Insider sheds potentially telling light on Hawks' plans for Clint Capela

One rival team's insider offered potentially telling insight into the Atlanta Hawks' true intentions for starting center Clint Capela.
Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks
Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks’ roster may have fewer tweaks coming in the wake of the 2024 NBA Draft and free agency than has been anticipated.

With  Zaccharie Risacher in two and Dejounte Murray now a New Orleans Pelican, the Hawks were expected to turn their attention to anyone on the roster not named Jalen Johnson (or Risacher).

That was expected to include starting center Clint Capela, but that may not be the case.

The Athletic’s Will Guillory noted the apparent fit for Pelicans star Brandon Ingram to replace Murray. He also noted the presence of Capela and backup Onyeka Okongwu.

“As it turned out, Atlanta didn’t have much interest in giving Ingram his next contract or moving either of its top two centers (Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu), according to league sources,” Guillory wrote on July 8 (subscription required).

Ingram is entering the final year of a five-year, $158.2 million contract. 

The Hawks instead received a package headlined by 2022 No. 8 overall pick Dyson Daniels and a pair of future first-round picks.

Guillory’s insight on Capela is a plot twist. Capela, 30, is coming off his seventh straight season of averaging a double-double. He averaged 11.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks – his highest mark since the 2021-22 season – and 1.2 assists last season.

His 63.1% mark from the free throw line was his best since 2018-19.

Hawks boast expensive center group

The 6-foot-10, 240-pound center is entering the final year of a two-year, $46 million contract extension. That is a potentially appealing characteristic in trade negotiations.

However, Capela has also been a veritable symbol of stability for the Hawks dating back to their run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020-21. He is one of six players on the current roster who were also on that squad.

Capela posted the third-best efficiency differential among the Hawks in 2023-24, per Cleaning The Glass.

Conversely, Okongwu’s differential ranked seventh among the 12 Hawks that played at least 500 minutes last season. Okongwu is starting a four-year, $61.9 million contract. He has expanded his range the last two seasons, resulting in some minutes at the 4 in 2024-25.

The Hawks also added Larry Nance Jr. and Cody Zeller in the Murray trade, though.

Nance is in the final year of a two-year, $21.6 million pact while Zeller received a three-year, $11 million contract because he was acquired in a sign-and-trade.

Bruno Fernando had his guaranteed date on the final year of his four-year, $10.8 million contract pushed back, which could indicate he is the early odd man out of the rotation. He also gave the Hawks solid production last season when called upon.

The Hawks have the eighth most-expensive center group in the NBA as currently constructed.

Hawks may be settled on their current roster to start 2024-25 season

De’Andre Hunter, who has also been mired in trade rumors, has proven capable of contributing as a starter or off the bench, which gives the Hawks flexibility with Risacher. Risacher’s contract softens the blow from Year 2 of Hunter’s four-year, $90 million deal.

How the early portion of the season goes could very well dictate who else from the group gets moved at the deadline.

But the Hawks have retooled this offseason.

They have put ample length and athleticism around three-time All-Star guard Trae Young. They hope it gets them back to the playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time since 2019-20 last season.