Houston Hits Home Run With Clint Capela's Extension | Def Pen
Clint Capela
Clint Capela earned his new contract with a breakout season in 2017-18. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle)

After a summer of waiting to see what Clint Capela’s future entails, the 24-year-old center agreed to a 5-year, $90 million deal to return back to the Western Conference finalist Houston Rockets. The Switzerland international could have taken the $4.3 million qualifying offer and entered the 2019 off-season as an unrestricted free agent, but chose to secure his future now.

The deal delighted the Houston brass, none more so than head coach Mike D’Antoni, who shared his thoughts on the extension with KRIV Houston’s Mark Berman:

“I talked to him yesterday. Really happy for him. What he did and where he was … He’s gotten to the point where he’s one of the best centers if not the best in the league. He’s signed up for five years. It changed his life and it changed our, the Houston franchise’s, life.” he said.

Capela, who finished runner-up for the 2017-18 Most Improved Player award, joined James Harden and Chris Paul to form a fearsome trio last season. When all three stars featured for Houston, they enjoyed a jaw-dropping 42-3 regular season record. With his two running mates also inking massive deals over the last two summers, the band will be together for multiple years to compete in the brutal Western Conference.

Harden, the league’s Most Valueable Player (MVP), and Chris Paul, a future first ballot hall of famer, were the recipients of heavy praise last season, but their Swiss big man was the fuel that made this high-powered engine run smoothly. He finished the year averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, leading the league with his sizzling 65.2 percent shooting from the field.

Capela was instrumental in the Rockets’ successful playoff run, too. He spent the first round shutting down Karl-Anthony Towns, and the second round outplaying Rudy Gobert – not bad names to scratch off the hit list. The 6-foot-10 athlete rarely strays out of his lane, instead choosing to perfect the skill-set he already has in his tool belt. Clint Capela’s game is a beautiful blend of hard screens, elite rim-running, alley-oop prowess and savvy defense – the perfect glue-guy to not only hold Harden and Paul together, but allow them to flourish.

When involved as the screener in pick-and-roll action, Capela scored 1.33 points per possession (91st percentile) and 1.34 points per possession in transition, per Synergy Sports Tech. These two skills fit seamlessly with the rest of Houston’s core.

Now, they have him locked up on a deal that defies belief, especially when you glance at some of the other rookie extension contracts that have been signed recently. Last summer, Andrew Wiggins signed a 5-year, $148 million extension to stay in Minnesota and Gary Harris signed a 4-year, $84 million dollar deal with the Denver Nuggets. This year, the Chicago Bulls offered huge contracts to Zach LaVine (4-year, $78 million) and Jabari Parker (2-year, $40 million) while the Orlando Magic brought back Aaron Gordon on a lucrative 4-year, $84 million deal.

Most of those players are already playing at a high level, but none of them give you the same type of win-producing play that Clint Capela does. They also all get paid more per-season than the Swiss giant does. That’s a Barry Bonds type home run from the Houston brain trust.

With the salary cap on the up and more teams with ample cap space in 2019, nobody would have blamed Capela for betting on himself and signing the aforementioned qualifying offer. The fact the he was willing to ink an undervalued contract shows just how much hope Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey are selling in out in Texas.

Last season, Houston assistant coach Roy Rogers told ESPN that “Clint’s a team-first guy. He understands his role on the team, and he accepts his role.” and premium role-players do not come a dime a dozen, they also shouldn’t come at less than $20 million per year in the current NBA landscape.

D’Antoni, Morey and the rest of the front office should probably head to Las Vegas after their latest signing, because they just hit the jackpot.

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