Timing is everything.
NBA players are learning that lesson — and, some league officials would suggest learning the cost of not smoothing in the salary cap spike of 2016 — the hard way. Players are looking at the ridiculous contracts of two summers ago (Joakim Noah, Timofey Mozgov, Bismack Biyombo, Luol Deng, etc.), knowing they contribute more than those guys, then looking at the money available today, and frustratedly taking what they can.
Nobody left on the board is getting pinched like Clint Capela, who is now stuck with a choice of two options he does not like.
The Rockets’ center is the best free agent (albeit restricted) still unsigned. He averaged of 13.9 points, and 10.8 rebounds a game (with a 24.5 PER), plus 1.9 blocks a night last season, but that sells his contributions short. Capela is central to Houston’s top-10 defense and a perfect offensive complement to James Harden and Chris Paul, he is an ideal fit as a modern NBA center.
With that, Capela wants to be paid like one of the top centers in the league — his max deal would have been five-years, $148 million from Houston.
Problem is the Rockets wanted to save some money, and Capela was a restricted free agent in a tight market. The Rockets made an offer on July 1, but it was well short of what Capela hoped to see.
That offer well below $20 million a season — it’s less than the Bulls will pay either Zach LaVine or Jabari Parker next season, and anyone sane would rather have Capela than either of those two. The Rockets offer is basically Ian Mahinmi money.
One problem for Capela is there were a lot of centers on the market — not ones as good as Capela, but ones that came in for much less money. With a lot of teams not having cap space and some up against the luxury tax, they couldn’t make offers, and the few that could looked elsewhere (figuring the Rockets would just match any offer anyway).
The other problem for Capela now is no team has much cap room left, the Kings have the most at $11 million, which they can get up to $14-15 million or so, but that’s less than the Rockets’ offer. Besides, the Kings are inclined to take on a bad contract with a sweetener pick/player, not spend on another free agent at this point.
That leaves Capela with two choices:
1) Sign the qualifying offer, play one season for $4.7 million, and become an unrestricted free agent next season.
2) Sign the Rockets’ offer, get paid life-changing money (even if it’s less than you think you’re worth) and continue to contend in Houston for years.
He doesn’t like either.
The early buzz was Capela was leaning toward taking the qualifying offer. However, he has made about $6 million in his NBA career so far, making $85 million is hard to walk away from. That is more than life-changing money, that is generational changing money. Will he risk injury and the vagaries of the market to make what he feels he is worth next summer?
Capela does not have to decide now, he can let this drag out through the summer. Maybe that pressures the Rockets to up or alter their offer.
Either way, it’s the biggest free agent decision left on the board, and it’s not an easy one.