Despite a lack of free agency signings or trade acquisitions thus far in the 2023 offseason, the Atlanta Hawks are still constantly finding themselves in the headlines this summer, with countless rumors and pieces of speculation being spread about the team seemingly on a daily basis.
The latest reports revolve around center Clint Capela, whose name has been floated in trade rumors going back at least the last two offseasons but has maintained his starting job in Atlanta’s frontcourt since the team acquired him back in 2020.
Recently, on the “Hoop Collective” podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, when discussing the state of various frontcourt situations throughout the league, mentioned that Capela is currently “on the trade block” for Atlanta.
What could this mean for the Atlanta Hawks?
So much of Atlanta’s willingness to either trade or keep Capela hinges upon how much they trust his backup center, Onyeka Okongwu, who will be entering his fourth year in the league in 2023-24.
Okongwu certainly has shown flashes of being just as good as, if not better than Capela, although their games are about as different as can be for two players of the same position.
Capela is much more of a traditional center, whose height and shot-blocking ability make him a solid presence in the paint that can protect the rim and dominate the glass, as we saw in the Hawks’ Play-In Tournament victory over the Miami Heat.
Offensively, Capela offers little to nothing outside of finishing lobs from point guard Trae Young and generating putback attempts around the basket off of offensive rebounds.
Okongwu, on the other hand, is a lot more skilled offensively than Capela, with a much more seamless touch around the basket. The former USC Trojan even showed a willingness to launch the three-ball for the first time this season, although he certainly can’t be considered a marksman at this point in his career.
Defensively, Okongwu does not offer the shot-blocking or rebounding presence of Capela mostly due to the fact that he is a tad undersized for the position, but he is a lot more versatile than Capela, with the ability to switch pick-and-rolls and stay in front of perimeter players when matched up with them. Okongwu has even shown the ability to at least slow down one of the game’s best players in Giannis Antentokounpo on occasion.
In other words, the Hawks clearly have redundancy on their roster at the center position that could, in theory, be voided in exchange for some help at a position of more need.
One name that Windhorst floated in his report as being interested in Capela was the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas’ backline was essentially a free layup line for opposing offensives last year due to their lack of interior defense.
What Atlanta would be interested in that Dallas has to offer is certainly an interesting question. Former Hawk Tim Hardaway, Jr. would certainly give Atlanta’s offenses a kick, but he wouldn’t do anything to solve the team’s biggest weakness, which is their perimeter defense.
That is, of course, assuming that the Hawks choose to go the Okongwu route, which is in all likelihood the smartest route to go. At this point in Capela’s career, we know who he is and what he brings to the table. Okongwu, while he has certainly had some up and downs so far, has a higher ceiling and, especially if his jump shot continues to improve, could turn theoretically himself into an All-Star-level player in the not-too-distant future.
Let’s hope that this report is accurate and that Landry Fields and company are indeed working to eliminate this redundancy and bolster the roster at points of more weakness.