Rockets

What Capela’s Imminent Return Means for Houston

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This summer, the Rockets re-signed center Clint Capela to a five-year contract extension worth $90M. He was in the midst of a career year, averaging 17.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on an astounding 63% field goal percentage. On January 13, however, Capela injured his right thumb against the Orlando Magic. He was forced to undergo surgery, and has missed the last 15 games.

The good news is Capela is expected to return following the All-Star break.

In the 15 games sans-Capela, the Rockets have gone 9-6. While this is a respectable effort, it is not nearly strong enough to keep pace in the contentious Western Conference. What will Capela’s return mean for the Rockets moving forward? Will he be enough to lift them deep into the playoffs?

Kenneth Faried vs. Clint Capela

In order to fill the void left from Capela’s injury, the Rockets signed athletic big man Kenneth Faried.

Faried, once a member of Team USA in the Olympics, has bounced around from team to team over the past few seasons. As a member of the Rockets, though, his high energy and athleticism quickly earned him a spot in the starting lineup. Over the past ten games, he is averaging 16.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

While these numbers seem comparable to Capela, Faried’s lack of defensive ability negates everything he brings to the offensive end. Here he is trying to lock down the much larger Joel Embiid:

At only 6’8″, Faried simply has no chance against the big bodies that he matches up against. He appears to foul Embiid at least three times during this possession, and allows him to get inside from the perimeter for the easy and-one.

The other major issue is rebounding.¬†Since Capela’s injury, the Rockets are second to last in the league in defensive rebounds per game. The small ball lineup they have been forced to play gives opposing teams easy access to offensive boards. Without Capela – the Rockets’ defensive anchor – they are simply being out-muscled game after game.

Moving Forward

Clint Capela may not be the flashiest or the most well-known player in the league, but his impact is crucial. From his defensive ability to his chemistry with Chris Paul and James Harden in the pick and roll game, Capela brings so much to the Rockets that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. This is what the trio did together last year:

https://twitter.com/DougPolkPoker/status/982774354176917504

Health issues have disallowed the three stars to have the same type of consistency this season, but Capela’s impending return will ideally give them enough time to gel before the playoffs begin. This should also move Faried back to the bench, where he can thrive in a role more suited to his skillset. Not having to expend as much energy on the defensive end will only increase his already-impressive offensive output.

James Harden can only bring the Rockets so far on his own. If they want to compete against the Warriors this postseason, keeping Capela healthy should be priority number one.

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About Zach Zola

Zach Zola is a student at Brown University studying English. He grew up in New York, but has been a die-hard Rockets fan since the days of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. He believes that James Harden is the only King James in the NBA.

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