The Rockets had a fairly disappointing season — a muddled regular season that James Harden had to drag back from the dead, and then losing to the Warriors in the second round after Kevin Durant got injured.
Houston has a new owner who has already penny-pinched (traded James Ennis to get under the luxury tax) and has cleaned house on the coaching staff. And that might not be all the changes, according to two of the biggest NBA reporters:
Sources: In calls to front offices, Houston GM Daryl Morey is showing an aggressive desire to improve roster with all players and picks available in talks. Hard to imagine James Harden scenario, but the rest under contract - perhaps even Chris Paul - could be moved in right deal.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 29, 2019
Clint Capela is among the players Houston has gauged the market for in recent days, league sources https://t.co/w6H91QzpdD— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 29, 2019
Since these reports have popped up, naturally the rumors swirled to the Mavericks. That’s the rule — whenever the Mavericks have cap space, they’re involved. These rumors have mostly focused on Clint Capela, with the Mavericks apparently interested to some degree, according to two separate reports.
The biggest question: Why?
The Mavericks already have a 7-foot shot blocker in Kristaps Porzingis and a quality rim-runner in Dwight Powell. Capela is on another level than Powell on defense, but is it really worth that much when the Mavericks can already platoon Powell and Maxi Kleber in the big-man spot next to Porzingis?
Cap space isn’t too big of an issue here. Capela only makes $14.9 million next season, and it increases by about a million or so a year till his contract is up in 2023. Capela’s contract is extremely good for what he brings, but the Mavericks would be using resources to acquire a position they don’t really need. Yes, the Mavericks need rebounding and defense, but mainly perimeter defense. Unless Jalen Brunson makes a huge leap, Dallas currently doesn’t have starting guard that can credibly defend ones and twos for 25 to 30 minutes a night.
In fact, you can make the case Dallas doesn’t have one proven 3-and-D guard or wing on the roster. Brunson is a fine player, but likely won’t be a plus defender in year two. Dorian Finney-Smith has to hit at least 35 percent from deep in a season before he gets that designation. Justin Jackson looked great after he was traded to the Mavericks in February, but he has to show he can play like that in November and December and not just March and April. J.J. Barea and Devin Harris aren’t starting caliber two-way players at this point in their careers, terrific as they are in their roles.
Dallas desperately needs to surround Luka Doncic and Porzingis with perimeter players who can play on both sides of the ball.
If the Capela deal were to happen, somehow, the fit wouldn’t be horrendous, but a waste. Capela would work on offense, using his elite rim-running abilities to space the floor with Porzingis behind the arc, or filling space around a Doncic-Porzingis pick and roll. As the rest of the NBA builds toward the small ball future, it’d be sort of interesting to see the Mavericks zag while everyone else zigs with a two-big lineup and try to dominate on the boards and wall off the rim.
It’s interesting, but it’s just not worth it considering the Mavericks other needs. With a Capela-Porzingis starting lineup, you’re asking one of those two to chase fours around the court an awful lot. Say what you will about Powell’s shaky defense at the rim, but he’s at least more athletically capable than that duo to guard on the perimeter. Powell’s steal numbers have actually been pretty good his whole career and he's much better built to handle being out there more so than Capela and Porzingis. Even taking the Powell + Kleber is enough argument out — Porzingis is likely to close games at the five for Dallas in small-ball lineups. It doesn’t make too much sense to spend resources on a guy this summer that doesn’t fit into that vision.
So, for my sake, I hope the Mavericks interest is merely the standard due diligence. A Capela move of course wouldn’t ruin the Mavericks or set them back — it would just be an oddly lateral move. Dallas needs shooting and perimeter defense this summer, not another shot-blocking 7-footer.