The Atlanta Hawks have a 21-year-old All-Star in Trae Young and a 22-year-old averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds a game in John Collins. At some point, the franchise had to get serious about finding assets to complement their two young stars. That's when 6'10" Clint Capela came into the fold during the trading deadline in February. Capela averaged 13.9 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game for the powerhouse Houston Rockets before arriving in Atlanta.
His paint protection on the defensive side of the ball and his elite rebounding is just what the doctored ordered for the Hawks, both next season and beyond.
"I think that Atlanta is a great city," Capela told The Big Lead during a phone interview in March. "A good young group out here working hard. A lot of potential."
The Switzerland native spent his entire career with the Houston Rockets after he was drafted 25th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. Every season of his young career, he has made the playoffs in a deep Western Conference. 65-win teams, multiple Western Conference Finals appearances, coming to the Hawks who are ten games out of the playoffs in the weaker Eastern Conference will bring a talented player with a load of experience to the fold that they were previously lacking.
On the human side of things, he not only switched teams but had to move for the first time in his NBA career. Thankfully, he has already found a place in Atlanta that he will move into soon and thinks the Hawks and his agent have done a tremendous job making the change as easy as possible.
"It was a very simple and good transition," Capela said.
There is hope that next season a whole group of Capela, Collins, and Young surrounded by their young but talented teammates could lead to playoff basketball in Atlanta for the first time since 2017.
"My mindset is to go out there and do what I do," he said. "Play hard and be the best I can."
His confidence in getting to the playoffs is very high. At 25-years-old he is still young by NBA standards, but on the Hawks, he's now the grizzled vet among their young core.
"I'm really excited to try to be more vocal to get to where we want to go," Capela said.
Playing with MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook, as well as future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul, Capela been around the greats. In Atlanta, he is now going to be with Young, who is 2nd in the NBA in assists, averaging 9.2 dishes per game and seems to be entering that echelon of elite point guards.
"[Young] is a tremendous talent, and I love his skills," Capela said. "He likes to play, he likes to compete. I'm just excited to go out there and play with him."
He'll also share the paint with a potential All-Star in Collins. Between the two of them, the Hawks could be looking at an average of 24 rebounds and four blocks per game from their forward tandem if they post similar stats next season.
"Having a big impact with the Hawks inside and from what I saw, he [Collins] can also shoot the ball, shoot the three, so it's going to be interesting," Capela said.
As for the trade, he was not surprised at the possibility of being moved.
"I knew it could have been possible since probably the past summer that a trade could have happened," he said.
Defensively, the Hawks ranked 28th in defensive rating and 20th in total rebounds per game in the league. Capela, who ranked 2nd in blocks and 5th in total rebounds before the season was postponed, is looking forward to making an impact on that end of the floor.
"We're going to change the mindset and play hard every night," he said.
At just 25-years-old, Capela's youth makes it an ideal fit for both sides. The core players that the Hawks have under contract for next season are all under the age of 23. He fits their timeline, and his experience and future leadership is a huge bonus.
"We are young, and I think that we are all motivated, and we all have potential to do something special."