You can count on many things as virtual certainties. Death, taxes, and Danny Ainge wiggling himself into trade rumors this time of year.
Out of the endless supply of names haphazardly connected to the Celtics, the one where they are definitely interested in is Houston Rockets center Clint Capela. The rumor mill is Houston is in the market for a forward. The only pure forwards on the roster are P.J Tucker, who never plays the three position, Daniel House and Thabo Sefolosha. Tucker is fantastic in his role, but is 34-year-old. House is decent, but cannot play sufficient defense. Thabo is past his expiration date.
While I do not believe the Celtics will involve Gordon Hayward in any of their trade discussions, Houston has eyed Timberwolves forward Robert Covington. A first-team All-Defense in 2017-18 and a good enough threat on offense that’ll keep things interesting for them on offense where they aren’t just Harden and Westbrook slicing to the basket or shooting from deep.
Daryl Morey made it known a name he’s interested in is Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Simply put, Morey can go straight to Hell for even entertaining the possibility Smart would be on the table.
Speaking of the Celtics, from their perspective I understand why Capela seems enticing. The drawbacks of doing a deal like this are there however. Hayward is likely to opt-into his 2020-21 player-option worth $34 million. With Tatum up for a rookie extension this summer, the Celtics will find themselves strapped for cap space and Capela only exasperates the issue. While Capela is on the 2nd year of his reasonable five-year, $90 million contract cannot be mistaken for an albatross, the Celtics effectively have sacrificed the little flexibility they still have while also reshaping the offense of the team by subtracting Daniel Theis from the equation.
Should Ainge throw Theis away for the sexier Capela? It’s hard to say. Theis is a decent enough threat on offense, quite stingy on defense. An unsung hero of this pleasant rebound season for Boston. A recent string of injuries to Robert Williams and most recently Enes Kanter, the Celtics center workload have fallen squarely on Theis. When Kanter is healthy, the dichotomy of the Celtics performance versus when he isn’t is startling. The Celtics are 14-1 in games where Kanter plays below ten-minutes. If you can’t see how that stat alone explains how simply subtracting Kanter is a net gain then I don’t know what else to say.
Conversely, Theis fits the Celtics system perfectly and is having a career year. The Celtics are running quality alley-op plays, he’s dunking once a game and since starting his first 17 games of the season without making a three-pointer, Theis has converted on nearly 36% of his attempts in his next 27.
Williams has missed a large chunk of the season due to a hip injury. He’s raw, athletic, exciting and likely not ready for a season run. Unlike Kanter, a positive I can say about Williams is he is playable despite is obvious shortcomings.
Ironically, the biggest upside to trading for Capela is not adding Capela himself. It’s taking Kanter off the team so Stevens can no longer look at him as a reliable security blanket.
As for Capela himself, a solid 14 & 14 in points and rebounds, a pure athletic dunker, nearly unstoppable. However, his one dimensional status on offense could kill the good chemistry the Celtics have enjoyed this season. As previously stated, if Kanter is involved in a deal for Capela, it’ll thin the Celtics center rotation and force Stevens to ride the young Grant Williams and slide him into the role previously set for Kanter. While he’s a rookie, Grant is a contributor, has a good head on his shoulders and like Theis, once he’s shaken the habit of missing all his threes to start the year, Grant shot a respectable percentage from deep (38.9% since Dec. 9).
The hypothetical deal, in my eyes is probably going to look like something like this:
Celtics: Clint Capela
Rockets: Robert Covington, Daniel Theis, Romeo Langford
T-Wolves: Enes Kanter, Tyson Chandler, two 1st round picks – via Boston
The Celtics are slated to have three firsts in this year’s draft, projected to be somewhere near 17, 26, 30.