The Dallas Mavericks will have a chance to add a premiere big man in the NBA Draft in less than two weeks, but if they go a different direction on June 21st, all indications are that they will be looking to throw some of their considerable cap space at a free agent soon thereafter, and as one of the few teams with money to spend, their chances at finally landing a “big fish” might be better than any season prior.
Let’s take a look at one such name now, in Houston Rockets restricted free agent to be, Clint Capela.
Clint Capela was born in Gevena, Switzerland to a family from Angola and the Congo. An early growth sport saw him switch from his first love, soccer, to basketball, and he was soon scouted and signed to a low-level French League team, where he first landed on NBA radars. Taken 25th by Houston in the 2014 NBA Draft ( *ahem* someone might have even mock traded and drafted him back then), Capela bounced a bit between the D-League and the Rockets as a rookie, and was slow to fully adapt to the speed of the best league in the world.
In the playoffs that year, Capela got to play more in place of injured Donatas Motiejunas, and thrived. Running pick and rolls with James Harden, Capela flummoxed Houston’s first round opponent, who I can’t remember for some reason, almost as if the memory has been purged from my brain. Capela took another big step forward in year two, and looked poised to break out as Houston’s next star big man. With Dwight Howard “Dwighting” his way out of town, Capela took on a much larger role in the Rockets’ offense, helping the team to its best two-year stretch since the Hakeem Olajuwon days.
Capela is the prototypical rim-running, rebounding, and shot-blocking specialist in the league right now, taking that mantle from former Mav Tyson Chandler and near Mav DeAndre Jordan. Though he is a little shorter than other elite centers, Capela compensates with length, quickness, and a great combination of a high motor and underrated awareness. His activity and athleticism make him a terror at both ends, and though his offensive role is fairly limited on a dynamic, stacked roster like Houston’s, he’s flashed the ability to read defenses and make the right pass, when needed.
Much will be made of the pick-and-roll prowess of James Harden and Chris Paul – and deservedly so – but Capela’s finishing ability is absolutely phenomenal, as he has a knack for timing his darts to the rim and the hands to catch passes and finish at the basket. Capela’s devastating efficiency makes Houston a true “pick your poison” offense, because overcommitting to Capela gives Harden or Paul more than enough room dissect opposing defenses.
Capela is at this point a non-shooter, and though it hasn’t slowed him down at all yet, it does put a cap on what you can do with him offensively. His free throw shooting is notoriously poor, like Dwight Howard before him, and that potentially creates some problems in late game situations. While Capela was hardly unplayable in the playoffs, it does warrant mention that Houston seemed arguably most effective matching up with the Warriors with the small ball, “Tuckwagon” lineup that featured P.J Tucker as the de facto center in place of Capela.
Fit with the Mavericks
It doesn’t require much imagination to figure out just how well Clint Capela could fit on the Dallas Mavericks. Rick Carlisle has blitzed the league with Tyson Chandler, Brandan Wright and others playing high pick-and-roll, and Capela would give Dennis Smith Jr. a young, athletic big man to perform that same role with. Then there is the added bonus (not to be petty, it’s simply a fact) that signing Capela would mean disarming a key division and conference rival one of their best pieces.
That does bring us to the rub, however. Capela is a restricted free agent, meaning that if Houston chooses, they can match any offer made to the young Swiss big man. There is always the chance that savvy GM Daryl Morey has an even greater star in his cross-hairs (that LeBron guy, or a trade for someone like Anthony Davis or Karl Anthony-Towns), with the idea being maximizing the window of opportunity that exists with an aging Chris Paul on the roster. Barring that, however, it seems highly unlikely that Capela makes it out of the Houston area, because he is a superb young player and an ideal fit with the team’s other star duo.