have lacked an explosive small forward for years, and this hole in their lineup has hurt them come playoff time for the last three years.
P.J. Tucker is the heart and soul of the Rockets, but his 6-foot-6 height makes him extremely undersized for a power forward. His strength, however, requires defenders to find him as soon as the ball goes up for a shot.
The Houston Rockets will look much different this season, and that’s a good thing. With Russell Westbrook joining the fray, Capela could very well be the one that benefits the most.
If the Rockets are able to get a career year out of their big man, the league will have its work cut out for them.