In the last piece of Shams Charania for Athleticism, he reported, “The Timberwolves have discussed deals around veteran centers, including Atlanta’s Clint Capela, sources said.” It’s only one sentence, but the news that Wolves are discussing deals to acquire a center may signal Tim Connelly’s offseason priorities. Capela, 28, is currently in the final year of his contract and will earn $18 million. The simplest move financially would be a Capela swap for Malik Beasley. At first glance it seems like a fair trade, but is Capela on the Wolves roster?
I have long criticized the idea that Karl-Anthony Towns would be better paired with another great. Ultimately, I think the attacking advantage he provides as a center outweighs the defensive flaws. I always thought that finding high quality perimeter defenders could cover a lot of his weaknesses for that purpose. I also questioned the strategic advantage of pairing two big guys in this NBA, where we’ve seen big guys play on the floor so many times in high-leverage situations.
However, with the Boston Celtics’ recent success against Al Horford and Robert Williams together, I’ve started to rethink my stance.
Horford and Williams are a rare pair, however. Williams is an elite rim protector and has solid perimeter quickness. Therefore, he is not fully responsible for defense in space. Horford is a high quality defender in his own right. He’s certainly not the defender he was when he formed an all-defensive side in 2017-18, but he’s still rock solid. Both are undersized but can handle themselves. As a duo, they offer the Celtics the ability to be a force on the glass without giving up too much on the perimeter. Offensively, Horford can reliably space the ground to the 3-point line while Williams adds the element of vertical space.
Again, these two are a rare pair. I think Towns doesn’t get enough credit for his defensive ability, but pairing him with Capela would require a significant change in Wolves’ defensive scheme. As it stands, Minnesota’s aggressive pick-and-roll coverage is heavily dependent on the defense’s ability to shuffle and recover. For much of the season, the scheme worked, thanks in large part to the length and quickness on the perimeter of Jarred Vanderbilt, Jaden McDaniels, Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley. Capela is bigger than a drop. He would end up in the blender more often if Chris Finch put him in that cover. Do Wolves really want to invest in a big pair next to Towns that would result in a major schematic change?
I understand why the need to find a big one seems so pressing. Wolves were horrible on the defensive glass last season. The Memphis Grizzlies’ dominance of the offensive boards was a big factor in their playoff loss. But Towns is difficult to associate. In many ways it is a traditional center. He’s tall and wide, which is a good thing even if it sounds like an insult. And while he has decent lateral speed for his size, he’s still a liability when defending the perimeter. If Wolves added another even more traditional center, they would cover one hole while opening another by doubling down on Towns’ lack of defensive ability on the perimeter.
Finding the perfect combination of big switch/rim guard/window cleaner to pair with it is as dubious a business as finding Bigfoot. I don’t think Capela is that player. Theoretically, I see no problem pairing Towns with a stretching center. Playing at the forefront could save Towns wear and tear throughout the season. It could even open up the possibility for him to expand his perimeter game even more than he has done so far.
However, I see positive points in bringing in a great player like Capela. D’Angelo Russell had the best year of his career playing with a rim racing center in Brooklyn. From my perspective, DLo’s game is much better complemented when he can execute a more traditional pick-and-roll with a lob threat. Adding a lob threat to the roster also opens up a whole other element of space that this team lacked last year. Towns is the ultimate side-spacer center on the ground, but lacks the pop to provide any threat of verticality. Vanderbilt and McDaniels did their best to fill that role last year, but Capela would give DLo a legit big game over the edge to play with.
Wolves need to solve their rebound problem. Their season ended as they hemorrhaged rebounds against the Grizzlies. I’m just not convinced that investing assets in Capela is the way to do it. If Wolves are to drop the equity draft for Capela, whose current deal is due to expire after this season, is it really worth it? I hope these “discussions” reported by Shams are just that – discussions. If Wolves want to add size to their roster, I don’t think Capela is the best option.