The Atlanta Hawks (5-5) will take on the Utah Jazz (7-4) to kickoff what is now a delayed west coast road trip following the postponement of Wednesday’s game against the Suns in Phoenix. The debut of 2020 No. 6 overall pick Onyeka Okongwu was also delayed Wednesday, so we’ll look forward to that on Friday evening as well, with the rookie being completely off the injury report heading into this contest.
Okongwu drew interest from NBA clubs due to his mobility and defensive prowess as a freshman at USC, and some reputable sources even had him near the top of their draft boards, in some cases ahead of No. 2 overall pick and fellow big man James Wiseman. The long awaited debut is finally here, and while we don’t exactly know how much Okongwu will play in this specific game, it’s exciting nonetheless.
Both Utah (8th) and Atlanta (6th) rank in the top-10 in the NBA in net rating, and the teams also both rank in the top-five in rebound percentage. This should come as no surprise as Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela are among the best glass eaters in the league.
Despite the presence of the big men, neither squad plays much out of the post. Utah is dead last in post-up possessions, averaging just 1.9 per game. The Hawks are at 24th with just 3.0 such possessions per contest. The Jazz are also dead last in points per possession (.67) on their post-ups, while the Hawks are 23rd with .80 PPP.
Both offenses rely heavily on their initiators to create out of pick-and-roll. Atlanta ranks third in PPP (1.02) when the pick-and-roll ball handler takes the shot, and Utah ranks 12th. The Jazz are second in the NBA in frequency among these possessions, relying heavily on Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley to create offense like the Hawks do with Trae Young. Both offenses rank in the top-five in points per game from pick-and-roll ball handlers.
The Jazz come in riding a three-game win streak, and also had their game against the Washington Wizards postponed Wednesday night. Atlanta got back into the win column Monday evening against the Philadelphia 76ers after a four-game skid. The Hawks are adding Okongwu to the fold this weekend, but there are still plenty of contributors on the shelf.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee), Kris Dunn (right ankle) and Danilo Gallinari (right ankle) remain out for Atlanta, while Rajon Rondo is questionable.
Joe Ingles is out for the Jazz with Achilles soreness. Juwan Morgan is out due to health and safety protocols, and Atlanta native Derrick Favors is probable (right knee soreness) for Utah.
This will be the first of a back-to-back for the Hawks, who play in Portland Saturday evening.
Game Date/Time: Friday, Jan. 15, 9:00 pm ET
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network
Streaming: Fox Sports Go; NBA League Pass (out of market)