Last season was uncharted territory for the Houston Rockets, and coming into the season they made the decision to not retain Dwight Howard and hand the starting job on over to Clint Capela.
The Rockets faith in the 22-year-old big man was rewarded as Capela continued his devolvement and took another step forward.
He was no Prime Howard, but the Rockets didn't really need that. They needed someone who was going to dunk the ball and block shots, and that's what Capela brought to the team.
Capela, to the T, fit exactly what the Rockets needed in Mike D'Antoni's system with James Harden running the offense.
In 65 games, Capela posted career highs with 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds a game.
During the preseason, Capela struggled with stamina, and many people wondered if Nene would end up starting over him, but D'Antoni stuck with the Swiss big man.
Thanks to D'Antoni's rotation of bigs with Nene and Montrezl Harrell, the third-year center wasn't overworked, and the Rockets were able to make the most of his nearly 24 minutes a game.
Capela during the regular season had one massive setback when he broke his fibula, which caused him to miss 15 games. When he eventually made his return, it would only take Capela two games to round right back into form.
Throughout the season, Capela was very consistent scoring thanks to the connection he and James Harden developed. The pick and roll between the two become almost unstoppable. Per NBAstats.com, Harden assisted Capela on 173 (most on the team) shots, which is the most he made to any one player on the team. Of the 173 assists, Harden made to Capela, 163 of them resulted into dunks.
One of the big knocks on Capela throughout the regular season would be his inconsistent propensity for rebounding. He'd put together a few good games, but then he'd have a few stinkers.
There was never a very good answer for why Capela struggled on the glass, but with Ryan Anderson or whoever else was in the starting lineup, they were never near the glass and it's hard to win rebound battles when it's one verse two or three.
In the playoffs, the Capela put up monster first games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, but once both teams figured out how to take away Harden’s pick and rolls, he'd struggle to find consistent looks.
Capela is under contract for next season at about $2.3 million and then will be a restricted free agent in 2018 and, unlike Chandler Parsons, it's hard to picture the Rockets letting the big Swiss man walk.
While Capela did prove the Rockets top brass right by picking him over Howard, he still has a lot more room for growth.
It's unclear if Capela will ever develop much of a shot outside of dunks and layups, but you do see him tinkering around with midrange jumpers from time to time. I am sure each midrange jumper the Rockets are internally fining him (I’m joking of course). Hook shots do seem to be something that could be a big part of Capela's game if he keeps on developing with it. Two years ago he shot 43 percent on hooks and last season he bumped it up to 49 percent, and there’s no reason he can't get even better.
The next big step for Capela will be averaging 30 minutes a game, and if the team does not bring back Nene, chances are he'll do it this upcoming season.
If he get's the bump in games, Capela will go from snagging 8 rebounds a game to 10 plus, and he'll be a double-double machine.
This season might have been Capela's "breakout," but next season, with another year of growth physically and in the system, he could become one the better centers in the league.
With his ability to block shots and dunk the ball, the Rockets could see a younger version or Howard or DeAndre Jordan (relevant considering the Swiss Roll’s new teammate) and with Capela slowly getting better with his free throws, he'll be much more playable in crunch time, just like he was down the stretch run this past season.