Atlanta Hawks’ big man eyed as sidekick for Mavericks’ Luka Doncic

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images). (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images). (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Hawks’ frontcourt is the apparent object of many eyes around the NBA.

For all of the rumors surrounding forward John Collins, his fellow starting big man, Clint Capela, is also popping up in the rumor mill.

“The Hawks will continue to explore trade scenarios for Collins. That has so far included preliminary talks with Dallas,” reported Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports on June 16. “Those talks did not develop very far…and Dallas indicated it would be more willing to consider that deal if Hawks center Clint Capela was the returning player from Atlanta.”

Capela, 29, is heading into his fourth season with the Hawks and is under contract through the 2024-25 campaign. He has been an integral part of the Hawks providing solid defense, adequate rim protection behind Trae Young, and led the league in rebounding in 2020-21.

He ranked 10th in points-rebounds double-doubles this past season and 14th overall.

The No. 25 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Capela is a trusted outlet for Trae Young, tying for 11th in possessions per game as the finisher in pick-and-rolls this past season. But his production has dropped in consecutive seasons and he has dealt with knee injuries in the last few years.

The Hawks are also set to foot an $8-plus million luxury tax bill and have never paid the tax before under team governor Tony Ressler.

Their high value on some of their other players – on a roster that went 41-41 this past season and 10-11 under Quin Snyder in the regular season – has created a natural line of speculation about Capela’s availability this offseason, Fischer notes.

He also says not to dismiss Capela’s importance as a safety valve for Young.

That is exactly the kind of option needed next to Doncic — a player that doesn’t command the ball on offense and will do the dirty work.

It’s also why the Hawks may be equipped to part with him but could opt not to.

The Atlanta Hawks may be equipped to move on from Clint Capela

Atlanta has several options on hand and pathways forward if they decide it really is time to move on from Capela who was brought in under a different front office and head coach.

They have former No. 6 overall pick Onyeka Okongwu waiting in the wings, and the youngster has already shown flashes of an expanded offensive game that may better suit a system that emphasizes three-point shooting. Okongwu, 22, shot 30.0% on his 13 threes but it was his first season taking them.

The Hawks posted a better net rating with him on the floor this past season than Capela (plus-1.9 to minus-1.7, respectively), and in more than 100 more minutes, per Cleaning The Glass (subscription required).

Atlanta has also been linked to Duke center Dereck Lively II.

“Derrick Lively is the other player coveted by teams in terms of moving up in the draft,” wrote Matt Moore of Action Network on June 18. “The Hawks and Warriors are two teams that I’ve heard from multiple sources are interested in pursuing a pick to take Lively, and it seems like it’s going to need to be at least 10th to get there.”

He is projected to be selected higher than their current No. 15 overall slot but general manager Landry Fields has acknowledged their exploring the possibility of moving up.

The deal above would let the Hawks jump up to within range to land Lively as well as shave more than $3 million off their books in 2023-24 and roughly $6 million in 2024-25 assuming Bertans picks up his $16 million player option.

Capela’s two-year, $43 million extension projects to pay him $20.6 million in 2023-24 and $22.3 million in 2024-25 and has another roughly $4 million in incentives, per former Brooklyn Nets executive and current ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks.

If someone is willing to help the Hawks free up some funds for future purposes, perhaps they should entertain this idea.

If they are truly worried Young could push for a trade, then maybe you reconsider.

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

But their path forward gets a lot cleaner if they make the tougher decisions now. That does not mean it has to be Capela, either though.