In Shams Charania’s latest piece for The Athletic, he reported, “The Timberwolves have discussed deals around veteran centers, including Atlanta’s Clint Capela, sources said.” It’s just one sentence, but the news that the 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 make $18 million. The simplest move financially would be a Capela for Malik Beasley swap. On the surface, that seems like a fair trade, but does Capela fit on the Wolves’ roster?
I have long been critical of the idea that Karl-Anthony Towns would be best paired with another big. Ultimately, I feel the offensive advantage he provides as a center outweighs the defensive flaws. I’ve always thought that finding high-quality perimeter defenders could cover up a lot of his weaknesses on that end. I’ve also questioned the strategic upside of pairing two bigs in this NBA, where we’ve seen bigs get played off the floor in high-leverage situations so many times.
However, with the Boston Celtics’ recent success playing Al Horford and Robert Williams together, I’ve started to rethink my position.
Horford and Williams are a rare pair, though. Williams is an elite rim protector and has solid quickness on the perimeter. Therefore, he’s not a total liability defending in space. Horford is a high-quality defender in his own right. He’s certainly not the defender he was when he made an all-defensive team in 2017-18, but he’s still rock solid. Both are undersized but can handle their own down low. As a duo, they provide 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 floor to the 3-point line while Williams adds the element of vertical space.
Again, those two are a rare pair. I think that Towns doesn’t get enough credit for his defensive ability, but pairing him and Capela would call for a significant change to the Wolves’ defensive scheme. As it stands, Minnesota’s aggressive pick-and-roll coverage relies heavily on the defense’s ability to scramble and recover. For much of the season, the scheme worked, in large part due to the length and quickness on the perimeter of Jarred Vanderbilt, Jaden McDaniels, Anthony Edwards, and Patrick Beverley. Capela is more of a big drop. He’d end up in the blender more often than not if Chris Finch puts him in that coverage. Do the Wolves really want to invest in a big to pair next to Towns that would result in a major schematic change?
I understand why the need to find a big seems so pressing. The Wolves were horrible on the defensive glass last season. The Memphis Grizzlies’ dominance on the offensive boards was a huge factor in their playoff loss. But Towns is a tough big to pair with. In many ways, he is a traditional center. He is large and wide, which is a good thing even though it sounds like an insult. And while he has decent lateral quickness for his size, he’s still a liability defending the perimeter. If the Wolves add another even more traditional center, they would be covering up one hole while opening up another by doubling down on Towns’ lack of defensive ability on the perimeter.
Finding the perfect combination of switchable/rim-protecting/glass-cleaning big to pair with to him feels about as dubious an undertaking as searching for Bigfoot. I don’t think that Capela is that player. Theoretically, I see no problem pairing Towns with a center for stretches. Playing power forward could save Towns some wear and tear throughout the season. It could even open up the opportunity for him to expand his perimeter game even more than he has to this point.
However, I see some positives in bringing in a big like Capela. D’Angelo Russell had the best year of his career playing with a rim-running center in Brooklyn. From my perspective, DLo’s game is far better complemented when he can run a more traditional pick-and-roll with a lob threat. Adding a lob threat to the roster also opens up a whole different element of space that this team lacked last year. Towns is the ultimate lateral floor-spacing center, but he lacks the pop to provide any threat of verticality. Vanderbilt and McDaniels tried their best to play that role last year, but Capela would give DLo a legitimate above-the-rim big to play with.
The Wolves need to address their rebounding issue. Their season came to an end as they hemorrhaged rebounds against the Grizzlies. I’m just not sold that investing assets in Capela is the way to do that. If the Wolves have to give up draft equity for Capela, whose current contract is set to expire after this season, is that really worth it? My hope is that these “discussions” that Shams reported are just that — discussions. If the Wolves do want to add size to their roster, I don’t think Capela is the best option.