The Rockets this season have a championship in their sights, but it’s not going to be just on the shoulders of James Harden and Dwight Howard. It's also going to come down to how well the bench performs — we all saw what having no bench gets you (cough, Clippers), and last season the Rockets were one of the better teams in the NBA in part due to having a really solid bench.
One of the bench guys last season who will be having an even bigger role this season is second-year center Clint Capela.
It’s very likely that Dwight Howard will miss some back-to-back games, and he could also randomly sit from time to time as well. The goal for Dwight Howard is to be as close to 100 percent for the playoffs as he can possibly be.
Capela enters this season as Howard's main backup, so the Rockets need the Swiss Roll to take his game even further than last year.
"I think Clint can grow into a very solid player for our team and for the success of our team," Dwight Howard said. "Last year (Capela) started in the D-League, played most of his time there, then he stepped up. Started, played some big minutes after myself and D-Mo got injured and he did excellent."
During the playoffs it really felt like Capela’s coming out party; he made a mark on the Rockets and Rockets fans, essentially doing what Howard did, but on a smaller scale. Capela could be seen blocking shots left and right and throwing down monster dunks of off lobs from teammates.
"I thought last year during the playoffs he did an excellent job," Howard said "even during the season when I was out and other guys were out he just did an excellent job just coming in blocking shots playing great defense and running the floor,"
Last year in the playoffs, per 36 minutes, Capela and Howard’s numbers were pretty similar, and they both shot within 3 feet of the basket.
This season Capela needs to bring what he did in the playoffs last season, if not an even higher level of play for an 82-game NBA season. And to prepare for that grind it seems like Capela has added some serious muscle and bulk.
"I think when we drafted him he weighed 222 or something, I think he’s up to 246," Kevin McHale said.
Why does gaining weight matter? Well now with the added weight Capela can now hold up against some of the bigger centers in the league on a nightly basis. McHale called it "man strength." That's been an indication to the Rockets' coaching staff that he has the will to improve.
"Now is he going to make these just gigantic steps?" McHale said "I think he’s very good, I think he’s going to make incremental steps causes he’s such a hard worker."
A better Capela will be good for the Rockets not just because of the games Howard will miss, but because he's the key to anchoring the bench defense, and he can be incredibly good in that role.