The league’s No. 5 rebounder and No. 12 shot-blocker of 2018-19, Clint Capela’s name has started to pop up in trade rumors as we get closer to the summer.
Capela is coming off a strong regular season, one in which he averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 64.8 percent from the floor. Per Synergy Sports, the Swiss big man ranked in the “excellent” range as a transition scorer, and as a “very good” finisher out of the pick-and-roll and as a cutter.
Still just 25 years old and locked up through 2022-23 thanks to a five-year, $90 million contract signed last summer, the fact Capela is apparently being shopped should excite big-man needy teams around the Association, as there aren’t many centers available this offseason with his blend of talent, upside and relatively team-friendly contract status.
Even so, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets, after a painful elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs, are putting most of their roster on the trade block heading into the summer:
“Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has made his entire roster and future draft picks available in trade talks, a dramatic initiative with hopes of reshaping the team into a championship contender, league sources told ESPN. […] The Rockets have been more aggressive in offering up Capela in recent days, sources said.”
Below, we break down four teams who could use a young, talented center like Capela, and who would make sense as potential trade suitors for the 6-foot-10 shot-blocker.
Thanks to excellent drafting over the past two years, the Atlanta Hawks are set for the foreseeable at two positions (at least): point guard and power forward.
Trae Young will probably finish second in Rookie of the Year voting this summer after a strong inaugural campaign where he put up 19.1 points and 8.1 assists per contest, while John Collins averaged 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds nightly, and flashed a clean outside jumper with unreal athleticism as a pick-and-roll finisher for the Hawks. The one area where the two young talents struggle is as defenders, where Young often gets caught up and lost against opposing screens, and Collins fails to protect the paint or move his feet on the perimeter.
To get past these shortcomings, Atlanta could try and acquire a center known for his paint defense who will be able to swat away shots when opponents get too close to the basket.
Capela would make a lot of sense in that role for the Hawks; his length, leaping ability and timing on the defensive end are excellent, and would help cover for Young and Collins on that side of the floor.
With Young’s outstanding playmaking chops, Collins’ blossoming floor-spacing prowess and Capela’s tidy finishing out of the pick-and-roll, that trio could form an exciting triumvirate and help the Hawks start to turn the corner as a team.
To get a deal done, Atlanta could offer up one of their two Top-10 picks in the upcoming draft (No. 8 or No. 10), as well as the expiring contract of Miles Plumlee. Due to the expensive deals belonging to James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets would be wise to start loading up on high-upside players on rookie-scale deals while also trying to get rid of the non-superstar long-term money they owe.
A deal like that could be seen as a win for both sides.
Coming off a season where they won the most regular-season games (39) they have in 12 years, the Sacramento Kings, littered with exciting young talent, look poised to become playoff contenders over the coming seasons. Behind a core featuring De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley, Sacramento appears to be a piece or two away from making that final push towards, at the very least, a winning record.
One of the positions they could use help in as at center.
Although Willie Cauley-Stein just had the best season of his career, averaging 11.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game, he’s about to hit restricted free agency, and has stated that he expects to get paid handsomely this offseason:
‘I’m ready to get paid,’ Cauley-Stein told NBC Sports California. ‘This is what we’ve got to do, that’s what type of focus I’m on. I’m ready for it. I’ve seen everybody else — all my peers. All right, I’m ready for that. What do I got to do to do that? That’s what they’re doing? All right, I’m going to go ahead and do this now. I was doing it this way, obviously it wasn’t working, so now let’s do it this way.’
There’s nothing wrong with that type of mindset, but at the same time, the Kings might be wise to let Cauley-Stein test out the market while looking for a replacement, either in free agency or via trade.
Someone like Capela, for example, would fit perfectly with what Sacramento has on the roster.
The big man would form a deadly pick-and-roll duo with Fox, and the gravity he creates while diving to the rim would open up room for knockdown shooters like Hield and Bogdanovic to do what they do best: Knock down triples.
If Cauley-Stein wants to get paid in the Capela range, the Kings would be better-served letting him walk and trying to acquire Capela themselves; he’s a more productive, proven player than the Kentucky product, and thanks to the roughly $38 million they’ll have in cap space, Sacramento would be able to absorb his money without having to send back matching salaries.
What’s more, if Houston is interested in future first-round picks and shedding salary, the Kings could form the type of offer enticing enough to consider sending over their double-double machine.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The San Antonio Spurs might not be the most active team on the trade market, at least not when they can avoid it, but next season, they could be headed towards a minor problem.
With a returning Dejounte Murray, back after missing 2018-19 due to a torn ACL, San Antonio might be looking at a logjam at the ball-handler positions, as they have various young talents – including Murray, Derrick White, Bryn Forbes and Lonnie Walker – all worthy of big minutes. That’s without even mentioning the high-usage DeMar DeRozan, who will also take up a good amount of playing time next season.
A way Gregg Popovich and Co. could avoid creating an untenable ordeal might be to trade one of those young assets in exchange for a player at a bigger position of need – like at center. Although they have an All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge to man the frontcourt, it’s no secret that Aldridge prefers playing power forward when possible.
San Antonio landing Capela would allow him to do just that.
Additionally, though the Rockets may not have a huge need at the guard spots with Harden and Paul in the fold, White, Walker and Murray are all defensive studs, something Houston hasn’t had in their backcourt since Patrick Beverley was donning the white-and-red jerseys. Any of those three ball-handlers could carve out huge roles for the Rockets coming off the bench as two-way pests, or be used by Houston in tertiary deals to improve wing depth.
Either way, a trade like that, centered around Capela for a young guard, would benefit both parties.
The one team to pop up in Capela-specific trade rumors since the original Wojnarowski report is Dallas, and with good reason: Mavericks have Kristaps Porzingis projected to be in the fold next season, and could use another shot-blocker to complete their starting frontcourt.
According to 247Sports’ Mike Fisher, the Mavericks would be interested in talking to Houston about a trade for Capela:
“Wojnarowski reports that all players under contract, besides James Harden, could be moved in the right deal. […] And it leaves a player like Capela, who an NBA source tells DBcom the Mavs surely envision as a fine front-court partner alongside Kristaps Porzingis. […] An NBA source tells DBcom that starting on Tuesday, the Rockets started the process of making “for-sale” phone calls. And when one of those calls is placed to Dallas, and the subject is center Clint Capela? The Mavericks will be interested.”
With Porzingis spacing the floor, Capela setting screens and rolling, and Luka Doncic running the show, Dallas could, in theory, at least, form one of the most productive and synergistic trios in the league. Those three players would play off of each other wonderfully, and by product of all three being 25-and-under, could be the building blocks for the next great Mavericks team.
We’ll see if anything comes of these early rumors, but Dallas would be smart to spend on the rest of their roster while Doncic, a burgeoning superstar, is still on his rookie-scale deal. Like an NFL team spending heavily while having an elite quarterback on a rookie-scale contract, the Mavericks need to take advantage before their quarterback, Doncic, is earning a max salary.
That’s the best way to build a team that can win big.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.