Could Clint Capela Be On His Way Out?

Reports say the Rockets are engaged in trade talks centered around Clint Capela

Adam Spolane
February 03, 2020 - 1:35 am

Photo by Thomas Shea/USA Today

The Rockets are short on ways to improve their roster with Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline fast approaching, but one avenue has emerged over the past few days: trade Clint Capela.

Multiple reports have said the Rockets are engaged in talks with a number teams about the center, with the Atlanta Hawks front and center. Unlike last year when they had Brandon Knight’s bloated salary , the Rockets don’t have a contract outside their core group that would bring back a player of any significance. Russell Westbrook and James Harden aren’t getting traded, Eric Gordon isn’t allowed to get traded, and P.J. Tucker's team-friendly deal makes it nearly impossible to get equal value in return, so that leaves Capela and his $15 million salary. 

It feels like Capela is expendable after the Rockets won all three games he missed this past week due to a heel injury. The Rockets played without a center in wins over Dallas and New Orleans, while Isaiah Hartenstein logged just six minutes in Tuesday night's victory in Salt Lake City. Without a center clogging up the paint, Harden and Westbrook have had open driving lanes and the Rockets could decide to go all-in with that style of play.

“Golden State did it,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said after Friday’s game. “Draymond (Green) was the center, and they were really good at it, that was their death lineup, well, that’s gotta be our lineup like that.”

D’Antoni says the question he has about his team continuing to play small is whether or not it can defend at a high enough level for 48 minutes. The Rockets played against the NBA’s best offense Friday, granted, without Luka Doncic, and a middle of the pack offensive team in New Orleans, and their defensive rating was worse by about a point in those two games, so if the Rockets could flip Capela into a three-and-D wing, they may be able to sustain a style D’Antoni prefers. 

ESPN reported Sunday night that the Rockets would like to get draft assets in return for Capela in order to make a run at a wing, possibly Minnesota’s Robert Covington, though a three-team trade between the Rockets, Hawks, and Wolves isn't too far fetched. I took a swing at what a three-team trade could look like:

Rockets receive: Robert Covington and Alex Len

Hawks receive: Clint Capela

Timberwolves receive: Jabari Parker, Damian Jones, Nets 2020 lottery protected first round pick (from Hawks)  


Here are some other things to keep in mind as we get closer to 2:00 pm on Thursday:

1.) According to ESPN, the Rockets are slightly over the luxury tax threshold. They were much further over the tax line this time a year ago and found a way to get under, look for them to make a move that will shed a little payroll to possibly get back under the tax. Finding a team to take Nene’s contract would be a good first step.

2.) Gordon isn’t allowed to be traded until after the season because of the extension he signed August 29. Six months must pass before he can dealt away.

3.) Austin Rivers and Gerald Green have the right to refuse any trade because it impacts their bird rights.

4.)The Rockets may include their 2020 and 2022 first round picks in any trade. Their 2024 and 2026 first rounders belong to Oklahoma City from the Westbrook trade and team’s aren’t allowed to trade first round picks in consecutive drafts. The Rockets haven’t made their own first round pick since 2014 when they selected Capela.

5.) Daryl Morey has made at least one deal at the deadline in 11-of-12 years as Rockets general manager. 2018 is the outlier.