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.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Take him with the 18th!

  • Matthew Wilcoxen

    I’m no expert talent evaluator, but this guy seems to have “the look” of a future NBA star. Could taking him at the 18th pick be a steal?

    • Matthew Wilcoxen

      McDonough, ask yourself one question as you ponder taking the Swiss Alp: “What would Buford and Popovich do?”

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Kevin Zimmerman

      I’m not an expert here either, but judging by their reactions and watching Schmitz’s scouting video makes me agree.

  • DBreezy

    I tend to agree with Foreveris’ assessment of this draft in that the talent depth is such that beyond the first 8-10 picks the talent level is pretty equal through about the 20 range. So to me that means anyone the Suns are considering at 18 has to be consideration at 14 as well.

    I’m not sure that matters much with wing players in this draft when a team is making up it’s big board, but with two picks that close it probably will matter when it comes to bigs. There aren’t many bigs after the top 10 and the Hawks, Bulls, and Celts at 15,16,17 all could use front court help(or could be drafting for Minny in the case of the Celts). If they really like Capella, they may have to consider taking him higher and ‘looking’ foolish draft stock wise initially. Looking at DX’s current mock, if the Suns took Capella at 14, they’d still be able to get one of Harris, Hood, Ennis, LaVine or Warren at 18.

    It will be interesting to see how McD approaches this if the Suns have all of their picks. Unless it’s a 4, there’s a good chance that whoever is the BPA at 14 will be redundant at least for next season. Even if the Suns lose Tucker and Bledsoe, it’s seems more likely that those spots would go to guys like Green, Marcus, and Archie than any of these rookies. So on paper at least going into the draft, whoever they get at 14 will be an asset either to be moved themselves or to allow the Suns to move someone else down the line. Right now, we’re not seeing who unexpectedly drops/rises, but it’s hard to say that asset wise you’re getting anybody worse at 18 than at 14.

  • 4everis2long

    I wish I had seen him play.I think we know he is raw offensively and has a very slight build. Draft.Net has him going to the Suns at 27. I think Mc D will have a tough call to make regarding a big in the 1st round. Where does he take one? D”Breezy certainly makes sense, if you take him at 18 why not take him at 14 as there will still be good wings available at 18.

    I think if the Suns want to take a big early (14-18) I would probably take Payne. However if I could dream and be the one making the picks, I would chance it and take Young at 14, Napier at 18 and Capela or D. Powell at the end of the 1st round.

    • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

      I’m taking Elfrid Payton over Napier if he is still on the board.

      • 4everis2long

        EBJM, I haven’t seen Payton play but he does seem to be moving up the draft board. I will keep an eye on your boy. I will look for some video on him.

        • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

          Coincidentally DraftExpress now has him going at #27 to Phoenix followed by Napier at #28 to the Clippers.

      • DBreezy

        I saw that he supposedly held his own with Smart in a recent workout. I also saw that Gordon didn’t really workout in SAC. It said that he just did static stuff and mostly met with the ownership and coaches. This is the same kind of agent tactic that led to DeAndre Jordan free falling from a high lottery pick to the 2nd round, so perhaps history repeats itself a bit and we get a bit of a 1st round shakeup.

    • DBreezy

      While I’m sure they’re still hoping for a trade, I think their fallback plan may be to see what happens if someone unexpectedly rises or drops. Perhaps that player doesn’t fall to them, but it’s enough to makes a guy like Young, Stauskas, etc to fall to them. I don’t know if McD will aim to take a big specifically with any of the picks, particularly 14 and 18. Personally, I’m not yet sold on Payne as more than a slightly longer, poorer shooting and defending/rebounding version of Kieff. If that’s the case, I’m not sure McD is all that worried about drafting insurance in case of Kieff getting an outrageous RFA offer this early in the game. They still should have at least one good pick in the 2015 draft from LA.

      I haven’t seen Capela anymore than the rest of you guys, I just think that if they’re sold on his upside why not take him at 14 in this particular draft because of what will still be available at 18? I trust McD’s eval skills and really don’t care if he takes a year or so to get in the rotation mix as it’s still a rebuilding team imo. Youth wise I’m expecting the most from Len and Goodwin next season anyway, anything else is gravy. I also like a lot of the comments from McD and Hornacek about his competition level, what he can bring in the S/R, and the expected stuff on D. I’ll be watching for news on the rest of his workouts more closely.

      • 4everis2long

        Yeah D’Breezy I like but certainly do not love Payne’s game. That is why I probably would wait until the late 1st round to grab a big. I saw tonight that Payton performed really well in Sac Town and now go as early as 9 or 10 in the draft. He is impressing a lot of people.

        • DBreezy

          Man if he goes that high, someone nice could really drop into McD’s lap at 14. I like.