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Stealing how the Rockets use Clint Capela could benefit Pistons

We’re doing our part in helping the Pistons’ lackluster offense. Are you?

NBA: Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Clint Capela, the 6-foot-10 rim-rummer from Houston via Switzerland, took a large step forward in his fourth year and helped to push the eventual champion Golden State Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals. Capela, with a limited (but improving) offensive game, scored a shade under 14 points per game on nearly 65-percent shooting during the 2017-18 season.

It’s the 65-percent part that Pistons’ fans should take note of since Andre Drummond only shot 53-percent from a nearly identical shot chart. Drummond made 26 more field goal attempts than Capela but needed an extra 205 shots to do so.

To be fair, Drummond held much more responsibility with regards to initiating offense (especially pre-Blake) while Capela had the luxury of sharing the floor with a future Hall of Fame backcourt in James Harden and Chris Paul. So, yeah, it’s not a fair fight.

There are aspects of Houston’s offensive attack, however, that don’t revolve solely around the wizardry of Harden or Paul and that’s what we’re looking for. Much like the Warriors’ post play, or how the Clippers utilize DeAndre Jordan, below, we’ll go over the schemes and Capela’s positioning on the floor that could be transferable to Detroit’s current repugnant offense.

It’s worth a shot, right?


Attacking the trap

8.3-percent of all Rockets’ possessions end via the roll man from a pick-and-roll to the tune of 1.12 PPP. Both the frequency (2nd) and efficiency (8th) are top ten in the league. Detroit, on the other hand, used 4.1-percent of their possessions (29th) on the roll man and logged .97 PPP (30th) in those situations. It’s not so much the frequency that is concerning, rather, it’s the substantial difference in the ability to put the ball in the hoop that should raise some eyebrows.

Part of the reasoning is directly related to the success Capela finds in making teams pay for trapping Houston’s pick-and-roll.

Cleveland, a team notorious for trapping the ball-handler, is a perfect example:

The goal of trapping James Harden is to get the ball out of his hands and, above, it’s a success. However, it also means the defense will be scrambling allowing for a big-small rotational mismatch that is there for the taking. On this possession, Houston took it.

Below, in a somewhat similar play, Reggie Jackson opts for the hail mary to answer the trap instead of the Drummond-Korver mismatch:

Obviously the variables aren’t exactly the same but the principle is and the overall “blame” isn’t all on Jackson as Drummond must be able to handle the short roll better:

To his credit, Drummond has shown flashes of making the right play on the short roll but I’m SICK AND TIRED OF “FLASHES”.

The blame continues to be shared. Watch all the moving parts on this “simple” PNR:

The Harden-Capela PNR is one thing but it’s the threat of Trevor Ariza’s back-screen on Jeff Green that freezes the last line of Cleveland defense (Kyle Korver) which allows for the open lane. That’s a healthy mix of concept, coaching and high basketball-IQ, all three of which have been painfully missing in Detroit, at least on a consistent basis.

If absolutely nothing else, Drummond and Detroit must do a better job of attacking the rotation during a trap. Doing so will lead to nothing but good things:

Hunting for the right switch

So, you want to switch everything? OK, Houston has a plan for that.

Below, Rajon Rondo switches onto Ryan Anderson early in the possession paving the way for a Chris Paul-Clint Capela vs. Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins PNR. In other words, it’s a traditional pick-and-roll tandem against two uncomfortable bigs:

Make no mistake, it’s 100-percent by design.

Either Anderson or Trevor Ariza will initiate the first switch and Capela finishes them off:

Smart hoops.

Even if teams begin to stay home, navigating through two legit pick-and-rolls (pops) takes communication of the highest form and defenses are bound to screw up:

Legit, though, means the “pop” player must actually be capable of popping, and more importantly, making the shot.


Houston and Detroit, like most teams shared many of the same looks last year but the Rockets employed an extra bit of ingenuity which payed dividends for Capela.

For example, this set up for Anthony Tolliver:

Is also in the Rockets’ playbook but transformed into a Capela alley-oop:

As did this audible:

Same goes for Detroit’s flex package:

It’s ran like this in every high school in America. You know what’s not in every American high school? The Rocket’s added twist which, you guessed it, sets up an easy bucket for Capela:

That’s the exact bit of extra creativity the Pistons lacked during Stan Van Gundy’s tenure.

Again, this staggered screen exampled by Detroit was commonplace:

As were many variations of staggered or double screens. In Houston, they positioned their guards to screen as good as anyone, like this staple play for Eric Gordon which is screened by Harden and Capela:

Now, do yourself a favor and re-watch those oops to Capela, they’re all set up by a guard who is screening Capela’s man. The amount of impactful screens levied by Pistons’ guards from last year could be counted on with one hand.

The Spain pick-and-roll? Yep, set up by a back-screen from Gordon:

Contrary to Van Gundy’s (seemingly) belief, screens are allowed to be set by guards. With that said, I’m not sure Detroit and Drummond are quite ready for a Dre-led PNR:

But I highly encourage all other noted action.

Finally, the top-of-the-key flare screen was highly used during 2017-18, and especially with Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris still in town:

Hardly ever, though, was it a finishing play for Drummond; as the hub of the offense, Dre was regulated to initiating action. Not so in Houston:

Capela cleaned up on flares morphing into PNRs. And when the defense trapped, it became a one way ticket to Slip City:

Look, I’m on Team Drummond and very much wish to see him succeed. I think he took a very important step forward last year but in no way, shape or form is he a finished product. His progress from here on out will be directly related to new coach Dwane Casey and how he uses him. Fingers crossed.

Speaking of Casey, it would probably make sense to take a deeper look at the Raptors’ offense from last year. They’re on deck.