The Atlanta Hawks made the first mega-move before the 2020 NBA trade deadline. How much do they benefit by finally adding a true center to their roster?
Travis Schlenk has not been afraid of making his mark early and often with the Atlanta Hawks. As he continues to get a handle on trading assets in the NBA, he is always looking for the next big splash as Atlanta’s re-build continues.
In 2018, he got the Dallas Mavericks to agree to trade him Trae Young and a protected first for Luka Doncic. In fact, Doncic was one of three first-round draft picks for the Hawks that season, two of whom aren’t actually with the Hawks anymore.
In 2019, Schlenk maneuvered more of the Hawks’ assets to acquire De’Andre Hunter and still draft Cam Reddish. He also gained another 2020 (top-14 protected) first-round pick by shipping Taurean Prince to the Nets in efforts of taking on Allen Crabbe‘s contract.
Crabbe was just traded a few weeks ago to bring back hometown favorite Jeff Teague, but that move paled in comparison to the reported beginnings of a mega-trade that Adrian Wojnarowski announced in the wee hours of the morning of February 5.
This trade first started off a few days ago as Atlanta just being one of many interested suitors, including the Boston Celtics.
That then evolved to include the Minnesota Timberwolves as recently as a day or two ago to finally bringing in the Denver Nuggets as well in the 11th hour of the pending deal.
Players are continuing to be announced in this and other separate deals, mostly to help the Timberwolves take on Turner’s contract.
But for all intents and purposes, the Hawks side of the deal is pretty concrete: ship off Evan Turner and a first-rounder, receive Clint Capela. Having an extra first-round pick paid off again for Schlenk, especially with the protection considerations; if the Brooklyn Nets make the playoffs this season, the pick moves to 2021 to possibly convey.
In the past eight months, Schlenk and the Hawks have essentially traded Taurean Prince and a future second round pick for Clint Capela, a needed defender for the team.
Some items still need to be ironed out, such as who the Atlanta Hawks consider who to cut from their roster to make room for both Clint Capela and Nene Hilario.
But while the trade gets finalized, the Hawks did manage to set some history with this trade, the biggest since Patrick Ewing was shipped from New York to Seattle in 2000.
The reaction of this trade has been overwhelmingly in favor of the Hawks as well. Many consider dumping Evan Turner and letting go of just a first-round pick to net a young, defensive stalwart a coup.
So what exactly will Clint Capela bring to the organization? He’s a walking double-double, as he’s averaging 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds per game this season. He’s also under a reasonable contract through the 2022-23 season and helps on the defensive side of the court in a variety of ways.
Capela netted over 100 blocks in each season during 2017-18 and 2018-19 and is on pace to do the same this season as well. In fact, he is just one of seven players to accumulate over 300 blocks over the last three seasons.
For the 2019-20 season, John Collins has matched Capela on a per-game basis for blocks (1.8), but no one else has come close to replicating those numbers on the Hawks. In fact, Vince Carter is fourth on the Hawks with 23 total blocks.
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But even bigger than his shot-blocking prowess is Capela’s rebounding ability. Currently, he ranks fifth in offensive rebounds (168), ninth in defensive rebounds (369) and sixth in total rebounds (537). He has nearly as many rebounds as Alex Len, Damian Jones and Bruno Fernando have combined (545).
On a per-game basis, Collins is about 3.6 rebounds per game off of Capela’s mark but has been the only player to average close to or over 10 rebounds per game on the Atlanta Hawks this season.
If nothing else, Clint Capela brings some great stabilization to the center position for the Hawks, the most since Al Horford was last in Atlanta. Holding down the fort this season at the center position has been some sort of combination between Collins, Len, Fernando and Jones.
It hasn’t helped that each has missed time this season. Collins was suspended for 25 games and Jones, Len and Fernando have missed 25 games combined themselves.
Neither Len or Jones have gotten many minutes, with each averaging less than 20 minutes per game. And while Fernando (a rookie) has been available for most of the season, he has only appeared in 11 games.
Offensively, the possibilities are endless with Trae Young having a second pick-and-roll partner in Capela. Collins and Capela on the floor together should really free up the team’s perimeter shooters and allow Trae to continue to rack up the assists on a nightly basis.
Defensively, the Hawks finally have an anchor. Collins will still help protect the rim as well, but being able to pair up with Caplea will take pressure off him at both ends of the court.
With the acquisition of Clint Capela, the Atlanta Hawks finally have long term solutions at center, forward and point. If they can settle in on who their important wing players are, they could easily become the playoff contender next year that everyone was predicting would happen this year.