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Rockets 2019-2020 player previews: Clint Capela

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Clint Capela is the key to unlocking the Houston Rockets’ full potential next season.

NBA: Hoston Rockets-Media Day Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As the Houston Rockets’ late first-round pick in 2014, Clint Capela has shown continuous growth in his game. The 6’10” big man from Switzerland has posted career-highs across the board consecutively in each of the past five seasons, and last year was no different.

In an era where stretch-shooting bigs are valued most, the more traditional Capela firmly established himself as one of the best big men in the league. He posted 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds, to go along with 1.5 blocks across 67 games.

Although a borderline All-Star, Capela lost some of his luster during the Rockets’ playoff series against the Warriors — where his on-court value became obsolete — averaging 8.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks during the six-game series. Following a disappointing playoff outing, Capela’s name spent most of the summer in trade rumors, as the Rockets attempted to land Jimmy Butler before he was traded to the Miami Heat.

But Capela stayed, and one significant roster change later, he’s gearing up for his sixth season as a member of the Rockets, and all signs are pointing towards another impactful season for the big fella. Forget James Harden. No player is going to benefit the most playing alongside Russell Westbrook than Capela.

This is far from the first time Capela has played with an All-Star guard. After all, this is a guy who has played alongside Harden and Chris Paul the past several seasons. But playing with Westbrook has the potential to raise Capela’s game to another level.

Capela will benefit playing next to Westbrook due to his commitment to attacking the basket. Westbrook’s capability to collapse the defense to draw multiple defenders his way will produce more lob passes and put back opportunities for Capela.

As one of the few non-shooters on the team, Capela’s presence on the offensive end will make the Rockets’ offense nearly unstoppable — in particularly while coming off the screen. Playing a similar role as last season, with Harden and Westbrook coming off his screen, the defender must decide to either stay home on the ball handler, or pick up Capela to avoid an easy bucket.

With an unlimited amount of easy opportunities on the offensive end, Capela should finish the season with one of the highest field goal efficiencies in the league once again.

More importantly, the 2019-20 season has the potential for Capela to finally get some recognition as one of the best defensive bigs in the league. After a slow start in his career, each year Capela has shown major improvements as a rebounder and shot-blocker since 2017. He’s also improved his perimeter defense on switches.

At still just 25-years-old, Capela has yet to reach his full potential, and by taking that next step as a defender in 2020, he can enter his name into the league’s top centers.

His improvements on the defensive end will have a huge impact on the Rockets’ attempt to come out of the West — he’s Houston’s best option to defend the likes of Nikola Jokic, Kristap Porzingis, and Anthony Davis.

With champion aspirations running at an all-time high, several players will need to step up in order for the Rockets to achieve their ultimate goal. However, of all the players on the roster, including Harden and Westbrook, Clint Capela just may hold the biggest key to the Rockets reaching their full potential next season.