The Houston Rockets have been oh-so-close over the last two years to beating the Golden State Warriors. They never made it past the dynasty, though, and find themselves at a crossroads this offseason. Their cap situation is getting worse, James Harden and Chris Paul both have max contracts, and the path to improvement has never been murkier. On Wednesday, Adrian Wojnarowski reported GM Daryl Morey has made “all players” available in trade talks. Clint Capela is a name that’s been brought up as a strong contender to be traded.
He’s 25 and has four years left on a five-year, $90 million deal he signed last offseason. An athletic rim runner and solid rim protector, there will be a lot of teams interested in acquiring Capela. He has room to improve, and even if he doesn’t get better, a player who provides a consistent 16 points and 12 rebounds while protecting the paint is a sought-after commodity. Here are four teams that should consider reaching out to Morey to discuss Capela.
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles is a bit of a disaster right now, in case you haven’t heard, but they need a reliable center, and Houston can provide. LeBron James would benefit from playing with a player with a strictly defined role like Capela, who would be the best pure center he’s played with since his first stint in Cleveland. The price for Capela may prove to be a touch high for LA, however.
They would have to trade one of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, paired with Moritz Wagner or even Josh Hart, if the Rockets push them. The No. 4 pick in this year’s draft wouldn’t work financially, and it’s not the kind of asset the Rockets are interested in at this point in team building. But if they can come to terms, Capela in Los Angeles is as good a fit as you can find.
Kristaps Porzingis will likely be the Mavs’ stretch five when he returns from injury, but his timetable is uncertain and they certainly won’t be rushing back. Porzingis has a more natural feel for shot-blocking, but Capela has been more durable and can suck in a defense after setting a pick in ways Porzingis, as dangerous as he is, cannot. The Rockets don’t want to take on any additional salary if they do trade Capela, so a straight-up trade of Courtney Lee and a draft pick down the road could get the job done. If the Rockets are intrigued by Justin Jackson, a package of Lee and Jackson would give them a decent 3-and-D wing and a young player with room to grow, while only taking on an additional $2 million in salary. Mark Cuban would look into this as a way to round out his youthful core of Luka Doncic and Porzingis, as Capela would be the oldest of the trio.
The Rockets would have to be desperate to accept a call from Cleveland, but if the goal is to get rid of Capela’s contract, the Cavs should jump in for a classic buy-low move. Cleveland has no less than six veterans making around what Capela makes, so Houston can have their pick of whatever player they’d like to acquire and then waive. Cleveland gets a young center who can continue to grow alongside their young talent and give Collin Sexton his pick-and-roll partner for the foreseeable future. The Cavs have been more than willing to be a salary dump hotspot for anyone and everyone as they continue their rebuild, and Capela is young enough to fit their timeline.
If the Hornets are determined to keep Kemba Walker around, they need to make moves before free agency to prove they’re serious about contending. Capela would be a step in the right direction. Capela would provide a foundational piece with Walker as a dangerous rim-runner and an agile enough rim protector to survive against any offense that doesn’t have Steph Curry. In an ideal world, Charlotte would send Bismack Biyombo to Houston for Capela straight-up, but the Rockets would need a sweetener, since Biyombo makes $4 million more per year than Capela, albeit for three less years. It would be an aggressive move on Charlotte’s front, but they’re reaching an organizational crossroads. If they want to win now and keep their franchise player, Capela should very much be in play.