The Rockets have swung for the fences, piecing together a four-team trade that brings in Robert Covington and sends Clint Capela to the Hawks.
On Wednesday, with more than 24 hours left until the trade deadline, four teams jumped ahead and finalized a massive deal. The outlines of this trade had already emerged during the day on Tuesday, with strong rumors that Robert Covington would head to the Rockets and Clint Capela would be sent to the Hawks. However, the other half of that hypothetical deal appears to have fallen apart — it was reported that the Timberwolves would receive picks to flip to Golden State for D’Angelo Russell but instead, Minnesota looped in the Denver Nuggets.
In all, 12 players changed teams but the most significant pieces were Covington to the Rockets, Capela to the Hawks, a first-round pick to the Nuggets and Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez and a first-round pick heading to Minnesota.
As the dust begins to settle, who made out best?
The Hawks sent out Evan Turner, Brooklyn’s 2020 lottery-protected first-round pick, and a 2024 second-round pick they had acquired from the Warriors, returning Clint Capela and Nene Hilario, for salary-matching purposes. It’s hard to see this as anything but a big win for the Hawks. Turner was an irrelevant veteran and while the Brooklyn pick was tantalizing all picks involve risk and it’s far from a sure bet that they could have selected a player with it that would have been more productive than Capela.
Capela is an ideal fit at center for the Hawks, used to working as a rim-runner and offensive rebounder alongside James Harden. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to work in similar situations with Trae Young and his facility as a rim protector will hopefully make up for some of Young’s shortcomings at the other end. The deal does put some pressure on John Collins to expand his zone of offensive involved further from the basket since he currently does a lot of the things they’ll ask Capela to do. But, ultimately, that’s a good problem to have.
The Nuggets sent out Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez and Jarred Vanderbilt, returning Shabazz Napier, Gerald Green, Keita Bates-Diop, Noah Vonleh and Houston’s 2020 first-round pick. Reporting from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is that Denver will look to shop that Houston pick in an additional trade to add more firepower for a playoff run.
Beasley and Hernangomez played meaningful roles last season but Beasley has regressed this year and Hernangomez has been pushed down the depth chart by Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr.. Both will be entering restricted free agency and likely to command salary figures Denver wouldn’t want to match. Essentially they were a sunk cost but the value Denver returned isn’t great, especially considering they gave up Vanderbilt as well who has been extremely impressive in his G League minutes and could have been a useful piece down the road.
Napier will sop of some of Beasley’s minutes and Vonleh could play a role if they suffer some frontcourt injuries. But nothing here really helps them in the present. If Denver can turn the Houston pick into something like Luke Kennard or Marcus Morris, that’s a huge win. If they end up having to sit on it, that’s … something else entirely.
As usual, the Rockets are leaning into the extreme in their hunt for that elusive championship. Capela was a meaningful piece of their system and, as a rim-running, rim-protecting, vertical-spacer, their one nod towards a more traditional offensive approach. They landed Jordan Bell from the Timberwolves who could theoretically do some of those things, but at a much lower level. But that’s likely to be situational and they obvious path forward is using small ball almost exclusively with P.J. Tucker and Covington sharing responsibilities at center.
Covington is a huge a piece for Houston, clearly. His 3-point percentage is down this season but he’s an experienced spacer and excellent defender with the size to handle three or four positions. He’s especially meaningful in hypothetical matchups with LeBron and the Lakers or Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, giving the Rockets a defender to handle the bigger wings. There’s also plenty of value in the fact that they kept Covington from going to a competitor like the Lakers or Clippers, which seemed like a plausible deadline outcome.
In theory, it’s a plus move for Houston. In practice, I have no idea how this is going to work out.
For most of Tuesday, rumors about Minnesota’s involvement here included them landing D’Angelo Russell. Not having that work out has to be a disappointment to their fans, but they did reasonably well. Minnesota sent out Covington, Napier, Vonleh, Bates-Diop, and Bell, returning Beasley, Hernangomez and the Brooklyn 2020 first-round pick. That pick is lottery protected for the next three years so while the chances of it conveying this year seem about 50/50 they will almost certainly get it next year when Durant and Irving are both on the court for Brooklyn.
Woj’s report indicated that Minnesota likes the idea of signing both Beasley and Hernangomez this summer and they make interesting fits next to Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. If this year’s rookie Jarrett Culver is able to transition to full-time primary ball-handler that round out a starting five with versatility and a mix of interesting offensive and defensive skill sets.
Minnesota has plenty of work to do still but they weren’t keeping Covington and, all things considered, they found both value and potential upside.