Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
With the draft creeping closer, the Toronto Raptors continue to bring in prospects for pre-draft workouts. On a night with so much unpredictability, the more familiar they can become with each of the players on their draft list, the more confident they can be with whatever move they make.
While the team has brought in a lot of point guards and combo guards, the spotlight on Thursday was focused on Swiss big man Clint Capela who spent this past season playing in France. Standing 6-foot-11, the 20-year-old was recently named the Best Young Player and Most Improved Player of the 2013-2014 LNB Pro A season. What intrigues the Raptors is Capela’s athleticism and his ability to defend the pick-and-roll.
“He uses his quick hands and his length and he gets in a nice defensive stance and he really jumps out and hedges ballhandlers,” Dan Tolzman said. “It’s one of the things that, if he has any skill that can get him in the game early in the NBA, probably pick-and-roll defense is one for sure.”
Capela pointed to Anthony Davis and DeAndre Jordan as the NBA players he tries to emulate while on the court. With the ability to block shots, run the floor and beat out other players for rebounds, it is exciting to imagine the type of player he could become.
“He’s a big-time vertical spacer,” Tolzman said. “Guys that can catch alley-oops…you’ve got guys like him who just kind of drop into the little short-corner area and because they’re so deadly with catching alley-oops, it makes the defence worry about them more than worry about penetration. He’s a guy that can really do that. He can really run the floor well for a big. He changes ends really well.”
With most of his NBA watching limited to highlights on his phone because of the time difference in France, Capela wanted teams to know he’s ready to get to work and is focused on improving.
“I’m a good kid,” Capela said. “I’m really professional because I played in France with men already. So this is what I want. This is what I want.”
Knowing he will need to adjust to the physical play of the NBA, Capela doesn’t think he’ll have a problem on the next level. Naming Blake Griffin as the NBA player he most wants to match up against, it seems he’s already got a handle on what the concerns about his game would be.
“I think it’s going to be okay because people told me the same thing when I came to the French league,” he said. “The year before I played in the junior and they told me, ‘Ah, you’re not much physical for playing pro in France,’ and I played and improved. You’ll see that.”
Capela is attempting to approach each of his workouts as its own opportunity. Still, the pre-draft experience has been a whirlwind. Especially touring the locker rooms and crossing paths with other NBAers.
“It’s exciting because I’ve not been too much in the States,” Capela said. “I think every city is good. I like it. I watch every team, their NBA stuff and I like it. The locker room, some players, because I’m in France, so NBA players are far from me. When I'm watching on my phone, I think they’re really far. When I see them just in front of me, it’s [much different]. So I like it.”
Hoping to make an impression and prove he’s worth taking a chance on come June 26, Capela is heeding Gobert’s advice. What did the first-year frenchman tell Capela?
“Play with a lot of intensity and don’t worry, go hard and we will see.”