Clint Capela is finally becoming the starting center the Houston Rockets dreamed of when Dwight Howard decided to literally take his ball and go home.
Over the past few weeks, the third-year center has been stepping up, getting better game after game, and, just recently, he was able to hit the 30-minute mark, doing it in back-to-back games no less.
"He just keeps getting better," Mike D'Antoni said of Capela's progress. "His stamina is better, 35 minutes (against the Pistons) was maybe a little bit too much, but it's important to know that he can do it for himself and keep his energy at the right level."
Going into the season, the only concern was if Capela could play starters minutes, and if it would be better for him to come off the bench. At one point in the preseason, the Rockets even started Nene, but they ended up sticking with Capela, and now the team is reaping the rewards from his development.
Since Nov. 14, in a five-game stretch, they are just barely on the outside of having a top 10 defense. They’re only allowing 100 points a game, good enough for 11th-best in the NBA, and they are firmly middle of the road in pace.
It's nearly a full seven-point difference compared to how the Rockets started the season. The team overall has gotten much better as a unit, but Capela seems to have made the biggest jump of late.
In the past five games, Capela is on the cusp of being a top 10 rebounder, with 10.8 rebounds a game good enough for 11th in the NBA. His 2.6 blocks a game ties him for third in the NBA, averaging nearly a full block more than his former mentor, Howard.
Not to mention Capela's rim protection is now on another level. On the season he's allowing a 54.6 field goal percentage on shots at the rim, but during this five-game stretch, it's been chopped almost in half only allowing a 39.1 field goal percentage at the rim. That’s an elite, if unsustainable, number.
It may have taken 14 games but the Rockets are finally getting the starter that they've envisioned.
If Capela can just keep playing this way consistently the Rockets are going to be a very dangerous team. Just think: he's still improving, and to pull a reference from Dragon Ball Z, he's yet to transform into his final form.