Hawks offseason questions: How will Clint Capela fit in?

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In an underwhelming season, the most exciting part was the acquisition of former Rockets big man, Clint Capela. Unfortunately, their new addition never had the chance to play in Atlanta before the season ended. Prior to the trade, he was suffering from a heel injury. The Hawks hoped he would end up playing at least 10-15 games, giving him a chance to gel with his teammates before the start of next season. However, the coronavirus destroyed any chance of that, and Capela likely wouldn’t have played anyways, as it was reported last month that he was still recovering from the injury. He should be good to go for next season, though, and he will be an upgrade on both ends of the court.

Let’s start with Capela’s bread and butter. He’s a rebounding machine that protects the rim with the best of them. Since Lloyd Pierce took over as head coach, the Hawks have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They ranked 27th in defensive efficiency in 2018-2019 and were even worse this past season, finishing 28th — ahead of only Washington and Cleveland. On top of that, Atlanta has been atrocious on the glass, ranking 29th in rebounding differential.

Capela immediately helps mask both of those issues. With Collins able to play his more natural power forward position, and Capela at the five, the Hawks should be — at the very least capable — on the boards, and their interior defense should improve drastically. The move also helps Atlanta’s second unit, allowing Dewayne Dedmon to serve as a backup, which means the Hawks won’t have to rely on Bruno Fernando for significant minutes, who proved he isn’t quite ready for that role in his rookie season.

Offensively, Capela is a one-trick pony, but he should thrive playing with a point guard like Trae Young. Capela is a rim runner, and few are better at serving up lobs than the Hawks lone All-Star. With Young, I’d expect him to up his scoring by at least a couple of points a game. Capela is also a force on the offensive glass, averaging over four offensive rebounds per game the past two seasons.

There are questions about how Collins and Capela will fit offensively, but I don’t see that as much of a problem. Collins has proven to be an elite three-point shooter, especially for a big man. He shot over 40% from beyond the arc and can play outside the paint — something he has improved at each season. Plus, having the two on the floor at the same time will be a nightmare for teams when it comes to rebounding, as Collins also averages three offensive rebounds per game in his brief career.

When it came to needs for the Hawks last season, there were none more glaring than the center position. Capela does so many things Atlanta has struggled with over this rebuild and only cost the Hawks a late first-round pick. He’s under contract for three more years and will be an integral part of the team’s young core. People also might be surprised to find out he will only be 26-years-old next year, going into his 7th NBA season. That kind of experience is going to be helpful, as Atlanta looks to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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