The Atlanta Hawks are currently flying. With the exception of the Charlotte Hornets game, they have won every game that they should. A big reason for this has been the play of Clint Capela. The big man is being paid $18.2 million so needs to produce but he is now the fifth option on offense as a starter.
This is a tremendous place for the Hawks to be in as Capela cannot create his own offense. When he does try, it usually results in a missed hook shot, and then the opposition usually is able to end the possession with a defensive rebound.
Now, the only real opportunities that Capela has had any steady diet this season are alley-oops and second-chance opportunities thanks to his rebounding ability. With the other four starters that the Hawks have on the court, this is a strong position for the team to be in.
The Atlanta Hawks are reliant on the size and defense of Clint Capela.
A lot was made of the defensive ability of Dejounte Murray coming into the Hawks squad this season. The impact that he was going to have was to improve the 26th-ranked defense. However, let’s not forget that Capela transformed the Hawks’ defense when he came into the squad in the 2020-21 season.
If you look at his season stat line, Capela is not performing well enough to justify his contract, considering the big man is going to get $46 million over the next two seasons. He is averaging 7.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.0 steals in 26.5 minutes per game.
Given that his backup, Onyeka Okongwu is averaging 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 20.5 minutes, you can make a case for the fourth-year man to be the starter. However, there are a couple of factors that need to be taken into account.
To start with, Okongwu’s role is different with the team than Capela’s. He is a key offensive piece as either Trae Young or Murray is sitting when Okongwu is on the court. Likewise, Jalen Johnson is not the same offensive threat as John Collins. The same goes for Justin Holiday compared to De’Andre Hunter.
While Okongwu’s offense changes the way that the opposition needs to defend the Hawks, he is also a very strong defender. So, why is he not starting? To put it simply, when Capela is not starting the Hawks are too small to compete. This was displayed in the preseason when Capela was not available in the preseason. Jonas Valanciunas simply manhandled the Hawks’ bigs.
Capela has three games out of the first six where he has multiple blocks, including four in the first game against the Detroit Pistons. The Hawks have won all three of those games. The combination that Capela and a newly revitalized Collins have shown this season is a big reason the Hawks have done so well.
As stated in the title, ignore the box score, Clint Capela is doing his job for the Atlanta Hawks. The scary thing is, he is still to get his legs under him for the season. Look for the Hawks to become even better on defense as the season unfolds.