Houston Rockets: THREE Options To Fill The Void At Center


The Houston Rockets losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs exemplified their need for a strong presence at the center position to replace the injured Clint Capela.

The Houston Rockets losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs exemplified their need for a strong presence at the center position to replace the injured Clint Capela.

Capela has made the jump we all expected him too this season, averaging 11.8 points and eight  rebounds per game, whilst also forming a lethal duo with franchise cornerstone James Harden.

The chemistry that is evident between the two is a far cry from the barking and neglect that we saw in the final days of the Harden-Howard dynasty and has led to Clint becoming a key player for the Rockets.

The pick-and-roll, a Mike D’Antoni staple, has became a lethal weapon as Harden is able to throw near perfect lobs to Capela if they choose to double him or if Clint manages to get loose as the roll man.

This is what Houston has been missing in his absence.

This clip is obvious how easy Harden makes it for Capela in the pick-and-roll. Clint isn’t the roll man but Anderson’s three-point threat means his man must follow him out when he pops, leaving a clear lane for Harden.

Clint’s man then needs to slide across to block Harden meaning Harden can just throw it up and let Capela go get it.

Harrell does have the abililty to get up for the alley-oop but he doesn’t have the length that Capela does which leads to easy buckets.

Look how much harder Harden has to work here to get it to Harrell and it ends with a turnover.

Harden knows he can’t hang it up by the rim, he has to make an effort to keep it lower for Harrell and the defense knows that.

Horford and Smart hedge across knowing the lateral pass is coming and it makes an easy steal and transition bucket for the Celtics.

Nene doesn’t have the hops he used to have and it is well known that Harden needs to throw bounce passes, or keep it low for Nene to then find his way to the hoop for the layup.

Look at how precise that pass has to be for it to not be a turnover.

What would normally be an easy alley-oop requires that extra degree of difficulty and for someone as turnover prone as Harden, its not an ideal situation.

So what do you do here?

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From what we know, its obvious that the pick and roll is a fundamental part of Houston’s offense and being able to facilitate it efficiently is the key to outscoring opponents.

Trying to continue to run such a high volume of pick and rolls with players who aren’t as effective as Clint will produce subpar results, which led to losses to Memphis and San Antonio.

The Rockets ‘rescinding’ Donatas Motiejunas‘ contract means the Rockets have a couple of options if they wish to reinforce the Center position whilst Capela is out.

It is unlikely at this point that Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey swings a trade with Capela only out for a month or so, however Nurkic and Noel do look exciting prospects who are on the outer for their respective clubs.

But if the Rockets are not going to look at a trade, they have THREE options:

1.Go Small

Ryan Anderson has been getting more time at center since Clint went down and it makes sense. Most centers are unable to follow Ryno out to the three-point line and still be able to track back and defend the rim.

So the pick and pop becomes a lethal weapon here

But it does impact the rebounding and defense, as there is a permanent mismatch at center but it does make the offense work effectively.

2. Bring up the Rookie

Chinanu Onuaku, the Rockets earliest draft selection has been grinding it out in the D-League so far this season with averages of 10.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest.

He is incredibly raw and super early in his development so it is uncertain how effective he could be in the NBA.

Next: Why James Harden Is The League MVP

3. Sign a Free Agent

It makes much more sense to sign a free agent on a minimum deal rather than doing a deal for a much larger contract which may impact cap flexibility come the summer.

The Rockets are able to drum up 10-day contracts — they’re able to be signed starting Jan. 5th so the Rockets could do worse than get a 20-day period in which they can look at someone they like while Clint is out.

If it doesn’t work out and they’re not effective they can just be cut and everything returns to normal once Clint returns.

It would likely be more effective to bring in a veteran to see what they can do — did somebody say Josh Smith? — and make an immediate impact, rather than someone who is raw and is still developing.

With Clint on the sidelines for the time being the Rockets are obviously going to struggle without one of their best players.

It is up to the front office whether they choose to stand pat or bring in some extra help for Montrezl Harrell and Nene.

It looks to be an interesting couple of weeks ahead for the Rockets and it will be intriguing to watch how they choose to navigate the January schedule sans Capela.