Welcome to NBA offseason land. A land of make believe. Of rumors, of speculation, of off hand comments being taken as gospel. A land of lies, and deceit.
On June 9th, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders responded to a question from @DakRandallNESN (who per a quick search is shown to be an assistant content producer with NESN) asking who the Celtics may be pursuing.
At 7:48 AM, Steve replied with “The Celtics from what I have heard engaged pretty seriously on Clint Capela… have had some level of talks with Terry Rozier on a new deal. Everything is very fluid at this stage in the draft/trade process. Its finding out what you can do.”
Steve’s response was met with Dakota re-tweeting Steve’s reply with a googlie eye emoji #Celtics at 8:15 AM.
Just a few minutes later Mr. Randall published an article on NESN’s website citing Steve as the primary source that the Celtics are pursing Clint Capela and that it’d be a “no joke add” for the Celtics. Subsequently every podcast, morning show host, and sportsblog around New England (and I suppose now even You’re Ducking Right) talked about it like Steve Kyler was dropping a Woj bomb. Which is to say it feels like the Red Sox organization constructed the NESN journalism team like they constructed their bullpen (you can take that however you’d like).
To be very clear, in subsequent tweets Steve clarified that his response was about a conversation he had heard occurred, and that he wasn’t stating anything was imminent, and essentially said at this time of year everyone is doing their due diligence and plotting a course of action as we move into the summer. None the less, social media is really glorified middle school and Clint Capela being the Celtics main target is now taken as gospel with Anthony Davis headed to La La Land.
As the roster is currently constituted the Celtics are unable to acquire Clint Capela without sending out Marcus Smart, Al Horford, or Gordon Hayward, or some combination of younger assets that would have to include at least one of Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Sending out the $14 pick and/or Guerschon Yabusele will not get it done in terms of how the NBA salary cap works.
Now there is certainly the possibility that Al Horford opts out, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Daniel Theis and others are renounced, Horford and Kyrie leave (I’d say renounced, but those two would/will be scooped up in the first round of free agency, which is to say there wouldn’t be cause to renounce) and the Celtics suddenly find themselves with cap space. But that doomsday scenario appears unlikely. We’ll find out by tomorrow (Tuesday the 18th) if Horford is opting out of the final year of his deal or not (if he does, I would expect a quick resolution to him re-signing an extension, it is likely the delay in his announcing as they hammer out if its viable or not for both sides).
The point being that while yes, in a vacuum, it’d be nice to add Clint Capela, the NBA does not work in a vacuum. Is it worth sending out one of those players for Capela? Not from this vantage point.
Lets compare for a moment someone very similar to Clint Capela.
Player A: 25 years old, 6’10”, 240 lbs.
Player B: 21 years old 6’10” 240 lbs.
Player A: Due to make 14.9 million, 16.0 million, 17.1 million in the next 3 seasons
Player B: Due to make 1.9 million, 2.0 million, 3.7 million in the next 3 seasons
The respective player’s rookie seasons:
Player: GP MIN FT/FG/3PT% RPG BPG PPG
Player A (Age 20) 12 7.5 17/48/0 3.0 0.8 2.7
Player B (Age 21) 32 8.8 60/71/0 2.5 1.3 2.5
In year 2 of his career Player A made modest leaps in his production
Player A (Age 21) 77 19.1 38/52/0 6.4 1.2 7.0
In year 5 of his career Player A posted career highs
Player A (Age 25) 67 33.6 64/65/0 12.7 1.5 16.6
Certainly a 65/65/0 shooting line, along with averaging a double double, and above average rim protection is a player worth having on your team.
What if I told you that Player A was drafted with the 25th pick in the 2014 draft, and that Player B went with the 27th pick in the 2018 draft. Which is to say we’re not comparing a lotto pick to a late second rounder. In terms of draft capital extended, we’re comparing apples to apples.
Player B as you’ve likely guessed by now is Robert Williams III.
Is it that big of a stretch to believe Williams could morph in his sophomore year into someone who averages 19 minutes, 7 points, 6 boards, and a block a game? Not particularly. Especially if the Celtics continue to rest Al Horford and his knees periodically. Even if Daniel Theis is brough back, its not unrealistic to expect Williams to move past him on the depth chart.
People remember how Jayson Tatum was tossed into the fire and think that is how Brad Stevens handles his rookies. They forget how Jaylen Brown was brought along slowly. Or how Terry Rozier was mostly a non-factor outside the G-League as a rookie.
Its tough to preach patience. Not for a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals in back to back years and has seen teams like Milwaukee, Toronto, and Philly seemingly surpase them before a 2nd round ouster in this year’s playoffs.
The question you’d have to ask, and its a basic one that I’m certain Celtics President Danny Ainge has posed, who are the Celtics more likely able to replicate their skill, production, and impact to a team? Al Horford? Gordon Hayward? Marcus Smart? Or Clint Capela.
If we’re talking about Horford, well, first of all, unless he explicitly requests it (and who knows, maybe he is, maybe he wants to be the 3rd wheel in Houston’s tricycle), I don’t expect him the opt in, to then immediately be traded. Aside from that aspect though, on the court Horford becomes exponentially more important to the offense if Kyrie leaves. The Celtics essentially have run 2 types of offense the last 3 seasons. One where Kyrie is the ball dominant All NBA caliber ball handler, and one where its been Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, etc. as the ball handler. In the later scenario Horford may not be the primary ball handler, but he is the primary catalyst for the offense. To lose Kyrie, and Horford would require almost a complete overhaul of what the Celtics are able to do on offense.
Additionally, lets for the sake of being realistic, assume Kyrie is gone. That leaves the most likely scenario being the Celtics retaining Terry Rozier, something that Danny Ainge has already set the stage for with his recent comments about Rozier’s possible return, something that he certainly didn’t have to say following Rozier’s commentary when he was on ESPN’s First take a couple weeks ago.
A Clint Capela/Terry Rozier combination isn’t exactly a match made in heaven. A center who has made his a bread and butter move catching lob passes from Chris Paul now has to catch lob passes from someone who connects on his lob passes about as often as Phillip Rivers remembers to wear a condom? Thats simply not ideal.
Would Ainge consider moving Gordon Hayward for Clint Capela AND Eric Gordon? Thats certainly an intriguing option. I’m of the belief that Hayward will be back to his old Utah self next season. The question really is what do Danny Ainge and Darryl Morey expect out of Hayward? He’d certainly be an intriguing addition to the Rockets line up, and could be a free agent after next season should he choose to opt out of the final year of his deal. I’ve thought for a while now that if Kyrie leaves, that a Smart/Gordon back court would be very productive.
That leaves the last option, the one that amuses me, because the people calling for Ainge to trade for Capela are the people not aware of how the salary cap works, because as soon as you mention that it’d likely be Smart headed West in such a deal, and that sending out just draft picks won’t work, they clam right up. Smart’s impact to the team obviously extends beyond his statistical contributions. The First Team All Defense member is the spiritual backbone of the team. If Al Horford is the team’s brain, then Smart is it’s testicals.
So when you consider what it’d take to acquire, are the Celtics better off making the move for Capela, or taking a chance that Robert Williams III can grow into that role? Of course it can be a dangerous game projecting how a player develops. While yes, on paper the players were remarkably similar as rookies, that doesn’t take into account work ethics, potential injuries, opportunity. In terms of skill sets though the parallels are glaring obvious. Capela is a rim runner capable of effecting shots around the rim. As a rookie it was very obvious that Williams can be a fierce rim protector, and the boy can sure as hell catch a lob, if its in the zip code, he can flush it through the hoop with authority. Can he keep up with the offensive flow, the defensive rotations? Move his feet on the perimeter? Given time to mature and develop, I believe so. But only time will tell.
Is it worth trading assets, and increasing payroll to acquire Clint Capela, when we may already be witness to the filming of Clint Capela Part 2: Time Lord? They say the sequal is never as good as the original. Lets hope we have the Godfather here.
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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