Clint Capela has barely scratched the limit of his potential or his financial ceiling. Capela was drafted in 2014 as a blank slate with a limited skillset. However, general manager Daryl Morey saw a prospect who possessed the ideal measurables and strengths to evolve into an NBA center alongside pick-and-roll maestro James Harden.
Without speaking for Morey, Capela has surpassed most reasonable expectations. In addition, to his restrictive paint defense, Capela doesn’t desire the ball in post-up situations to contribute, but excels screening, diving to the rim, finishing off pick and rolls and attacking the boards. Despite being void of a face-up game outside the restricted area, Capela provides a towering, athletic presence who can finish in the paint and force defenses to keep one eye on the paint and another on their murderer’s row of shooters.
Fortunately for Capela, his contract is expiring next summer at a time when the market couldn’t be better for a young two-way big who becomes a restricted free agent last season. Morey opted not to re-sign Capela before the extension deadline, but spoke highly of how much Capela is worth to ESPN’s Tim McMahon.
“We’ll have him here as long as he’ll have us,” Morey said. “He couldn’t price himself out.”
“The only way [to overcome the Warriors] is to develop near-elite two-way players,” Morey said. “I think Clint has that potential. He’s on the way. He took a big step forward last year. It’s a lot to put on one guy, but we need one more step, at least.”
Capela is more than your average 23-year-old center. His game is evolving quicker than our future artificially intelligent robot overlords. Now in his fourth season, Capela has improved across the board in every category every season since his rookie campaign. His field goal percentage has improved from 48 percent as a rookie to 68 percent. His 11.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 13.1 points and 27.1 Player Efficiency Rating are all career-highs.
While the entire league has become enraptured by Andre Drummond rectifying his free throw woes, Capela has undergone a more gradual development. Remarkably, the basketball neophyte is now a reliable 68 percent free throw shooter.
Capela had missed the first 15 free throws of his NBA career (as well as his first 11 field goal attempts) and finished his rookie year 4-of-23 from the stripe, though he did go 15-of-29 during the Rockets’ run to the 2015 Western Conference finals.
Capela shot 37.9 percent on free throws in his second season, worse than all but four players in NBA history with at least 150 attempts in a season. Capela says he played hesitantly because he didn’t want to be fouled, hating the isolation and humiliation that came after.
Houston re-signing Capela in 2018 is a no-brainer. Morey made a calculated move by holding off on re-signing him until next summer, giving the front office more cap flexibility next summer. While Capela tests his options, he’ll count against the cap for only $7,003,585, significantly less than what he and his agent will demand in his upcoming contract negotiations.