The Celtics have been connected to Rockets center Clint Capela going back to last year and Houston’s willingness to let go of his contract as the team attempts to get below the luxury-tax threshold has made Capela one of the bigger names bubbling on the trade market this week ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.
As one league source told Heavy.com, the Celtics and Rockets have talked about a Capela deal, as part of a multi-team deal, probably involving Atlanta. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets have engaged multiple Eastern Conference teams in an effort to unload his contract and push the team out of luxury-tax territory.
The Celtics are among them. “I think they see him as a good fit with Kemba Walker,” the source said. “They’re running pick-and-roll a lot more than they have before. Capela, that’s his strength.”
That’s been true all season. The Celtics run pick-and-roll with the ballhandler 21.6 percent of their possessions, according to NBA stats. That’s seventh in the NBA. They run pick-and-roll for the roll man on 5.1 percent of their possessions, which is 26th in the league. The Celtics don’t have a reliable roll man in their rotation of centers.
Capela has been one of the better roll men in the game in the last few years—he averaged 4.4 points (tied for eighth in the league) on 64.4 percent shooting on those plays last year—but the addition of Russell Westbrook has diminished Capela’s role in the offense. He’s averaging just 2.4 points on those plays this year.
Would Celtics Give Up Picks, Players for Clint Capela?
The fit is sensible, then, but the process of getting Capela to Boston is stickier. To do so, the Celtics would have to give up three assets with which they don’t particularly want to part: rookie guard Romeo Langford, whose season has been wracked with injuries, and some combination of the three picks Boston has in this draft.
The Celtics have their own pick and Milwaukee’s pick which are likely to both be in the 20s. And they have Memphis’ Top-6 protected pick, which figures to land around 12-17.
To make the finances work, the Celtics would have to give up Enes Kanter and Semi Ojeleye in addition to Langford.
Kanter comes up in every trade rumor but, it should be pointed out, he has been an excellent fit in the Celtics locker room and the team’s younger big guys—Robert Williams, Vincent Poirier, Grant Williams, Tacko Fall—would miss him as they develop. Boston also remains hopeful that Robert Williams can develop into a Capela-type center
Still, Capela could be the kind of big guy Boston has been lacking. The price—Langford, Kanter, Ojeleye, two draft picks in the second half of a so-so 2020 class—is not that steep but that’s because there’s a serious financial commitment the Celtics would be taking on with Capela. He’s in the second year of a five-year, $90 million contract.
Capela has also not taken to the modern NBA game, either. He has appeared in 334 games in his career but has taken just two 3-pointers in that time.
Competition for Capela Trades
There may be better offers for Capela, too. It’s not necessarily the teams contending for the playoffs that are interested in him. Despite six seasons in the NBA, Capela is only 25 years old and for rebuilding teams, he would fit in nicely with a reasonable contract and considerable experience that would help younger players grow.
Start with Atlanta, whose interest in Capela goes beyond just being a third team involved in a deal. If the Hawks decide they want to keep Capela for themselves, they could offer up a package that starts with John Collins, who is averaging 19.3 points and 10.2 rebounds but to whom the Hawks seem reluctant to commit long-term.
Collins was suspended for 25 games earlier this season when he tested positive for a banned growth hormone.
Cleveland, too, has been rumored to have interest in Capela. There’s been no buzz about Charlotte and Capela, but he would be a sensible fit there, too. The Nets, hoping to compete for a championship next season, could take a crack at Capela.
“Houston has got to shave their payroll down,” the source said. “There’s other ways to do it but getting rid of Capela now is probably the least painful way.”