Examining Rockets' options after losing Clint Capela to thumb injury for 4-6 weeks
Capela is the latest key member of the Rockets to suffer a serious injury
The Houston Rockets have once again been dealt a tough blow on the injury front. Big man Clint Capela, the team's starting center, and most irreplaceable player outside of James Harden, has suffered a thumb injury that will keep him .
According to SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh's projections, the injury is bad news for the Rockets. Their win total drops by nearly three wins, and their chances of making the playoffs decrease by nearly 20 percent.
Western Conference odds
In addition to injuries to Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, this leaves the Rockets quite shorthanded for the near future. With yet another injury, and the Rockets already rather thin in the frontcourt -- Capela plays over 34 minutes a night -- it's worth considering the team's options in Capela's absence, they'll next take the floor on Monday night when they face the Grizzlies (8 p.m. ET -- Watch on FuboTV with NBA League Pass extension).
Considering GM Daryl Morey's aggressiveness and creativity, there's little doubt that the Rockets will at least test the trade market. There are certainly big men out there -- the Bulls are teams to trade for Robin Lopez -- but actually pulling off a trade will be tricky for the Rockets. They're capped out and will have to match salary in any deal. But with how their money is dealt out, trading for anyone who makes upwards of $10M will be difficult unless they part with Gordon -- unlikely for a stop-gap big -- or convince a team to take on Brandon Knight's contract.
Lopez is a probably the most talented option, but as noted his salary would make a deal tricky. Other bigs that potentially make sense -- both money and skillset-wise -- are the Hawks' Dewayne Dedmon, the Knicks' Lance Thomas, the Jazz's Ekpe Udoh and the Sixers' Amir Johnson.
Free agency market
While a trade may bring a better player, the easier option for the Rockets would be to try and sign someone. They just traded Michael Carter-Williams to the Bulls in order to create a roster spot, so they're in a position to add a player without making any other moves.
At this point, they're able to sign players to 10-day contracts, so they could try to patch things together for a few weeks with different guys or sign someone for the remainder of the season. The talent pool isn't super deep, so the former may be the wiser option, as it would give them much more flexibility once buyout season starts.
Veteran big man Trevor Booker is still out there, so too is Marreese Speights after both went unsigned in the summer. They could also look at the G-League. Bruno Caboclo -- who has been playing well for their affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers -- could be an intriguing choice for a call-up.
Of course, the easiest option for the Rockets is to just do nothing. They could decide to just ride out Capela's injury by using PJ Tucker more at the five and increasing minutes for the likes of Nene and Isaiah Hartenstein. That would really test their roster, but it's possible Capela could be back in as little as a month, which isn't that long.
Regardless of what they decide to do moving forward, it will be fascinating to see how the Rockets fare without Capela.
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