Last season was uncharted territory for the Houston Rockets, and coming into the season they made the decision to not retain Dwight Howard and hand the starting job on over to Clint Capela.The Rockets faith in the 22-year-old big man was rewarded as Capela continued his devolvement and took another step forward. He was no Prime Howard, but the Rockets didn’t really need that. They needed someone who was going to dunk the ball and block shots, and that’s what Capela brought to the team. Capela, to the T, fit exactly what the Rockets needed in Mike D’Antoni’s system with James Harden running the offense. In 65 games, Capela posted career highs with 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds a game. During the preseason, Capela struggled with stamina, and many people wondered if Nene would end up starting over him, but D’Antoni stuck with the Swiss big man. Thanks to D’Antoni’s rotation of bigs with Nene and Montrezl Harrell, the third-year center wasn’t overworked, and the Rockets were able to make the most of his nearly 24 minutes a game. Capela during the regular season had one massive setback when he broke his fibula, which caused him to miss 15 games. When he eventually made his return, it would only take Capela two games to round right back into form. Throughout the season, Capela was very consistent scoring thanks to the connection he and James Harden developed. The pick and roll between the two become almost unstoppable. Per NBAstats.com, Harden assisted Capela on 173 (most on the team) shots, which is the most he made to any one player on the team. Of the 173 assists, Harden made to Capela, 163 of them resulted into dunks. One of the big knocks on Capela throughout the regular season would be his inconsistent propensity for rebounding. He’d put together a few good games, but then he’d have a few stinkers. There was never a very good answer for why Capela struggled on the glass, but with Ryan Anderson or whoever else was in the starting lineup, they were never near the glass and it’s hard to win rebound battles when it’s one verse two or three. In the playoffs, the Capela put up monster first games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, but once both teams figured out how to take away Harden’s pick and rolls, he’d struggle to find consistent looks. Capela is under contract for next season at about $2.3 million and then will be a restricted free agent in 2018 and, unlike Chandler Parsons, it’s hard to picture the Rockets letting the big Swiss man walk. While Capela did prove the Rockets top brass right by picking him over Howard, he still has a lot more room for growth. It’s unclear if Capela will ever develop much of a shot outside of dunks and layups, but you do see him tinkering around with midrange jumpers from time to time. I am cheap nba jerseys authentic sure each midrange jumper the Rockets are internally fining him (I’m joking of course). Hook shots do seem to be something that could be a big part of Capela’s game if he keeps on developing with it. Two years ago he shot 43 percent on hooks and last season he bumped it up to 49 percent, and there’s no reason he can’t get even better. The next big step for Capela will be averaging 30 minutes a game, and if the team does not bring back Nene, chances are he’ll do it this upcoming season. If he get’s the bump in games, Capela will go from snagging 8 rebounds a game to 10 plus, and he’ll be a double-double machine. This season might have been Capela’s “breakout,” but next season, with another year of growth physically and in the system, he could become one the better centers in the league. With his ability to block shots and dunk the ball, the Rockets could see a younger version or Howard or DeAndre Jordan (relevant considering the Swiss Roll’s new teammate) and with Capela slowly getting better with his free throws, he’ll be much more playable in crunch time, just like he was down the stretch run this past season.
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In case you missed it this morning, ESPN’s Tim McMahon and Bobby Marks collaborated on an excellent piece detailing how the irresponsible spending by NBA teams last summer could impact a star-studded free agent class in 2018.Which is music to the ears of Bulls’ front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman, who are hoping to be a major player on the free agent market next year. The ESPN report projected only nine teams having cap space to bid on a free agent class that could include Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Avery Bradley, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wilson Chandler, Danny Green, Enes Kanter and Greg Monroe, along with restricted free agents like Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Marcus Smart, Rodney Hood, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Aaron Gordon and Clint Capela. Bad summer not to have any spending money. But that’s exactly what Paxson and Forman were anticipating when they chose not to get involved in the reckless spending triggered by the league’s new TV deal last summer. We all know about some of the terrible contracts handed out including a four-year, $72 million deal to Joakim Noah, four years, $64 million for Timofey cheap jerseys authentic Mozgov and Portland spending almost $150 million to lock up reserves Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner for four years. The Bulls signed Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Canaan last summer, but avoided any salary commitment beyond two years. Both Rondo and Canaan were bought out of the team options the Bulls held for next season. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are now in such a deep luxury tax hole that they basically gave Crabbe away in a trade with Brooklyn earlier this week, immediately waiving the player they got back, power forward Andrew Nicholson, under the league’s stretch provision. Portland figures to be one of at least 10 teams paying the luxury tax for the 2018-19 season. I know what many of you are thinking, “Why will 2018 free agency be any different than in years past?” Yes, the Bulls missed out on primary targets James, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, and they failed to land Anthony in 2014. But with so many teams capped out, the Bulls will face less competition in pursuing the players they want most next summer. We’ve all heard the rumors about James wanting to finish his career in L.A., and it’s unlikely Durant, Westbrook, George or Paul would have any interest in coming to Chicago. But the Bulls could get significantly better right away in a weakened Eastern Conference by adding one or two players from a list of unrestricted free agents that could be looking for a new situation, including Cousins, Jordan, Bradley, Thomas, Caldwell-Pope, Kanter, Chandler and Green. They also could use their cap space to make a massive cap offer to a restricted free agent whose team is already in the luxury tax. Of course, the Bulls have decisions to make with their own roster as well. They still haven’t re-signed Niko Mirotic, and any contract beyond one season will reduce their cap space next summer. Plus, the key player coming back in the Jimmy Butler deal, shooting guard Zach LaVine, will be a restricted free agent next summer, and if he comes back 100 percent from ACL surgery, could command a multi-year contract starting at $20 million or more. The Bulls have contract options on the rookie deals of Bobby Portis, Kris Dunn, Cam Payne, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen, while Paul Zipser’s $1.5 million salary is not guaranteed for 2018-19. Paxson said the Bulls are committed to re-building through the draft, and the hope is they’ll wind up with a top 3 pick after next year’s lottery to grab a franchise changing talent like Missouri’s Michael Porter, Jr., International star Luka Doncic and 7-footers DeAndre Ayton of Arizona and Mohamed Bamba of Texas. Looking at the big picture, if LaVine comes back 100 percent, Dunn emerges as a legit starting point guard and Markkanen shows potential as a stretch 4, the Bulls rebuild could move quickly. Adding one of the top players in next year’s draft would be the first step, then Paxson and Forman would be armed with somewhere between $40-50 million dollars in cap space to pursue an impact free agent or two. Bulls fans remember how long it took to re-build the team after the end of the Jordan era in 1998. Jerry Krause couldn’t land a major free agent, and the Tyson Chandler-Eddy Curry experiment failed badly. Let’s hope Paxson and Forman have more luck this time around. At least they’ll have a built-in advantage when the 2018 free agent market opens for business next July with the Bulls projected to have more cap space available than any other team in the league.