Kevin Durant didn’t mince his words when he responded to Clint Capela saying the Rockets are better than the Warriors this season.
“You hear it from guys like Capela,” Durant said. “Usually he’s catching the ball and laying it up from [Chris Paul] or James Harden. His job is not as hard … Capela, catch and dunk every night. It’s pretty easy for him.”
There is a lot of truth to that. According to NBA.com, Capela has been assisted on 80.9 percent of his made shots this season. The only starting centers who rely more on their teammates to create scoring opportunities for them are Zaza Pachulia, Dewayne Dedmon, Dirk Nowitzki and Bismack Biyombo. Furthermore, Capela does owe a lot of his success to Paul and Harden. They have combined to set him up for 185 baskets through 52 games, an incredibly high number considering Capela has been assisted on a total of 258 baskets so far this season.
Throw in the fact that Capela currently leads the way in dunks, and Durant is right in saying that his job isn’t as hard as other players around the league. On a roster featuring Paul, Harden and some of the best shooters in the NBA, the Rockets don’t need Capela to do much more than set hard screens, roll to the basket and make himself a target at the rim, which comes naturally to most centers standing at 7′ with a 7’4 wingspan.
Putting it that simply, however, misses the point.
For Paul and Harden to be at their best, they need the right players surrounding them. The likes of Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza get a lot of attention because of the spacing they provide as 3-point shooters, but Capela has quietly developed into the perfect complement to them at the center position.
Whereas many of the league’s starting centers still score a large amount of their points in the post, Capela generates a tiny portion of his offense with his back to the basket. He instead does almost all of his damage in pick-and-rolls (34.5 percent frequency), on cuts (24.3 percent frequency) and off of putbacks (13.2 percent frequency) — three play types that make Capela dependent on the playmaking abilities of his teammates to score.