Houston Rockets: Clint Capela is poised for a breakout year

Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images /

The young Swiss center is poised for a breakout season with the Houston Rockets as he slots in as the perfect center for Chris Paul and James Harden.

When it comes to the Houston Rockets, most of the attention is focused on James Harden and Chris Paul for the upcoming season, and rightly so. After all, the pairing of two of the best “point guards” in the league is a rare combination that people can’t wait to see unfold.

However, more people should be focusing on Clint Capela, as the 23-year-old big man is poised to take another big step in his career, especially after the addition of Paul.

Capela is the perfect center for this Rockets team, as he can set good screens, defend the rim and catch lobs from either Harden or Paul (who has thrown his fair share of lobs to DeAndre Jordan in recent years).

Capela was a key reason the Rockets let Dwight Howard walk in the summer of 2016, and he didn’t disappoint last season, posting career-highs in scoring (12.6 points per game), rebounding (8.1 per game), and both field goal (64.3 percent) and free throw percentage (53.1 percent).

What’s more impressive about Capela’s 2016-17 season is that he played just 23.9 minutes per game. Per 36 minutes, those numbers jump up to 19 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

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There are concerns about Capela’s stamina and whether or not he will be able to play close to 30 minutes per game in the coming seasons, but it’s clear Capela has been very productive, even in a smaller role.

Looking at his advanced statistics, Capela posted career highs in Player Efficiency Rating (21.4), true shooting percentage (63.8), win shares (5.9), and box plus-minus (0.9).

In the playoffs, Capela turned things up a notch on the defensive end, especially in the second round against the San Antonio Spurs. In that series, Capela averaged 13 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in 29.3 minutes per game. Capela was too athletic for most of the Spurs’ bigs like David Lee and Pau Gasol, leading to very impressive performances such as this one in Game 1:

In the playoffs, Capela posted a 5.6 defensive box plus-minus and was tied with Draymond Green for the most blocks in the entire playoffs at 28. While Capela was overwhelmed by the physical nature of the bigs on the Oklahoma City Thunder, he was able to use his speed and athleticism to his advantage against the older Spurs.

Like any young player, Capela has areas to work on and improve. He has no real resemblance of post play (not that the Rockets want him to truly develop one) and he needs to get stronger to go up against the bigger and more physical centers around the league.

However, with Chris Paul entering the fray, Capela is poised to get more lobs thrown his way, which will lead to greater scoring averages for the Swiss big man. While he will never be the rebounder Jordan is, Capela can easily average over 15 points per game next season, especially if he plays closer to 28-30 minutes per game.

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Capela just turned 23 in May, and with the “Point God” Chris Paul joining James Harden in Houston, he is poised to have a breakout season on both ends of the floor as he slots in as the perfect center for Mike D’Antoni‘s Rockets.