No, Dwight Howard is not yet coming back to rescue the Houston Rockets frontcourt from the likes of Tarik Black and Joey Dorsey. Not yet. The player coming in is the 25th pick of the 2014 draft. He who missed all of training camp and the majority of the preseason with a groin injury. He was sent down to the D-League back in early November.
Clint Capela was called back up to the Houston Rockets after six games with D-League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers, averaging 9.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in just 14.1 minutes per game.
Rockets recall Clint Capela from the D-League. In his six games in RGV, averaged nine points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) December 2, 2014
This comes on the heels of a Feigen report detailing the struggles Howard has had coming back. He underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy -- thought to be a quick fix -- but is still doubtful for tomorrow night's game with no timetable for return.
So, who is Clint Capela and what can we expect?
Without rehashing his abilities too much (which you can get from TDS's Player Preview), Capela has the physical tools to provide what incumbents Dorsey and Black do not: rim protection, size, and length. Is he the salve that heals all wounds for the Rocket's defense? No, but he has to be better than what they have.
To give you some context the Rockets have been 16 points better on defense when Dorsey is off the floor. His Opponent Counterpart 48-Minute Production (PER of the player he is guarding) is 37.1(!). That mark would lead the NBA by 4 points!
Essentially anyone that Dorsey is guarding at the center position (where is playing the majority of his minutes) is a better version of Anthony Davis. Let that sink in for a moment. He's been terrible.
Black has been aggressive on defense, but he's also not a rim protector (two blocks recorded this season) and his offense is very Kendrick Perkins-ish (all aggressiveness, no effectiveness).
Capela has been a defensive marvel down in the D-League. Stats in the D-League leave much to be desired, but you don't average 3.17 blocks (8.32 blocks per 36 minutes) in 14.1 minutes, only committing 1.33 fouls per game, and not be a game-changer at the rim. He's used his length well (even if he can be pushed around down low) on the boards (18.3 rebounds per 36).
He should be able to immediately be a force on both those accounts, but he has some room to be a Tyson Chandler-like factor in the pick-and-role. You can ask Joe Alexander if you don't believe me:
He also does a good job of sticking to the baseline for dump offs and putbacks:
Overall, the minutes Capela will initially get, might not be worth mentioning, but Abel Prado had some great details on Capela's game that can bring even more help to the defensive side of the ball.
Capela seems to be adept in the post position. He positions his body well defensively and knows how to use his considerable wing span to create difficulties for shooters.
Now, It's not as if the Rockets defense has been porous (they are third in defensive rating and second in points allowed), but they're tied for 20th in opponents field goals made at the rim per game, 23rd in opponents field goals attempted at the rim per game, and 13th in opponents field goal percentage at the rim per game. Those numbers are a product of a great perimeter defense led by the stone mountain defense of superstar James Harden and Co.
Clint's length and mobility is something that doesn't exist in the current frontcourt iteration and that Rob Dover, over at Red94, highlighted in his assessment on Houston dealing with it's injury bug.
".....the Rockets do not have a convincing rim protection threat (Dorsey and Black try their best, but they’re not in the same league). To make up for this, the Rockets can try to put more pressure on opposing ball-handlers far away from the rim to make it more difficult for them to slice into the lane......The Rockets are using the mobility and length of Motiejunas (I’ve seen them do this with Black too) to engage in some Miami Heat-style blitz defense against the pick-and-roll."
Capela isn't the whole solution, but he can go a long way in providing the tools needed to keep the defensive train going until Dwight gets back.