NBA

Clint Capela.

Clint Capela is proving to be the x-factor for the Houston Rockets this season

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After the opening 13 games of the season, the Houston Rockets have one of the best records in the league at 10-3 and there are several reasons behind their impressive start.

Of course, the form of superstar James Harden has been the most important factor but there are other players who are playing vital roles to help the team succeed. 

One of the key components of the Rockets lineup is center Clint Capela, who occupies a crucial role in head coach Mike D'Antoni's system and carries it out perfectly.

Unique

The 23-year-old is an unconventional center as he rarely looks to score on the block and doesn't command many post touches.

In that sense, he is the complete opposite to former Rockets big man Dwight Howard who grew frustrated during his time with the franchise as he wasn't getting enough shots playing with Harden. 

Capela, on the other hand, is happy to do the dirty work such as running the floor, setting screens, rolling hard to the rim and grabbing loose balls and rebounds.

He knows what he must provide to the team to help them win and is more than happy to play his part.

Houston Rockets v Atlanta Hawks

"Clint's a team-first guy. He understands his role on the team, and he accepts his role. He's excited about his role," Rockets assistant coach Roy Rogers told ESPN.

After acquiring Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade over the summer, Houston immediately set its sights on challenging the Golden State Warriors. 

Exactly what the team can achieve will rest largely on the shoulders of the star-studded backcourt pairing of CP3 and Harden, but the importance of Capela cannot be overlooked either. 

"The only way [to overcome the Warriors] is to develop near-elite two-way players," general manager Daryl Morey said, per ESPN. "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."

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets - Game Six

Breakout

The man from Switzerland has improved in each of his three seasons and put up career highs in scoring (12.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 rpg) in the previous campaign.

Even though his performances last year could be considered breakout-worthy on their own, this could be the moment in which Capela finally enjoys a breakout season. 

Through the first 11 games, he's averaging career-best numbers across the board already. He's currently posting 12.7 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks whilst shooting 68.5 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free-throw line. 

His field goal percentage leads the league and he ranks fifth in Player Efficiency Rating. To put it simply, he is the X-factor for the Rockets and is almost as important as the star players on the roster. 

Houston Rockets v Atlanta Hawks

He's not flashy but he's hugely effective and is a perfect fit for Houston's style. D'Antoni believes the youngster is on his way to becoming the best in his position. 

"To me, it's just a matter of time," D'Antoni said, per ESPN. "I'll be very surprised if he doesn't become, if not the best center in the league, one of the best. I'll be shocked.

"When you say what the modern center should look like, it'll have his picture there."

The Geneva native - who was selected with the 25th overall pick in 2014 - has evolved during his time in Texas and continues to get better all the time. Harden says he's seeing the benefits from the hard work he puts in.

Houston Rockets v Charlotte Hornets

"He was just kind of thrown into the fire once Dwight left, but he took it and he ran with it," Harden said, according to ESPN. "He's listened, he's worked hard every single day in the weight room, and he just got better. Defensively, he got better. Offensively, he's so mobile and skilled. His touch around the rim has got better. He continues to work."

With 'The Beard and Paul on his team, Capela will find it easy to play with players of that calibre and benefit from the easy baskets they'll give him inside. This should be the year he gets the recognition he deserves.

Topics:
NBA
James Harden
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Clint Capela
Chris Paul
L.A. Clippers
Pacific Division

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