Gilson’s Sports Guide: The real winners of the Clint Capela trade

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Houston Rockets center Clint Capela, left, drives to the rim as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game last Sunday in Denver. Capela was sent to the Atlanta Hawks in a four-team trade Wednesday night.  Photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP Photo

Houston Rockets center Clint Capela, left, drives to the rim as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game last Sunday in Denver. Capela was sent to the Atlanta Hawks in a four-team trade Wednesday night. Photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP Photo

With the NBA trade deadline looming this week, there have been plenty of rumors circulating around the league, with several players sitting on their team’s respective hot seats. Some of these bigger names include Andre Drummond, Derrick Rose, D’Angelo Russell and Houston Rockets’ big man Clint Capela. While a lot of the time these rumors stay rumors, the Rockets broke that trend, sending Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in a four-team trade, the largest since the Knicks sent Ewing to the Seattle Supersonics in 2000. While I could go on a rant breaking down the trade from all sides, I don’t want this column to be a whopping 3,000+ words, so we’re just going to focus on the teams that I think came out on top after the trade. But first, here are the details to know. 

Houston Rockets receive:  

Robert Covington, Jordan Bell and a second-round pick 

Atlanta Hawks receive:  

Clint Capela and Nene 

Denver Nuggets receive:  

Gerald Green, Keita-Bates Diop, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh and a first-round pick from Houston 

Minnesota Timberwolves receive:  

Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt, Evan Turner and a first-round pick from Brooklyn (Via ATL) 

WINNER: Houston Rockets  

I’m not going to lie to you right now, I stared at my laptop for a good 10 minutes before putting the Rockets on the winner’s side. The truth is this is the trade that will either push Houston to the next level or be the one that breaks down everything they’ve built. But due to a recent vibe check, I have decided to take the more positive outlook here and say it will do the Rockets more good than harm.  

People’s main arguments against this trade is that the Rockets had something special in Capela that will be tough to replace, and now they truly lack a center, seeing as they already have 6-foot-5-inch P.J. Tucker playing power forward. But in all honesty (you might want to sit down for this one) Capela isn’t super special. He rebounds very well — he currently sits at No. 4 in the league with 13.8 per game and No. 2 in offensive rebounds — but otherwise he does not provide much for the team. His 1.8 blocks per game is average, and he has no shooting range but is able to catch the countless lobs Harden throws his way to boost his scoring numbers a bit. Don’t get me wrong, he is a very good center and has plenty of talent and room to grow, but he was not essential to the team — his height was. So basically, the Rockets can now look to the free agent market and find a guy that has good hands and good hops, and you’ll have similar (while obviously not equal) production to what Capela did. 

What makes them the real winners here, though, is what they got from the Timberwolves. The Rockets sent Capela to Atlanta and in return got one of the top perimeter players in the league in Robert Covington, as well as some much-needed energy off the bench with Jordan Bell. Covington’s 13 points and six rebounds per game may not jump off the page, but Covington is an excellent 3-point shooter and an even better perimeter defender, something Houston was in desperate search for given their back court consists of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess. So not only will Covington be able to cover stars like Giannis, Kawhi and LeBron, but he can also effectively shut down four positions, making the Rockets much less susceptible to be taken over by players like Dame, Kyrie, Steph or Trae.  

To continue my unintentional slander against Capela, they may have already found a decent replacement for him in Bell. The ex-Timberwolf stands at 6-foot-8-inch, two inches shorter than Capela, but he has the bounce and effort to make up for it. We saw a small sample size of what he could do on both ends of the floor with the Warriors, but if he is given consistent minutes in Houston, I honestly think they are just one more pure big man away from almost replacing Capela entirely. Sure, his size will be missed, but overall this trade has drastically improved their defense — their biggest issue — while only slightly impacting their offensive game plan. Now we just have to see if it works out. 

Grade: B+ 

WINNER: Atlanta Hawks 

This is gonna sound crazy after I just lowkey tore Clint Capela apart, but he is going to help the Hawks exponentially right from the start. In return for an aging Evan Turner and a first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta was able to walk away with an incredible rebounder and steady finisher around the rim. Like I said in my Rockets bit, Capela isn’t insanely special, but that does not mean he is bad by any means. In fact, I still think he is one of the top pure centers in the league, which is exactly what the Hawks needed. Just hear me out for a second. 


Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins reacts with guard Trae Young in the first half of a game against the Boston Celtics on Monday in Atlanta. The Hawks added center Clint Capela Wednesday in a blockbuster trade.  Photo courtesy of Todd Kirkland/AP Photo

Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins reacts with guard Trae Young in the first half of a game against the Boston Celtics on Monday in Atlanta. The Hawks added center Clint Capela Wednesday in a blockbuster trade. Photo courtesy of Todd Kirkland/AP Photo

The Hawks have one of the most exciting young duos in the game in Trae Young and John Collins. They have improved each year Young and Collins have been a part of the team and always seemed just a couple pieces away from making a huge leap in the league. Well, Capela is one of those pieces. Ranked No. 24 in the NBA in both defensive and offensive rebounds per game, Atlanta gets overpowered down low just about every night with John Collins as their only functioning big man. But add in Capela, who’s ranked top five in both rebound categories, and that problem should be easily resolved. Furthermore, with offensive rebounds come second chance points, something the Hawks have also struggled with most of the season, ranking No. 15 in the league. So that’s two issues they solve with the addition of Capela. But how will the big man actually fit into his new system? All signs point to flawlessly. 

The Hawks run a pretty similar system to that of the Rockets in the sense that Trae Young controls the floor much like Harden does. He runs the offense, and his combination of incredible range and finishing ability will leave plenty of pick and roll opportunities for Capela, meaning he can basically do the same thing he did in Houston, now simply with the passes coming from a different player. I wouldn’t expect his numbers to rise too much from what he averaged with the Rockets, nor should his role really change at all, but his contributions will be much appreciated by the Hawks organization. 

Defense is where Atlanta has struggled the most all season, though, and while I previously said he is an average defender in terms of statistics, sometimes all it takes is an intimidating body in front of you to alter a shot. So, pairing the big-bodied Capela with Collins could be just what that team needs to improve upon their bottom-three ranking in points allowed in the paint. They will undoubtedly still struggle, but hey, improvement is improvement. 

I would like to emphasize again that they gave up Evan Turner and a mid-first round pick for this man. Atlanta pretty much committed robbery with this trade. Well done. 

Grade: A 

Other teams involved in the trade were the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves, but seeing as they seemed to swap role players for the most part, it would be tough to predict anything huge coming from that part of the trade. 

The trade deadline ends tonight at 3 p.m., so there is still plenty of time for more wild stuff to happen, but for now I am pretty happy with this swap between teams at opposite ends of the league. Here’s hoping it pans out well for both of them (but mostly the Hawks). 


Conner Gilson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at conner.gilson@uconn.edu. He tweets @connergilson03.

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