Clint Capela

Southwest Notes: Capela, Leonard, Weber, Simmons

Rockets center Clint Capela has a right orbital fracture and will miss at least the next two games, the team tweets. Capela will be re-evaulated later this week, the tweet adds. Capela suffered the injury during the third quarter of the Rockets’ loss to the Thunder on Christmas Day. He had missed three of the previous four games with a heel injury. Capela, who is averaging 14.2 PPG and 11.2 RPG, will miss Thursday’s matchup against the Celtics and Friday’s game against the Wizards.

In other developments around the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard admits he’s still not 100% as he works his way back from a quad injury but the team appears ready to go on a run, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPN. Leonard played 26 minutes in San Antonio’s victory over the Nets on Tuesday. “I don’t feel like I’m there yet,” Leonard told Wright and other reporters. “But I tried to do what I can. It’s really nothing tonight. Just the whole process of going through playing limited minutes, and just seeing how I feel each game.” With Leonard and Tony Parker back from long-term injuries, the Spurs finally have their full roster together. “It’s a good time to get everybody playing, everybody feeling good, get Kawhi and Tony back to their usual selves, back to their rhythm and feeling good,” guard Manu Ginobili told Wright.
  • Briante Weber has played meaningful minutes as a backup point guard with Rockets starter Chris Paul on the mend, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. Paul could return as early as Thursday from an adductor strain. Weber, who is on a two-way contract, played a total of 34 minutes over the last two games, though he only contributed two points and three assists. “It’s a learning process, just trying to figure out what to do to play my game and not take away from what the team has,” Weber told Feigen.
  • Rookie guard Kobi Simmons, another player on a two-way deal, has given the Grizzlies a boost of energy, Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. Simmons has played a total of 51 minutes over the last two games, supplying 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists. “He brings a spark,” interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Tillery. “He’s got a natural talent that we’ve got to do a great job of developing. He can help us.”

Market For Clint Capela Difficult To Read

The Rockets and Clint Capela did not come to an agreement on a rookie contract extension, but the two sides had “very introductory” talks before the season, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports. As a result, the big man will become a restricted free agent and O’Connor is hearing a wide range of predictions from league executives with regard to his next contract.

Some executives believe Capela will land an annual salary as low as $10MM, in the Kelly Olynyk range, while others are more bullish, believing that Capela could command as much as $20MM per season on his next deal.

External factors may play a role in his price tag. There won’t be many teams with an abundance of cap space and the lottery is expected to be flushed with talented bigs. Both factors could drive his market value down. Regardless, O’Connor believes that it’s unlikely we see a scenario similar to Nerlen Noel’s. Capela is having a strong season, making 69.4% of his attempts and sporting a 27.3 player efficiency rating, and opposing teams are fully aware of his breakout campaign.

Texas Notes: Noel, Curry, Gay, Capela

Once Mavericks center Nerlens Noel recovers from thumb surgery, he may see increased playing time in an attempt to build his trade value, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Noel had fallen out of the rotation before the procedure, which was conducted over the weekend. He is expected to be sidelined three to six weeks.

Noel has played just 18 games and is averaging 12.5 minutes per night as Dallas tries to work out playing time for all its big men. Noel’s salary is a little less than $4.19MM on an expiring contract, and Sefko notes that he won’t provide much cap relief for any team that might trade for him. Jean-Jacques Taylor of The Morning-News suggests that the most the Mavericks can hope for in return is a second-round pick.

There;s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Mavericks guard Seth Curry, who hasn’t played yet this season because of a stress fracture in his left leg, could be a long way from returning, Sefko writes in a separate story. Curry called it a “couple week by couple week situation” when he talked to reporters before Tuesday’s game. “The path I’m on right now, the MRI shows it’s gotten a little better,” he said. “But there’s a chance [he could need a procedure]. It’s a tricky situation and hard for me to say. It’s very frustrating. Recovery-wise, I get out there and work out and feel OK, and it’ll bother me the next day.” 
  • The offseason signing of Rudy Gay helped the Spurs survive the injury to Kawhi Leonard, notes Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports. Gay is the latest in a long line of veterans who have opted to come to San Antonio even though they could have gotten more money elsewhere. Gay is making slightly more than $8.4MM this year and has a player option worth more than $8.826MM for next season. “It’s a situation where, you have to pay a lot of attention to detail and it’s a winning mentality,” Gay explained. “That’s something I was away from, for so long, you kind of create bad habits. I’ve had to re-teach myself. And I’ve had to continue to do it every day.”
  • Rockets center Clint Capela is putting together his best season as he heads toward restricted free agency next summer, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Capela is averaging career highs in points [13.7] and rebounds [11.0] and leads the NBA in both field goal percentage [.677] and dunks [75], many as the pick-and-roll partner of James Harden“I know exactly when to roll,” Capela said. “I know exactly how to make the big go on James and just get behind the big. I know the details of he goes quick. I just love it. I love it.”

Southwest Notes: Parsons, Capela, Selden

The Grizzlies have a welcomed dilemma on their hands with Chandler Parsons. The forward’s long road to recovery from knee injuries has tainted his tenure with the Memphis franchise but, as Michael Wallace of Grind City Media writes, he’s finding a niche and helping the team win.

I’ve definitely lost some sleep at night, trying to figure out how to put it all together and get the most out of him,” head coach David Fizdale said. “That’s what it’s about – putting him in a situation to help us. So, right now, that’s where the niche has been filled, with him coming off the bench and giving that second unit a big boost.

In nine games with the Grizzlies this season, Parsons – now suiting up at the four – has averaged 7.7 points per game. His ability to connect from beyond the arc to the tune of .484 has made the team’s second unit more dangerous.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Blame team owner Mark Cuban for the current state of the Mavs, Matt Mosley of The Dallas Morning News writes. The team’s decision to go after big fish free agents has left them lacking a core capable of carrying the team to a better record.
  • The Rockets appreciate the asset on their hands in Clint Capela and don’t appear to be afraid of investing in him when he hits free agency. “We’ll have him here as long as he’ll have us,” general manager Daryl Morey tells Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “He couldn’t price himself out.
  • It won’t be long before Wayne Selden makes his season debut for the Grizzlies. As Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal writes, the guard who has dealt with a quad injury will suit up for the team’s G League affiliate in a rehab start tonight.

Clippers Notes: Offseason Moves, Jordan, Redick

When Chris Paul was set to leave the Clippers this offseason, letting Blake Griffin walk as well and bottoming out as part of a rebuild would have been one option for the club, but it wasn’t one that management seriously considered, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN. Without all their future draft picks in hand, the Clippers weren’t well positioned for a rebuild, and the idea went against owner Steve Ballmer‘s philosophy for the franchise.

“You consider all your options,” Ballmer said. “But I don’t want to lose. I like winning. Winning is good. Losing is bad. We think we have a unique opportunity to be a free-agent destination. If you want that, you have to be doing your best every year.”

Lowe’s deep dive into the Clippers includes several more noteworthy tidbits and is worth reading in full. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • DeAndre Jordan‘s future looms large for the Clippers, since he’s eligible for free agency next summer. According to Lowe, Los Angeles has explored trading Jordan, but the only time the team “gained semiserious traction” on anything was at the 2017 deadline. That proposed deal would have sent Jordan to the Rockets in exchange for Clint Capela, players, and picks.
  • The Clippers have discussed a possible contract extension with Jordan, but those talks have stalled for now, says Lowe. Jordan, who is currently negotiating without an agent, remains extension-eligible all the way up until June 30, but would be eligible for a bigger payday if he becomes a free agent next July.
  • Although the Clippers weren’t looking to part ways with Paul this offseason, they embraced the opportunity for a “fresh start” when he decided to leave. Players say the culture wasn’t as toxic as it may have seemed, but Doc Rivers acknowledges – without referring specifically to CP3 – “don’t want to be coached by you anymore.”
  • Rivers suggests that J.J. Redick was “begging to come back” to the Clippers as a free agent, a claim that Redick disputes. “There was never any indication from my agent that I wanted to go back,” Redick said to Lowe. “I didn’t beg to come back. I didn’t want to come back.”
  • Rivers also disputed reports that the Clippers could have traded Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford for Carmelo Anthony earlier this year, calling that idea a “complete joke.” However, Lowe suggests that Rivers may be playing a “game of semantics,” noting that such a package could have been viable if Crawford was sent to a third team instead of New York.

No Extension Expected For Rockets, Clint Capela

Rockets big man Clint Capela is on track to become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2018, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, who reports that the two sides won’t reach an agreement on an extension today.

Capela, 23, enjoyed the best season of his young career in 2016/17, establishing new career-highs in PPG (12.6), RPG (8.1), FG% (.643), and a handful of other categories. He made 59 starts last season and figures to split minutes at center with Nene in 2017/18.

[RELATED: Extension Candidate: Clint Capela]

Despite Capela’s impressive production, it’s not a huge surprise that the Rockets are willing to go restricted free agency in 2018 with him. Over the last 15 years or so, the team hasn’t generally done rookie scale extensions unless there’s an opportunity to lock up a star — Yao Ming and James Harden were the only players to get rookie scale extensions prior to free agency.

For his part, Capela doesn’t sound too concerned about the possibility of reaching the open market as a restricted free agent next summer. The Rockets will have the opportunity to match any offer sheet he signs at that point.

“Honestly, my agent handles that,” Capela said, per Feigen. “If I sign, that’s good. But it won’t matter. If I have to wait until next year, it won’t bother me. I’m here. I’m healthy. I’m playing. That’s all that matters.”

Extension Rumors: LaVine, Capela, Smart, Randle

Earlier today, Andrew Wiggins became the fourth 2014 first-rounder to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension with his current team, joining Joel Embiid, Gary Harris, and T.J. Warren. That still leaves 17 players eligible for a rookie scale extension up until the October 16 deadline.

Not all of those players are strong candidates for a new deal. It’s extremely unlikely, for instance, that the Raptors will extend Bruno Caboclo within the next few days, and we shouldn’t bet on Shabazz Napier getting a new long-term deal from Portland. Still, a number of viable candidates remain unsigned.

Here are the latest notes and rumors on some of those extension-eligible players:

  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link) identifies Aaron Gordon (Magic), Elfrid Payton (Magic), Zach LaVine (Bulls), Jusuf Nurkic (Trail Blazers), and Rodney Hood (Jazz) as the most logical candidates for extensions among the group of remaining eligible players.
  • There’s “nothing substantive” so far between LaVine and the Bulls, but that could change by next Monday, TNT’s David Aldridge writes in his rundown of extension candidates at NBA.com. Aldridge – who examines each 2014 first-rounder individually – is also somewhat bullish on the possibility of new deals for Nurkic, Hood, and Rockets big man Clint Capela.
  • Marcus Smart said earlier this week that his agent has yet to hear from the Celtics about a possible extension. Today, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t exactly offer clarity on the subject, indicating that he has had “talks” about a new contract for Smart, but no “negotiations” (Twitter link via Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald).
  • Julius Randle is extension-eligible, but his future with the Lakers is linked to the team’s pursuit of 2018 free agents, as Bill Oram of The Orange County Register details. Although Randle says his reps have been in touch with the Lakers, an extension this year is an extreme long shot.

Rockets Notes: Capela, Tax, Anderson, Gupta

While Rockets president of basketball operations Daryl Morey doesn’t want to be making roster decisions with one specific rival in mind, he acknowledges in a Q&A with Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle that it’s impossible not to consider the Warriors at this point when making signings and trades.

“We know we’re going to face them,” Morey said of the Dubs. “We obviously have to get through some extremely tough teams, the Spurs, Oklahoma City, Memphis, you name it. To get there. But if you know you are going to be facing a team if you’re having the season you want, and we want to be all the way to the championship, I think it does make sense to focus on that team.”

Morey pointed to the signings of Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker as moves that were made with the Warriors in mind. Both veteran forwards are strong defenders who would probably match up with the likes of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in a playoff series against Golden State.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Asked by Feigen about the possibility of an extension for Clint Capela, Morey pointed out that contract extensions are getting trickier to pull off around the NBA, since the salary cap isn’t increasingly quite as quickly as initially anticipated, and long-term commitments are starting to add up for many teams across the league.
  • In Houston’s case, new deals for Capela, Chris Paul, and Trevor Ariza next summer would create luxury-tax issues for the club. While Morey didn’t comment specifically about new owner Tilman Fertitta‘s willingness to pay the tax, he told Feigen that Fertitta is “all about winning” and will do what it takes to win. Morey also noted that he has met with the Rockets’ incoming owner a couple times already.
  • Morey tells Feigen that he spoke to Ryan Anderson this week about the Knicks-related trade rumors that have been swirling around Anderson all offseason. “Players get frustrated,” Morey said. “It’s rare for a GM to get frustrated because we have to deal with it all the time, but this one has been frustrating because it’s lingering and not much is accurate out there.”
  • The Rockets announced today that Sachin Gupta has rejoined the team as a special advisor (link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston). Gupta was Morey’s first hire back in 2006, but left Houston to become a consultant for the Sixers during Sam Hinkie’s stint in Philadelphia.

O’Connor’s Latest: Capela, Smart, Wiggins, Nuggets

Gary Harris (Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Celtics), Jabari Parker (Bucks), and Clint Capela (Rockets) are among the most intriguing players eligible for rookie scale contract extensions this offseason, Kevin O’Connor writes in his latest piece for The Ringer. In addition to going into detail on those four players, who have until October 16 to work out new deals with their respective clubs, O’Connor drops a few other notable tidbits within his article, so let’s round up the highlights…

  • The Rockets and Capela have had “very introductory” discussions on a contract extension, according to O’Connor. Those discussions figure to become more frequent and more in-depth as next month’s extension deadline nears.
  • The general consensus among the league sources O’Connor has talked to is that Smart’s next contract figures to be in the neighborhood of Andre Roberson‘s three-year, $30MM deal, given both players’ defensive prowess and offensive limitations. O’Connor believes the Celtics guard will be able to do better than that though, and I’m inclined to agree. Smart will be a restricted free agent next summer if he’s not extended this offseason.
  • Multiple league sources have told O’Connor that Andrew Wiggins is expected to sign the contract extension offered by the Timberwolves once he gets his new representation in order. Wiggins filed paperwork to part ways with Bill Duffy and BDA Sports shortly after Minnesota put a five-year, maximum salary offer on the table.
  • Multiple sources believe the Nuggets were targeting OG Anunoby in June’s draft when they traded down from No. 13 to No. 24, says O’Connor. Anunoby ended up coming off the board one spot earlier, with Toronto nabbing him at No. 23. Denver used the 24th pick on Tyler Lydon.

Extension Candidate: Clint Capela

The Rockets can be forgiven for not coming to terms on a contract extension with 23-year-old Clint Capela so far this offseason, but despite the fact that the franchise is undergoing a change in ownership, the deadline for locking in fourth year players looms.Clint Capela vertical

While Capela has been regarded as a low-key game-changer for Houston ever since a strong showing in the 2015 postseason, the steady strides that he’s made ever since have put him firmly on the fringe of the mainstream hoops community’s radar.

In 65 games for the Rockets last season, including 59 starts, Capela averaged 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Those are per-minute production rates on par with some of the best versatile big men in the game. That the 6’10” center did so while shooting a staggering 64.3% from the floor puts him in a class of his own.

Houston will welcome Chris Paul this fall, and it’s hard to imagine Capela’s offense will do anything but continue to expand, considering the legendary playmaker’s ability to work with athletic big men like Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan.

Of course whether or not Capela has made a case for an extension is only half the battle. The team will need to justify spending the money, something that’s not necessarily a given considering that the Rockets can so easily obliterate the luxury tax line in the coming years if they’re not careful.

Per Kevin Pelton of ESPN (via ABC), Houston will presumably sign Paul to a max contract next summer. That, paired with James Harden‘s monster extension, will give the Rockets over $80MM in committed salary for their backcourt alone.

Throw in the fact that Houston will commit over $40MM to the trio of Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker through 2019/20 and it’s not hard to forecast major luxury tax bills in new owner Tilman Fertitta‘s future.

Pelton projects that Capela and fellow free agent-to-be Trevor Ariza could seek a combined $20MM in salary (a figure that Capela alone could draw, if you ask me) and suddenly Houston runs the risk of annihilating the luxury tax line by nearly $20MM come 2019/20.

The Rockets, of course, could choose to let Ariza walk in the hopes of the recently acquired Tucker filling the role of scrappy perimeter defender, but even that scenario is complicated by the fact that Ariza and Paul have a close enough friendship to have supposedly influenced the trade that brought Paul over from the Clippers in the first place.

As Pelton suggests, the Rockets could make life considerably easier for themselves by finding a taker for the $60MM owed to Anderson through 2019/20. Doing so won’t be easy though.

If Houston has a plan in place, it’s not one that’s been broadcast at this point in the offseason. In May, we discussed a rather innocuous quote from general manager Daryl Morey suggesting that it would be “normal business” to discuss an extension, but all has been silent since.

If the Rockets choose to hold off on extending Capela, the big man would become a restricted free agent next summer. While the 2018 offseason is projected to be slightly tamer than the ones we’ve seen over the past two years, it’s hard to imagine Capela’s value going anywhere but up, relative to where it is currently.

Relative, however, is the operative term. Should the parties decide to go that route, Capela will look to compete with potential free agent centers like Joel Embiid, Jusuf Nurkic and Nerlens Noel, all promising anchors for teams looking to build youthful cores at a time when available cap room, a bountiful resource in 2016 and 2017, normalizes.

So sure, at the end of the day, the Rockets may be able to sit tight on Capela in hopes of retaining him at a lower rate via restricted free agency next summer but doing so would run the risk of letting a team like the Nets extend to him a poison pill offer sheet that Houston would be pressured to match, lest they let a significant part of their core walk just in time for the last few great years Paul will have left in the tank.

Perhaps the best bet for the Rockets when the dust settles from the ownership transition, then, is to square things away with Capela at a generous rate prior to the contract extension deadline on October 16 and then challenge Morey with the task of making the numbers work before Paul’s and Harden’s annual salaries start escalating dramatically after next season.

Regardless, just how the team handles the Capela contract could really shed light on Fertitta’s mentality with his new franchise. While it’s only my speculation, it seems logical enough to infer that an individual who just spent $2.2B on a sports franchise (well over the projected value) wouldn’t be opposed to shelling out extra luxury tax money to preserve one of the most talented cores of NBA players outside of the Bay Area.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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