Forget Capela, Minnesota Should Use the Draft To Fill Their Need At Center

When Gersson Rosas traded Robert Covington to the Houston Rockets in 2020, he was faced with a choice. He could either accept Clint Capela and a first-round pick or open up the floodgates for two more teams to join the trade. As we know today, he chose the latter, opting to swing Capela to the Atlanta Hawks and acquiring Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernagomez, and Jarred Vanderbilt from the Denver Nuggets.

Almost three years later, the Wolves reportedly have interest in Capela again. Capela averaged 11 and 11 this year. By no means is that a career year for Capela, but he had a solid year nonetheless. Capela puts his true output on display around the rim on the defensive side. Capela had the league’s 9th best defensive field goal percentage among centers at 64.3%, bolstering Atlanta’s abysmal defense. While he could only carry the Hawks to the fifth-worst defensive rating, anyone who’s watched Atlanta knows just how much he did for their defense.

Capela would undoubtedly be a significant acquisition for the Wolves. Bringing in a defensive-oriented big has long been something Wolves fans have been begging for. Unfortunately, the Wolves might be a little bit too late on the Capela sweepstakes. Capela played the best basketball of his life two years ago while making $4 million less than he will be next year. Now Capela, 28, makes $18 million and is declining.

Although Capela might be a good fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, looking at every aspect of fit is essential. Fit on the court, in the locker room, on the checkbook, and in the future. We’ve already discussed his fit on the court, and there’s no evidence that he causes problems in the locker room, so that checks two of the boxes. But because he’s nearing 30 and has an $18 million expiring contract, the best move for the Timberwolves would be to draft a big this year.

The Wolves may have one of the youngest rosters in the league, but that stat is a little misleading. Obviously, the team’s age is the team’s age, but other young teams have multiple young projects. For example, the Orlando Magic have Jalen Suggs (20), Cole Anthony (21), Franz Wagner (20), and Wendell Carter (22). And it’s not just losing teams either. The 2-seed Memphis Grizzlies have Ja Morant (22), Jaren Jackson Jr. (22), Zaire Williams (20), and Desmond Bane (23).

In terms of young players that can give you meaningful minutes, the Wolves only have three players in their early 20s who played regularly: Anthony Edwards (20), Jaden McDaniels (21), and Jarred Vanderbilt (22).

The Wolves should be in win-now mode, but it’s essential for them not to lose focus on the future All-NBA player they are incubating. By trading for Capela, Minnesota would likely be giving up another first-round pick since they drafted Anthony Edwards first overall in 2020. Right now, the Wolves need to balance winning now and saving assets for Ant’s future. Trading a first-round pick for Capela, 28, is too much of an all-in move.

Finding a win-now player at 19 will be hard, but there are a couple who the Timberwolves could pick up. If Minnesota wants a less-expensive big, EJ Liddell or Mark Williams are good options in the draft. With extensions on the horizon for Edwards, Towns, McDaniels, and D’Angelo Russell within the next two to three years, the Wolves need to be mindful of the cap.

If the Wolves trade for Capela, it probably means that they would have to move on from Beasley or Beverley. Pat Bev has earned the right to be more than trade bait, so they shouldn’t send him to Atlanta for Capela. And if Beasley is the main piece, I don’t see the interest for either side.

Also, consider that Beasley is the only true bench shooter Minnesota has. Plus, a Capela trade shifts Vanderbilt to the bench, so I don’t see how the Wolves get offense from their reserves:

  • Jordan McLaughlin
  • Jaylen Nowell
  • Jaden McDaniels
  • Jarred Vanderbilt
  • Naz Reid

Although all-bench lineups are rare, Edwards, Towns, or Russell aren’t enough to turn this unit into an offensive threat. A Capela trade would require McDaniels and Nowell to take significant steps in their development, a risk I’m not sure a potential playoff team can afford to take.

Even though it may be hard to see Beasley’s value some nights, he’s easily an essential piece to Minnesota’s success.

Ultimately, the Timberwolves will have fewer problems on their hands if they draft a young forward with the 19th pick. This year, it would be less money out of their pockets, and the player would be a building block for the Edwards-led Wolves. If the Wolves play their cards right, they can win now and throughout Ant’s tenure in Minnesota.

Although the Timberwolves need to win right now, no NBA team has made the Finals without a top-10 player. The Wolves need to have the right roster around Ant when he blossoms into the all-NBA talent he will be. In three years, the last thing Wolves fans want is the Edwards-led Timberwolves to have no assets to use to improve the team because the front office spent all of it trying to win right now.

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