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Clint Capela makes a lot of sense for the Sacramento Kings

If the big man is available, Vlade Divac should make the call.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday afternoon, Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN reported that the Houston Rockets are shopping Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and PJ Tucker in an effort to clear enough room to push the Philadelphia 76ers into a sign-and-trade for swingman Jimmy Butler. The situation is a bit muddled as free agency has yet to begin and Butler has yet to show definitive interest in heading to Texas, but if a deal is to be struck, the Rockets must acquire the veteran wing through a sign-and-trade, as the massive contracts of Chris Paul and James Harden will prevent Daryl Morey from acquiring Butler outright on the open market.

On the other side of the negotiating table, the Sixers should try to gain as many assets as they can if Butler is truly planning on leaving the City of Brotherly Love, but Clint Capela is redundant with All-Star Joel Embiid already packing the paint. A third team will be necessary to facilitate the potential trade.

Because of the salary limitations on Houston’s side, Capela and Gordon must be shipped out with zero salary returning to the Rockets, meaning a first round pick and possibly other draft compensation will be redirected to Philadelphia. Of the teams not seeking max-level free agents, several already employ a starting caliber center:

Potential Suitors

Team Cap Space Starting Center
Team Cap Space Starting Center
Kings $60 million ?
Celtics $32 million ?
Pacers $31 million Myles Turner
Pelicans $31 million ?
Mavericks $28 million ?
Bulls $21 million Wendell Carter
Suns $21 million Deandre Ayton

That leaves just a few rosters with an obvious hole in the front court, with the Celtics, Kings, Pelicans, and Mavericks as the most eligible suitors; however, Dallas already owes their 2021 and 2023 first rounders to the New York Knicks, likely taking them out of contention. The Pelicans are also probably disinterested in giving up a first round pick at the start of a rebuild which desperately needs to add shooters. Boston has just enough space to absorb Capela, but they’ve been named the frontrunners in the Kemba Walker sweepstakes. If that holds true, the Kings are the sole candidate with the assets and the desire to take on a starting center.

From Sacramento’s perspective, they have been searching for an upgrade next to Marvin Bagley since their season ended. Names like Nikola Vucevic, DeAndre Jordan, Dewayne Dedmon, and Steven Adams have all been linked to the Kings at some point throughout the last few months, but none of those players offer the same combination of age, annual salary, and availability as Capela.

According to a formula I used in a previous article to rank potential centers, the current Rocket scored moderately high at 12 points, slightly better than Richaun Holmes, but injuries last year negatively impacted his performance. Studying Capela’s contributions from the 2017-2018 season reveals the player most picture when pondering his acquisition:

Year-to-Year Comparision

Player Year DREB% Blocks per-75 poss DFG% at rim Rim Running
Player Year DREB% Blocks per-75 poss DFG% at rim Rim Running
Capela 2018-2019 24.1% 1.7 -4.2% 66th percentile
Capela 2017-2018 27.8% 2.5 -5.1% 91st percentile
Cauley-Stein 2018-2019 21.3% 0.8 +3.1% 62nd percentile

Two season ago, he was an elite rebounder, above-average rim protector, poor floor spacer, and an elite rim runner. That level of production would bump him up to a score of 15, trailing only Dedmon and Vucevic for the best fit in Sacramento. There’s certainly no guarantee that Capela records those exact numbers next season, but the injuries he struggled with in 2018 were not long-term issues. It’s not incomprehensible that he can return to his form of two seasons ago.

A level of risk is always associated with surrendering a first round pick in the midst of a rebuild, as the Kings have learned from 2011 to now, but players of Capela’s quality who are signed to a fair contract rarely become available for a team like Sacramento. Pairing Bagley with Capela would solve most, but not all of the Kings front court concerns, and his level of play on a nightly basis is equal to that of Willie Cauley-Stein at his highest, most locked-in level. Assuming the cost isn’t much more than a mildly protected 2020 first round pick, as well as one or a half dozen of the second rounders gather dust in Sacramento’s coffers, acquiring Clint Capela and re-signing Harrison Barnes to a long-term contract would all but guarantee a successful summer for the front office.