By Rickey Hampton, Editor and Founder of TheAfricanAmericanAthlete.com
Game 1 NBA Finals begin this Sunday when the Golden State Warriors travel to Houston to face the Rockets. Yes, I know this is technincally Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, but the reality is the winner of this series will become the NBA champions.
With all due respect to the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, neither of these teams have enough firepower to beat the Rockets or Warriors in a seven-game series. Now, I realize that is saying something considering the extraordinary play of LeBron James. While he may have enough to lead his team past the Celtics, it won’t be enough against the Rockets or Warriors.
The key player in this star-studded series that features at least four sure-fire future hall of famers _ (Chris Paul, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry) and possibly more _ is a player casual NBA fans may have never heard of, Houston’s Clint Capela.
The 6-foot-10 center from Geneva, Switzerland has been playing the best basketball of his young career. Capela, who celebrates his 24th birthday next week (May 18), was selected with the 25th pick in the 2014 draft.
Slowly, but surely, he has improved to the point where he has become an absolute force with his rebounding, shot-blocking, defense and timely offense. He has been dominant during the playoffs, winning his center matchup with Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns in the first-round, and Utah’s Rudy Gobert in the second-round. In the close-out game against the Timberwolves Capela had six blocks, 15 rebounds, two steals, and 12 points. That is the kind of productivity that can propel the Rockets past the Warriors.
“He’s put himself in this position to go out there and play at a high level and do the things that we ask him to do every single night,” explained Harden. “I mean, he has our back, and it feels good to have somebody have our back like he does. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for it.”
His presence on the inside makes the Rockets better on both ends of the court. If the Warriors gear their defense to stopping Paul Harden and Eric Gordon off the bench, Capela is capable of dominating this series.
And that is precisely what the Rockets will need if they hope to win. In fact, Capela may be their only hope. That’s because the Warriors are an extraordinary team. As good as they are offensively, with Curry, Thompson, Durant and the passing and scoring capabilities of Draymond Green, they are simply a superb defensive team. When the Warriors are in a flow, they are simply impossible to beat. That’s why I see them defeating the Rockets in the WCF, and then taking out LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Finals.
In the end, the Warriors just have too much firepower. Only a dominating performance by Clint Capela can possibly change that.