Clint Capela has long been seen as the ideal center to put next to James Harden in Mike D'Antoni's offense. He sets solid screens, can catch a lob anywhere in his general direction, and defends the rim well enough on the other end of the floor. The Rockets agreed a few years ago when they signed Capela to a five-year, $90 million extension that kicked in at the beginning of the 2018 season.
Things have changed. The Rockets are shopping Capela on the trade market to Eastern Conference teams ahead of Thursday's deadline, as reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and reportedly are looking for assets to flip for an "impact wing player." In an ideal world, Houston receives a wing player and a center, and Woj reports a multi-team deal could be in the works. Capela is only 25, but has three years left on his contract, which will pay him $14 million this year and increases annually over the course of the deal. He's currently averaging 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. It may be tough to find the right deal, but teams will always be interested in a young player with talent on the block. It's tough to predict how a three or four-team trade would work, so here are three potential teams who could reach out to Houston and strike a straightforward, two-team deal.
The Hawks were the one team specifically named in Woj's report as an interested party, and it doesn't come as a surprise, given they've been linked to both Andre Drummond and Steven Adams in recent weeks. They want a young center to pair with Trae Young, and Capela could be their guy. They could offer Houston Evan Turner and the Nets' lottery-protected first-round pick they own, which would give Houston the assets to potentially trade for the impact wing player they want (Andre Iguodala, perhaps?). But there's no trade scenario with Atlanta that gives Houston a replacement center. Still, if Houston is willing to settle, the Hawks will be eager dance partners.
Given the Celtics have Jaylen Brown's extension kicking in this offseason and will very likely be signing Jayson Tatum to another massive extension after the season, they would have to believe Capela is the one piece they need to make a serious run to take on his salary. But if they do, they can make a deal without giving up any of their most important role players. Boston could send Enes Kanter, Semi Ojeyele, Romeo Langford, and Carsen Edwards to Houston for Capela's services, and even throw in their top-six protected Grizzlies pick if they need to. This is the best straight-up deal for Houston; Ojeyele is perfect for their system, and both Langford and Edwards are intriguing enough prospects as trade pieces to justify getting Kanter as their replacement center. There would need to be a third, and maybe fourth team involved here, since Houston probably doesn't want to cut three guys outright to make room for these incoming players. But Capela gives the Celtics the presence in the middle they'll need to have a chance against Giannis Antetokounmpo or Joel Embiid in the playoffs.
The Cavs should be looking to shed salary rather than add it, but Capela presents an intriuging option as a younger center to grow with their pair of lottery picks in the back court. Cleveland could send Tristian Thompson to Houston as their replacement center (or a trade piece) along with Kevin Porter Jr. for Capela and Thabo Sefolosha; they don't have any draft assets to offer, so they'd have to give up at least one young player if they want Capela. Thompson is a slightly worse version of Capela, but his deal expires after this season and there are a good amount of teams who could use his rebounding if Houston wants to trade him again. Not the most likely deal, but not the worst on the table if Houston is adamant on sending Capela to the East.