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Houston Rockets 2018-2019 player recaps: Clint Capela

It’s time to revisit the season for the Rockets’ man down low.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The success Clint Capela had this season is a little hard to gauge right now. The weird thing is that it shouldn’t be, but it is.

While the fifth-year center took another leap this year in mostly every significant category, it’s being overlooked. It’s been overlooked because of that abysmal series that he had against the Golden State Warriors. It’s 100 percent fair to say that it was abysmal, so the question we need is ask is: Is it fair to question his future with the Rockets because of it?

After his stellar 2018 postseason and breakout performance in the playoffs, the Houston Rockets made a commitment to Capela. He would get $90 million over 5 years to remain a cornerstone piece of the team and the future of the franchise. He deserved it too. Capela had shown he was getting better in the Rockets’ system, and he was an imposing presence in the paint on defense.

It’s fair to say that, for 82 games, there was no buyer’s remorse this regular season.

Clint Capela might have had a rocky start to the season, but everyone did. That didn’t stop him from boosting his numbers even more this season, especially in one where Houston depending on him more than ever.

The now 24-year-old big man out of Switzerland bumped his minutes up significantly from 27.5 minutes per game to 33.6. His field goal percentage dropped just a tad bit from his league-leading 65.2-percent last year to 64.8-percent, but his scoring went way up from 13.9 points a game to 16.6. Most importantly for a big man, he averaged nearly 2 more rebounds a game this year at 12.7 boards per game. He also averaged a career-high in assists at 1.4 a game, if you’re into that.

This year, Capela ranked 5th in rebounds, just .2 points behind Rudy Gobert for 4th. He was second in field goal percentage behind Gobert. He was also 11th in blocks with 1.5 blocks a game.

Another part of his game that was greatly welcomed was Capela having dominating performances. Seven times this year he had games of 25 points or more, including a 31-point game and two 29-point games. Last year, he had only two such games, including a season-high 28 points. He had only two games last season of 20 rebounds or more, whereas he had five such games this season, including twice having back-to-back 20+-rebound games. To top it all off, three times this season Capela had a 20-20 game, including two 29-point, 21-rebound games.

His regular season still came with its faults. From January 13 until the end of the All-Star break, Capela missed a crucial 15 games with a thumb injury. Luckily, James Harden had that explosive performance of 30-point games and the Rockets lost only 6 games in his absence, but, as we know, every win was important for the Rockets’ playoff seeding. His eventual return did solidify one thing: the Rockets are much more successful with him in the lineup. With Capela back on the floor after the All-Star break, the Rockets won 20 of their next 25 games.

Fast forward to the playoffs, and none of that momentum carried on.

To start the Jazz series, Capela was sick. He did have a solid Game 1 with 16 points and 12 rebounds, but he was slow and lumbering and clearly ailing. In the next four games of the series, he would score 7, 11, 5, and 16 points respectively. Luckily for him, Utah wasn’t that tough of an opponent.

After Game 7, Capela had this to say about the upcoming series:

He got the Warriors. But the Warriors didn’t get Capela.

What happened in that series was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. I get that the Hamptons 5 lineup completely threw him off guard, but beyond that, he just didn’t look like himself. You know when you’re dreaming, and you’re punching and hitting someone, and they’re just doing nothing? Not that they’re baby soft or like it’s punching a pillow, but just ineffective - there’s no confidence or belief behind it. That’s how Clint Capela played that series.

Capela wanted no parts of that series.

All the other starters averaged nearly 39 minutes or more versus Golden State. Capela averaged 28.7, barely three minutes more than Austin Rivers. He averaged 8.8 points a game, a full 2 less than P.J. Tucker. And he grabbed only 10 boards a game, less than Draymond Green’s 10.7 rebounds average. On top of that, his presence inside wasn’t felt, and he averaged a low (for him) 53.5-percent from the field and had only 3 blocks the entire series.

As much as I would have loved to pin his shortcomings that series on the Hamptons 5, Capela had only 10 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes in a Game 6 without Kevin Durant, the tallest player in the H5 lineup.

Still, we will always have this gem:

Fast forward a little bit more, and now we’re here and hearing that Capela is very much an option that the Rockets are willing to move. In fact, he might be the biggest asset that they have.

Given the season that he had and the fact that he has improved every year, it’s hard for me to actually justify trading a 24-year-old who shows that he can easily play at an All-Star level. Capela is getting bashed for his playoff performance, but everyone seems to forget that this is only his second season of being good - and technically it’s more like his first season of being good since the dominance didn’t truly show until last posteason.

Capela is only in his fifth year, and if he gives you another season of improvement, then his contract begins to look like an absolute steal. In fact, paying him only $18 million is a steal right now.

The Rockets did deserve a better performance from him in the playoffs, but Capela also deserves better support from us. All-in-all, he did have a stellar season, and there’s still a lot of upside to his game.