Rockets could ‘pivot’ to Atlanta Hawks big man as trade target

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Hawks’ frontcourt could quickly become a target for the rebuilding Houston Rockets.

Houston will pursue veteran targets in free agency with Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden long-rumored to be heading back for a second tour and Milwaukee Bucks big man Brook Lopez on their wishlist. But, if they strike out on Lopez, or players on their radar like him, Kelly Iko of The Athletic says they are fully prepared to pivot and a Hawks big man could be a target.

“The Rockets have several succession plans,” Iko said on the ‘HoopsHype Podcast’ with Michael Scotto on June 13. “For example, if Lopez re-signed with Milwaukee, they’d pivot to guys like Clint Capela.”

Capela, 29, is starting a two-year, $46 million contract extension he signed in 2021 coming off of averaging 12.0 points and 11.0 rebounds this past season.

The 2021 rebounding champ, Capela’s numbers have dropped in back-to-back seasons.

He’s also dealt with leg injuries over the last few years and has missed 15 or more games in five of the past six seasons. Capela has still been effective when he’s healthy but there have been plenty of moments where he’s been neither with the Hawks’ plus-1.5 swing in net rating when he’s on the bench, per Cleaning The Glass.

Perhaps a fully healthy offseason means he will be better but he was far from a liability when he was on the floor.

If the Rockets did successfully pursue Capela, it would be a return to the team where it began for the former No. 25 overall pick (2014).

A trade could go multiple ways as Houston enters the offseason with the most cap space with roughly $47 million to spend. The Hawks are about $8.5 million into the tax which they have yet to pay under owner Tony Ressler.

What this means is the Rockets can take back any of the Hawks’ contracts without having to send back any additional salary.

That also means they can bring back any of Houston’s players in theory since their highest cap hit on the books next season is Kevin Porter Jr. at $15.9 million. Capela’s cap hit is $20 million leaving room to add another piece if pushing the limits of player assets. And, if the Hawks are solely looking to avoid that tax bill, Houston has a host of future first-rounders to deal from.

Atlanta does have Onyeka Okongwu waiting in the wings behind Capela.

Quin Snyder sounds off on finalized Atlanta Hawks coaching staff

With the additions of former No. 6 overall pick Ekpe Udoh on June 13, the Hawks finalized head coach Quin Snyder’s staff.

“We have assembled a coaching staff that brings together a diversity of experiences and expertise to develop, connect with and challenge our players,” Snyder said in a release, per on June 14. “Each of our coaches brings something unique to our group and I am excited to work with this staff and find ways to continually improve our team.”

The group includes some holdovers, per Lauren L. Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Consitution.

The last time the Hawks changed out their entire coaching staff was following the 2020-21 season. They took a step back the following year and, this past season, fired the man who led that overhaul in former head coach Nate McMillan.

Next. 10 NBA draft prospects that should be available for the Hawks. dark

This group has deep ties that could go a long way toward avoiding similar pitfalls.