With Dwight Howard in Atlanta, the Rockets entered the season with a bit of a question mark at center. They signed Nene in the offseason, but when the season started, third year man Clint Capela took Howard’s spot, and after starting 76 games in the regular season and playoffs, he thought it went well.
“Now I know I can handle the role of a starting center,” he told reporters Friday. “Now my goal is to be more consistent, be able to play more minutes, and like I did after this past summer, since I got here, get stronger, and keep working.”
The 22-year old from Switzerland averaged 12.6 points and 8 rebounds per game in 24 minutes this season. He made 64 percent of his field goal attempts, and maybe more importantly, hit on 53 percent of his free throw tries. All those numbers were career-highs, and the man that drafted him is excited about his future.
“He took a big leap forward to be the starting center of a 55-win team,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. “Towards the end of the year, I felt that he took another leap in his activity, and his ability to protect the rim, and really help our defense.”
Capela was one of the few Rockets to show up in Thursday’s 114-75 season-ending loss to the Spurs. He scored 15 points to go with 12 rebounds, and when asked about going out to find another all star to pair with guard James Harden, Morey said that Capela may be that guy.
“I’m not trying to say that he’s for sure going to be an all star, that’s too much pressure to put on him at age 22, or whatever he is, but he’s got a chance,” he said. “You look at his progression and where he’s at, he’s got a chance to be for sure near all star, if not better.”
With next season being the final year of his rookie contract, the Rockets are allowed to offer Capela an extension this summer, but the center isn’t thinking about that.
“My main focus is to get stronger for next year, and help my team to get better.”
Morey has never handed an extension to one of his first round draft picks, but says it’s quite possible Capela could buck that trend.
“The normal course of business with someone as good as him, yeah you talk extension.”
Morey would have until the day before next season starts to lock Capela up, but if he doesn’t the center would be a restricted free agent next summer.