2014 NBA Draft: Clint Capela becomes less of a mystery

PHOENIX — The Suns, or specifically general manager Ryan McDonough, don’t like pigeonholing themselves into how and who they draft. Those decisions are based on which available player they think has the highest upside. It’s not about who is the best but who will be the best.

Intangibles are a big part of upside, and it’s why the player with the most that worked out in Phoenix on Monday may not have beenthe several well-known perimeter stars in Gary Harris, Zach LaVine, James Young and Rodney Hood.

While LSU big man Johnny O’Bryant is a darkhorse in his own right, it was Swiss workout partner Clint Capela that — reading in between the lines — may have jumped off the page.

“When a guy rolls to the basket … probably one of the hardest things for a big guy is to catch the ball,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “The point guard has to put it in a position – he has to get it by a bunch of hands.

“(Capela) snagged a couple of passes that were maybe a little behind him that maybe a big doesn’t grab,” Hornacek added. “Maybe it’s the length of his arms, maybe it was his strong hands. That was impressive.”

Capela additionally did what he was expected to. He blocked shots, ran the floor well and caught multiple transition lob passes from his workout partners, according to McDonough and Hornacek.

At 6-foot-11 in shoes and with a 7-foot-4.5 wingspan, Capela has been on the NBA radar for some time, and he’s currently projected by Draft Express to go 19th overall, one pick after Phoenix’s second first rounder of the 2014 draft.

Playing for Elan Chalon in the top French division, Capela averaged 9.4 points and 6.9 rebounds in 22 minutes per game during 33 regular season outings this past season. He also blocked 2.8 shots per 40 minutes and shot 63.2 percent from the floor, scoring mostly at the rim.

“I think the competition level there is as good or better than high-major college basketball,” McDonough said. “He’s playing against men. I think, if anything, that probably helps him.”

It’s clear Capela has a lot to work with. Listed at 222 pounds during the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit in April, the forward has room to grow into a legitimate center considering his length, but at this point the 20 year old’s strength could be a disadvantage. But Capela’s first and second jump, plus his natural feel for defending the pick-and-roll, could make talent evaluators’ eyes bulge out of their heads.

“His length, his ability to run the court (stand out),” Hornacek said. “There’s other things he needs to work on in his moves inside and his shot.”

Capela almost completely relies upon the pick-and-roll and offensive boards to get his points, and he lacks a back-to-the-basket or face up game. His jumper is rough around the edges, as is his foul shooting — he shot 58 percent from the foul line during the regular season and just 48 during 10 EuroCup outings.

The Swiss forward might take a year or two to develop into a rotation player. While his English is passable, he will have to understand concepts of team defense that he struggled with while playing in France over the last few seasons.

But watch the tape, and it becomes obvious why draft experts are pegging a young foreign prospect to be just outside the lottery of a very deep class of rookies.

Don’t believe for a second that McDonough won’t think a bit about using his 18th pick, if the Suns still own it at that point, to select a player who many people don’t know that well.

McDonough seems to know Capela just as well as any NCAA prospect.

“Clint’s english is very good,” McDonough said, speaking like a world traveler himself. “He’s from Switzerland originally. Most Swiss people I know speak a lot of languages as he does – and are very worldly.”

If Phoenix green lights Capela’s few question marks, its locker room just might get a little more worldly as well.

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