In three years as the Hawks’ starting center, Clint Capela has formed a vital partnership with Trae Young. Capela is a —if not the — leading lob recipient from the star guard in their frequent pick-and-roll sets. And he’s just as crucial on the other end of the court as Young’s and the entire perimeter players’ last line of defense. It’s no accident that Capela’s arrival in Atlanta has coincided with three straight playoff appearances since 2020.
For the season, Clint Capela averaged 12.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. The Swiss international remains one of the best rebounders in the entire league, recording the second-best 2022-23 rebounding percentage — 22.7%, an estimate of how many rebounds the player pulled in per opportunity — among those that qualified. He was also second in offensive rebound percentage at a gaudy 16.1%. Examples like the below play can be found littered throughout the season:
That tireless effort on the boards rewarded the Hawks with plenty of second chance points throughout the season, lifting the Hawks to a top-10 finish in offensive rebounding percentage — this despite a perceived lack of size from the two primary centers. Beyond that, he’s a master of little things: he sets stonewall screens, constantly hustles in transition, and organizes the half court defense with his communication and direction.
With the upstart backup Onyeka Okongwu pushing him for this starting spot, there’s a chance the franchise decides to go in a different direction sooner rather than later. Clint Capela agreed to a contract extension last offseason, and as a result he is signed two more years through 2025 — an extension worth over $45 million in total guarantees. But Okongwu is also due a contract extension that would kick in the summer of 2024. And the Hawks are already staring at major salary cap crunch if their goal is to remain below the luxury tax threshold.
About Onyeka Okongwu’s season, Capela had to say, “I really felt like he’s not scared. Developed his shot. Being a presence off the bench every time. I really felt this year he became more and more aggressive. Offensively. Defensively. Started shooting a couple of threes.”
Clint Capela will now enter his tenth season in the NBA as a 29-year-old with a record of lower body injuries in the rear view mirror. It’s hard to see him take his game to another level from here, and the Hawks have arguably the best backup center in the league ready for starters minutes. Plus, as even Capela noted, Okongwu offers a level of dynamism in his offensive game that Capela cannot quite reach.
It’s not an understatement to say Clint Capela’s future with the Hawks organization is murky. He remains a solid starting center, even in a league with some historical great centers at the peak of their play. While by no means a supremely talented player, he alone can help buoy the interior defense and rebounding of a team looking to turn a corner.
But as I laid out in the player season review of Onyeka Okongwu, the Hawks enter into the first full season of the Quin Snyder regime this offseason. And early indications show that a pivot toward player development seems to be the path forward. While I don’t believe a trade to be imminent, it may be time to seek a suitable trade partner just in case and consider beginning the youth movement at the center position this offseason.