When the Rockets traded for Chris Paul on June 29, Clint Capela took to Twitter to show his excitement.
For the first three years of his career, the center played alongside the one of the NBA’s best passers in James Harden, now the man who led the “Lob City” Clippers for the last six seasons is joining him.
“Since we’ve been playing (over the summer) I’ve been doing twice more pick and rolls with Chris Paul and with James (Harden), so (there’s) even more opportunity to get lobs, (be) more involved in the offense,” he said.
Per NBA.com, the Rockets averaged 1.14 points per possession when Capela was used as the roll man in the pick and roll, which was in the 73rd percentile. He averaged 3.1 of those possessions per game, and he expects that number to rise, and so he’s been watching plenty of film on his new distributor.
“I’ve always been watching point guards playing pick and rolls with centers, and I’ve been talking about it with him,” he said. “Every time we play together we talk about it, how I should set the screen, how I like the pass thrown, so we’ve always been communicating about it so we can get better with it.”
As the two have played together over the summer Capela admits there have been some growing pains.
“The first time (the pass) was high, and then we kind of talked about it, kinda adjusted a bit. As long as I catch it and score, that’s fine.”
Capela is entering the final year of his rookie contract and unless he signs an extension by the October 31 deadline he’ll hit restricted free agency next July. The 23-year old was third in the NBA in field goal percentage (64 percent), and saw a large uptick in his numbers across the board (7 points per game to 12.6 and 6.4 rebounds per game to 8.1), but when asked what he’d like to improve on the most this season, his answer hit on a different number.
“The next step for me is to be able to play more, have the same impact and play more, maybe 28 (minutes),” he said.
Last season, Capela played 24 minutes per game, and Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni explained Monday why he couldn’t play him more.
“I told him, I take him out because you look tired, you look laboring out there. You’re not running the floor, and he says well, I need to play, no you don’t until you get it up, so his next step is that, and I think he will.”
The Rockets have depth at center with the addition of Tarik Black and the re-signing of Nene, but of the three, Capela has the highest upside, but D’Antoni says its up to him to reach his potential, and he can’t be satisfied with what he did a season ago.
“If I’m Clint Capela, yeah, I played 24 minutes last year, I need to get that up to 30. What I give can’t fall off, I need to keep not getting tired,” he said. “I think it’s a matter of getting older, stronger, getting to a man’s body, so I’m looking forward to him progressing whether it’s up to 26 this year or up to 30. He determines that.”