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Profiling Memphis Grizzlies 2014 NBA Draft Prospects: Clint Capela

'Project big man with tantalizing potential' sounds like a backhanded compliment these days, but... I like Clint Capela!

Clint Capela, PF, Élan Chalon

You've probably seen Clint Capela before. He might've been wearing 'BIYOMBO #0', 'SERAPHIN #13' or 'IBAKA #9' on the back of his jersey, but it's close enough.

Capela, a 20 year old big man coming out of French team Élan Chalon, is one of those international big men that clearly look a few years away from being NBA-ready, but also tease so much potential in their physical attributes. He's measured as 6'11" and 222 lbs, with a 7'4.5" wingspan and huge hands to boot.

The potential is visible just from watching him. Capela runs and jumps everywhere, and dunks and blocks everything. Élan Chalon is in LNB Pro A, the highest level of competition in France's basketball league, the Ligue Nationale de Basket. Playing 22.0 minutes per game for Chalon, Capela held his own and averaged 9.4 points on 63.2% shooting, 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks across the regular season and playoffs. In regular season rankings specifically, he ranked fifth in rebounding per game (second in rebounding per minute) and second in blocks per game. That was plenty enough to net him the LNB Pro A's Most Improved Player of the Year and Best Young Player awards last season.

Capela's main draw is what he can be defensively. His vertical won't blow you away, but he's plenty athletic and gets off the ground with incredible ease. Combine that with a very natural knack for rejecting shots away from the rim, and you've got a player who certainly looks like one that could be rounded into one of those Ibaka-like defensive anchors. Here's a video of him in a marquee matchup against Jusuf Nurkic, a likely lottery pick in this year's draft and low-post savant:

He should also have the mobility to make an impact outside of the paint. Capela's nimble and tenacious with his arms, which bodes well for his ability to defend the pick-and-roll and play the passing lanes. There were times when Capela survived and even excelled defending guards on pick-and-roll switches because of his mobility and length. In transition, Capela can really get up and down the court and make a difference against opposing fast breaks.

It's a much different story on offense, where Capela hasn't shown a whole lot whether it's the ability to shoot or play with his back to the basket. There's some hope in his sheer explosiveness as a leaper, and much of his offense came off alley-oop lobs and dunks off pick-and-rolls. He can also convert lay-ups and tip-ins that point to a natural touch around the rim, including some off poorly thrown lobs that would've been out of reach for most players but were retrieved and finished by Capela. I'll stop short of saying he'll be dominant, but there's a chance Capela could develop a baby hook, floater or even a semi-reliable 16-footer to go on top of what he already offers as a lob target/pick-and-roll finisher/scavenger at the rim.

The main concern comes with developing Capela. We've seen a lot of international project big men with tantalizing physical attributes drafted and then quickly flushed out of the league when they couldn't live up to their potential – Biyombo and Seraphin look well on their way towards that. Capela clearly has a lot of developing to do on both ends. The first thing teams will want to see is for him to hit the weights. Capela is a skinny dude, and gets backed down or pushed off with ease. He was a great rebounder in France, playing with energy on the glass and boxing out well, but it was visible even over there that guys who were stronger could muscle off him for rebounds. The NBA is even more physical down low, and Capela is going to be posted up, muscled off rebounds, bumped on his shots, and attacked by driving guards at his current bulk.

There's also the experience component, which tends to be a problem for a lot of these project big men (duh, project). I couldn't tell you how long Capela has played basketball, but there's definitely a need for further seasoning. He makes passes that are so poor you'd be surprised, and if he never adds the strength to play center, he'll probably need to develop a respectable midrange game to be able to play alongside most centers.

Of course, the main area of concern when it comes to learning the game is defense, because that's the part of the game that most of his upside translates into. While Capela does a lot already out of his physical tools, somebody's going to have to teach him everything from awareness and positioning as a help defender to recovering to his own defender and keeping his knees bent, all basically from scratch. It's kind of worrying, but Capela seems to just zone out at times while the game's going on and allow something easy at the basket that he could've easily pounced on.

The Memphis Grizzlies haven't drafted a big man since Hasheem Thabeet, and there's a bit of overlap between Capela and Thabeet. They'll be antsy about picking Capela, and for good reason given how limited he is right now. He'll likely have to develop in the D-League or overseas for a while, but that's not the worst thing ever. Scouting reports on these kind of guys tend to sound negative because of how much work is left ahead of them, but Capela might be one of my personal favorite flier picks in the late first round and there's plenty of upside to match the bust potential no matter how you look at him.


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