Knicks could acquire 29-year-old center to bolster big-man depth

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks could look for help at the center position with their lack of depth there, as the injury to Mitchell Robinson has left Isaiah Hartenstein as their only true center.

While the acquisition of Precious Achiuwa was supposed to fill out their depth there, he has struggled to get acclimated to the Knicks’ system, and the team could look for an upgrade. Clint Capela, a rebounding extraordinaire, is a player they’re monitoring at the trade market, and the 29-year-old center has plenty of experience in the postseason with both the Rockets and Hawks.

With the Knicks targeting Dejounte Murray as well, could they acquire both Capela and Murray in a deal and shore up their roster depth?

Knicks Could Find Themselves in the Market For a Center

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls
Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks are looking for a center who can fit both rack up rebounds and also anchor the team defensively on the interior, and Capela would certainly provide both. Clint Capela ranks in the 95th Percentile in Rim Shots Contested Rate, serving as an excellent presence on the interior which can make teams think twice about driving to the paint. Defense is highly valued in the NBA, and having a big-man rotation that can prevent points can anchor your team and place less pressure on the offense to perform.

Since acquiring OG Anunoby, not only are the Knicks 6-2, but they’ve also been elite defensively, allowing just 100.9 points per game in that period. Another big reason for their success all year has been their rebounding, and the Knicks would certainly add to that if they were able to acquire the veteran center. A former rebounding champion, he’s averaging 10.5 a game this season, ranking in the 100th Percentile in Offensive Rebounds per Game (4.9) and excelling even when contested.

Isaiah Hartenstein has been a remarkable rebounder and as a result, has seamlessly transitioned into a starting role with the Knicks, and while I’d imagine that Capela would serve as his backup, he could also start if needed. Mitchell Robinson could return ahead of the postseason, but coming back from ankle surgery, it’s not a certainty, and New York is preparing for the worst-case scenario here.

Another angle here is that the Knicks, who, as mentioned earlier, have an interest in Dejounte Murray, could look to acquire both players in a potential deal with the Hawks.

Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) dribbles against the New York Knicks in the second half at State Farm Arena
Nov 15, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) dribbles against the New York Knicks in the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks have an extra roster spot. When they waived Taj Gibson, they shrunk their roster down to 14, and it makes them eligible for a two-for-one deal if the opportunity came about. It’s unclear if the Knicks would be able to match the salary needed in a deal, as Clint Capela is making $20.6 million this season, with Dejounte Murray making $18.2 million in the first year of his extension.

Adding a shot-creator with an excellent three-point shot to the lineup while adding much-needed depth at the center position would be ideal, especially since the aforementioned Harteinstein is a free agent at the end of the year. If the Knicks are unable to reach an agreement with the beloved center, they have Clint Capela for another year to fill in for him, although it’s unclear if Harteinstein would even demand $20 million a season.

A trade with the Atlanta Hawks, whether it’s for Clint Capela, Dejounte Murray, or both, could come to fruition over the coming weeks, as the deadline is just a few short weeks away.

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