The failed trade that prevented the Rockets from replacing Clint Capela

Nerlens Noel #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Nerlens Noel #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

After the Houston Rockets traded away Clint Capela, they nearly pulled off a trade that would have landed Capela’s replacement.

When the Houston Rockets‘ brass traded Clint Capela for 3-and-D specialist Robert Covington, they did so knowing they needed to replace Capela with a big man. With the Rockets seeking to avoid the luxury tax, they needed the player to be on a fairly low salary, which gave them plenty of options.

Rockets franchise star James Harden had proven to be successful with having a center who could set screens, roll to the basket, and catch lobs over the top. The last part has proven to have extreme value and importance, as it impacted the ways in which opposing teams defended Harden.

The Rockets were rumored to have been close to landing a center, but the deal was never done, leading the franchise to settle on Bruno Caboclo, and leading the fans to wonder who the player was that the Houston Rockets were on the cusp of adding.

ESPN’s Rockets beat writer Tim MacMahon recently joined The Lowe Post with Zach Lowe and shared the details of who the Rockets nearly acquired at the trade deadline.

The failed trade that prevented the Rockets from replacing Capela

“They obviously went all in on micro-ball but they thought at the time that they could find a bargain big man. If Clint Capela was a full-service Marriott, they thought they could find a Courtyard by Marriott type of big man to at least be in the rotation. .

For example, they had discussions before the trade deadline and were optimistic and thought that they could get a deal done to bring in Nerlens Noel.”

MacMahon didn’t elaborate on why the deal didn’t get executed, but it goes without saying that the Rockets would have certainly benefited from the presence of Nerlens Noel. His rebounding ability would have been a huge boost to a unit that was consistently decimated on the glass.

In addition, Noel had familiarity with Russell Westbrook, as the two were teammates on the Oklahoma City Thunder. But above all else, Noel would have provided an athletic big man who could catch lobs from Harden, much like Capela did.

Granted, the Rockets wouldn’t have stated Noel, as they were all in on the idea of small ball, which shifted P.J. Tucker to the center position, but having a situational big man like Noel would have been useful to have. For these same reasons, the Rockets would be wise to make a run at Noel this offseason, as he most recently played under the veterans minimum and would gladly do the same to join a contending team in the Western Conference.

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With free agency around the corner, the Rockets may be able to land their initial target in Noel after all.