Rockets’ rebounding woes
It stands to reason that trading your only playable center for a wing would hurt your team’s rebounding. That is without mentioning that Capela is indeed a good rebounding center.
In the regular season, the Rockets were 15th in rebounding before the All-Star break, and 20th afterwards. Clint Capela was traded in early February, shortly before the break, so this prediction did come to fruition.
This trend also translated to the playoffs, where the Rockets finished 13th in rebounding by the time they were eliminated by the Lakers.
What is interesting is that their first-round opponent, the Oklahoma City Thunder, finished first in rebounding for the postseason. As we know, the Rockets managed to defeat the Thunder with Russell Westbrook missing a good amount of the series, even if they barely did so.
Against the Lakers, however, three of the four losses saw rebounding discrepancies of 13 or higher, with Game 4 seeing the Lakers grab 26 more boards than Houston. Against the Thunder, the Rockets were never outrebounded by more than 12 in a loss, and were only outrebounded by six in one of those three losses.
The explanation as to why the Rockets saw a much more tangible effect on the outcome in the series against the Lakers as compared with the Thunder is simple: The Lakers are a much bigger team than the Thunder.
Against a team of more reasonable proportions, small-ball worked in spite of the Rockets getting outrebounded because they were not outrebounded by that much. But against a team as tall as the Lakers, the rebounding concerns of small-ball came to light.
There is still a catch to this, however. Clint Capela is only one player and the Lakers have several players who can match his size and rebounding production, so is it really plausible to think that his presence alone would have helped enough on the boards to change the outcome of the series?
The answer is no. If Capela is there, that means Robert Covington is not there. Covington is the second tallest player who actually played in the playoffs for the Rockets, and the difference that the Rockets had on the glass with him versus what they would have theoretically had with Capela is not enough to sufficiently declare a different potential outcome for the series.
The Rockets would likely have faced similar rebounding troubles even with Capela. In essence, rebounding played a role, but would not have looked different enough to change the end result.
Next: Covington's impact