The Atlanta Hawks kicked off the NBA trade deadline with a bang Tuesday evening. The team agreed to a four-team mega-deal that netted them 25-year-old center Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Hawks are sending Evan Turner’s $18.6 million expiring contract and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2020 lottery-protected first-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’re also shipping the Golden State Warriors’ 2024 second-round pick to Houston. In addition, they’re taking back Nene’s $10 million expiring salary, which allowed the Rockets to duck under the luxury-tax threshold.
The Rockets, Timberwolves and Nuggets all deserve an “incomplete” grade for the mega-deal at the moment. They may have more moves up their sleeve before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline Thursday. The Hawks are clear-cut winners regardless of whether they make any more moves.
Capela, who won’t turn 26 until mid-May, averaged a career-high 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 64.8 percent from the field last season. He is by no means a “unicorn” center. In fact, he has attempted only two three-pointers across his five-and-a-half NBA seasons. But he’s an elite rim-roller and lob threat who should pair well with Hawks All-Star point guard Trae Young.
The Hawks finish 22.6 percent of their offensive possessions with a pick-and-roll ball-handler, which is the fourth-highest mark league-wide. They also rank fourth-highest in plays finished by a roll man. This even though they’ve been trotting out the uninspiring center rotation of Alex Len, Damian Jones and Bruno Fernando for the first half of the season.
Two years ago, Capela averaged 1.34 points per possession as a roll man, which put him in the 92nd percentile league-wide. That dropped to 1.17 PPP (66th percentile) last year and 1.10 PPP (51st percentile) this year. The Rockets have largely veered away from the pick-and-rolls that were a staple of their offensive system prior to Russell Westbrook’s arrival this past offseason.
Not only should Capela’s skill set mesh well with the Hawks’ offensive system, but he’s also young enough to grow alongside the rest of Atlanta’s 25-and-under core. Having him locked up through 2022-23 at an affordable $51.3 million means the Hawks won’t have to bid against themselves for a big-name free agent such as Andre Drummond this summer.
Capela also gives the Hawks insurance in case they’re uneasy about retaining third-year big man John Collins beyond next season.
According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer,
[Collins is] expected to demand well over $20 million annually, either in an extension this summer or if he hits restricted free agency next summer. Atlanta doesn’t want to invest that type of money in Collins, considering his defensive limitations. The Hawks would prefer a cheaper alternative—such as Capela…and invest any savings in another ball handler who complements Young.
The 22-year-old Collins is averaging 19.4 points on 55.9 percent shooting, 10.2 rebounds and a career-high 1.8 blocks in 30.8 minutes per game this season. He’s also drilling a career-best 1.3 three-pointers at a 35.6 percent clip.
By acquiring Capela now, the Hawks will have a two-month window wherein they can see how he and Collins coexist. Then they can decide whether to extend Collins this summer or allow him to become a restricted free agent in 2021.
The Hawks are 9.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic heading into Wednesday. Acquiring Capela won’t help them surge into the playoff race this season. But don’t be surprised if he puts them in that mix next year.
Disclaimer: Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NBA.com or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Early Bird Rights. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.
Last modified: February 6, 2020 1:35 AM UTC