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It should not be surprising that the Houston Rockets, a team committed to the cold mathematics of basketball, are making a percentage of play with Clint Capela.
The 24-year-old The restricted free agent remains unsigned, and according to ESPN.com's Tim McMahon, Capela and the Rockets have been separated by up to $ 40 million in their negotiations. Jonathan Feigen of Houston Chronicle conveyed a rejected offer, noting that Capela rejected a five-year, $ 85 million contract.
If we invoke comparisons, Capela is right to put up at least $ 100 million. Steven Adams, then 23, signed a four-year, $ 100 million extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder just before the 2016-17 season began. He earned that money after putting 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Andre Drummond signed his own contract for five years and $ 127 million just one month before his 23rd birthday in 2016.
As NBA basketball is played today, Capela is probably more valuable than Adams and Drummond.
At age 24, Capela comes from a season in which he averaged 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while leading the league in field goal percentage. His defensive versatility, you will not find many big players better equipped to defend the guards at the switches and protect the hoop, made it an integral component of Houston's sixth defense. By considering how Capela fits (and perhaps allows) the Houston scheme, it's worth more to the Rockets than it would be to the rest of the market.
But the market is the problem.
Few teams have the space available in the salary cap to make Capela a meaningful offer, and because the Rockets have equivalent rights in any deal they sign, they do not have the urge to save a strong contract.
This is a sorry time for Capela, and Houston is exploiting it.
However, there is a drawback. Capela could be frustrated, perhaps so much that she would give less effort than the complete one by signing a lowball agreement with Houston. So worrisome from the Rockets' perspective, that he could cut the negotiations altogether and sign a one-year qualification offer that would allow him to access free agency without restrictions in the cash-rich summer of 2019.
It would be shocking if less than half a dozen teams approached Capela with maximum offers within a year.
Houston's influence is considerable, but almost unlimited. Too much filling, and the Rockets could alienate a young elite center, one of the only conventional greats able to stay on the ground against the Golden State Warriors.
Houston can credibly cite mathematics and defend an offense that bricked three in a tiebreaker playoff. Those triples that were lost in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against Golden State were statistically favorable propositions. Mathematics said they were good shots.
Similarly, interpreting Capela's free agency in this way is objectively intelligent. It is a good process. The economy is solid: do not pay more than you owe.
However, this is different. There is a human side to consider, and it is beginning to seem that the Rockets do not appreciate it enough.
At this point, if Capela loses the feeling and adopts Houston's calculating approach, her best move could be to hit the Rockets by accepting the qualified offer and raising another $ 100 million from another person next summer.