Cap room is king for the Rockets right now and that continued to be shown on Draft Night as the Rockets went the international route, selecting Swiss power forward prospect Clint Capela with the 25th pick of the NBA Draft Thursday night.
“It was really amazing, like a dream come true,” said Capela on how he reacted when he learned the Rockets drafted him. “It was like, awesome.”
The 6-foot-10 athletic forward averaged 9.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 22 minutes a game for Elan Chalon in France’s top pro league in 2013-14.
“We thought he had the highest upside outside of the top few guys in the draft,” said Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who said that Capela’s 7′ 4.5″ wingspan was second only to Anthony Davis (who measured at 7′ 5.5″).
At just 20 years of age, Capela is an excellent athlete and finisher. He’s especially quick on the second and third hop and specializes in rebounding and shotblocking. In transition and on the pick-and-roll, Capela can be very impressive.
He has a lot of work to do, however. He must get stronger and add some bulk, and there have been questions about his work ethic, which you never like to see. But as an athlete and with his length, there is a tremendous amount of potential here. This isn’t an undersized four.
It’s not immediately clear if the Rockets will keep the pick through the free agency period, but there is no financial incentive to move it by itself. Since the Rockets can stash Capela overseas for a year or more, there will not be a cap hit until he does come over.
For his part, Capela expects — or at least hopes — to join the Rockets this coming season.
“I want to come this year and work hard here,” said Capela, who added that the Rockets are aware of that desire.
Morey felt Capela’s development timeline to join the Rockets was “probably a little bit down the road,” but he didn’t think it would take too long.
“He already was, you could easily argue, the best big in the French Pro A League at his age,” said Morey. “His ability to rebound, he’s super athletic — I don’t think it’s too far off where he’s helping the Rockets.”
As for Capela’s assessment of himself, he said he needs to work on his “physicality and mid-range shot” but he compares his game to Oklahoma City defensive menace Serge Ibaka.
“I’m a good rebounder. I can really run the floor. I can play tough. I can do this with regularity,” said Capela.
While Capela may be a year or two away from contributing, the highlights are intriguing. You get a feel for how his length and athletic ability could have a real impact.
The Rockets also drafted Arizona guard Nick Johnson in the second round.
Audio: Clint Capela after being drafted by the Houston Rockets