The FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings count down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post.
Clint Capela might be the biggest beneficiary of the Houston Rockets’ offseason moves, albeit in less-than-obvious ways. Everything that the Rockets did this summer, though, tends to amplify his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. He’s improved every year on both ends of the court. With Space City improving on the defensive end, Capela should start getting a little more attention for his rim protection this season.
Most of our voters seem to expect that. He ranked on four of five lists, with a max ranking of 52.
It’s hard to envision Capela falling very far in the rankings for multiple reasons. His team is improving. He’ll be 23, which means he should continue to be on the incline. And with just 19.9 percent usage last season, it’s not like he has a lot of touches to lose. And with Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker adding defensive depth on the wings, he’ll have less need to roam in help defense, helping his rim-protection numbers.
In essence, everything about his situation is better, so it’s hard to envision him getting “worse” this season.
On the other hand, he’s going to get a boost from Chris Paul in the lineup. Caplea made 103 alley-oops last season, according to NBA.com. James Harden led the NBA in assists to dunks with 2.73. Paul was third at 1.82. It’s hard to see how having two lobbers in Beard and CP3 isn’t going to be a constant feast for Capela. And the defensive help will let him focus more on rim protection.
Capela is not an elite ballhandler. He’s not a stretch anything. But he has magnificently soft hands and can finish at the rim. And when you have the shooters and passers the Rockets do, that’s all you need from him.
The hidden side of spacing is that stretching the court opens up shots at the rim. And that, as I’ve already alluded to, is where “Awe” Capela thrives. He averaged 1.124 points per possession on offense overall, which placed him in the 96th percentile, per Synergy. On cut plays, he averaged 1.385 ppp, and as the roll man, he ranked 1.142. Those numbers are going to be at least as good this season with Harden and Paul taking turns throwing him the ball for this kind of play.
Notice how he has his back turned to Harden this entire play, but they still have perfect timing on the alley-oop. Now imagine that times two:
Capela has all the tools to be a defensive anchor in the middle, but last season he had to spend too much time in help defense; 46.3 percent of his defensive players were as a big defending the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll.
Capela isn’t just long (7-4.5 wingspan), as he uses his length really well to occupy a lot of space on the court, extending his reach everywhere. For example:
He also is very mobile for a big man and utilizes his feet well, and is able to stay in front of wings because of it.
There are still experience issues, particularly when it comes to knowing when to close out on a shooter. He gets caught watching more shots than he should. But he’s a very good defender, and that will be more evident with more defensive help.
I even have him as a dark horse candidate for the All-Defensive team.
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