Atlanta Hawks must address star’s critical problem area

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images) /

This summer, the Atlanta Hawks made a blockbuster trade to bring in Dejounte Murray forming one of the most dynamic – and possibly most hated – backcourts in the NBA. But there are still questions about how much the trade raises their ceiling appreciably in a revamped Eastern Conference.

Some have suggested that there will need to be at least one more move, possibly significant, to turn them into perennial title contenders. But there is a good chance that this is the group that we see on the court when the regular season rolls around in September.

Still, there will need to be adjustments for everyone, not just the backcourt.

For some players, like Clint Capela, that means cleaning up what has to be a strength for him if he is to remain the answer at center.

Clint Capela has to finish better at the rim for the Atlanta Hawks to improve next season

In 2021, Capela led the NBA in rebounding, finished fourth in All-NBA voting at his position, and third in All-Defensive voting. This past season, he still ranked fifth in the league in rebounding. But he did not receive any votes for either of the honors that he was previously in contention for just a year ago.

Injuries played a big part in that. Capela came into the season still recovering from an offseason PRP injection in his Achilles that had been bothering him for some time.

Capela was also not the same caliber of finisher as he was in 2021 this past season.

That graphic shows a compound issue for the Hawks and their veteran big man.

He gets good looks at the rim, a likely result of playing the roll-man for Trae Young. That should only continue with Murray brought in as another playmaker. We already got a preview of this backcourt’s ability to feed a rim-running big man.

It won’t matter if Capela doesn’t convert them.

Despite shooting 61.3% from the floor, he connected on just 41% of his shots within two feet of the rim last season. That was down from over 58% the year before.

As for his defense did manage to hold opponents below their average at the rim. But he also wasn’t exactly making opponents reconsider coming into the lane.

Again, Murray as well as a healthy De’Andre Hunter should help keep some of the traffic away from Capela in the paint.

But It is difficult to envision Capela making the impact he should if he cannot hit the “easy ones”. He is not a good free-throw shooter – 47.3% this past season, 52,7% career. And he doesn’t offer any scoring outside of the paint.

He did, however, record the fourth-best net rating among returning players, per Cleaning the Glass.

Capela’s offensive rating ranked in the 89th percentile.

Unfortunately for Capela, his defensive rating ranked in the 33rd percentile; the opposite of what one might assume.

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Starting the season healthy could also go a long way toward Capela getting back in top form. If he’s not, we could see a lot more of Onyeka Okongwu that we are already anticipating next season.