Onyeka Okongwu is coming into his third season with the Atlanta Hawks and is starting the year healthy. Things are looking up for the center as he continues to improve his game.
In his first two seasons, Okongwu had to be brought into the rotation slowly, and by the end of his rookie season, many saw some exciting things from him on both sides of the ball. Last season, Okongwu was a solid finisher on offense, and he continued to show his versatility on defense, being able to guard multiple positions at times.
Even as a small-sized center, Okongwu is able to use his athleticism to go up for lobs, and also has a sweet touch around the rim. Although he's not the best free-throw center, he has shown that he can knock them down, as he shot 69% last season.
Okongwu’s energy on the court is contagious, and it was numerous times during the season when he would check in, make a big play, and the entire team would carry the momentum. Okongwu showed his ability to guard some of the elite players in the league such as Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With the Hawks losing some talent in the second unit during the offseason, Okongwu may be asked to provide more on the court than his last two seasons, and he seems to be up for the challenge. One thing that many people have kept an eye on during the offseason was Okongwu taking jump shots. During exit interviews last season, Okongwu told reporters, “The next time you see me I will have a jump shot.”
Videos have floated around the past few months of the center taking jump shots in Pro-Am games, and also him working on the shot in his workouts. During open practice, Hawks fans were able to get a glimpse of Okongwu trying out the shot.
Jalen assist, Okongwu 3 pic.twitter.com/xCNdS4iI7v— Kevin Chouinard (@KLChouinard) September 28, 2022
One of the luxuries the Hawks have is center depth, as both Okongwu and Clint Capela are solid big-men that you could easily rotate and not see much of a drop-off on the court. When Capela suffered a hyperextended knee right before the playoffs, Okongwu had to step in for him, and he showed some good and bad against a very well-coached Miami Heat team. Okongwu is not the defensive anchor as Capela, but when he improves in that area, it will be a big plus for the team.
Okongwu should still be able to get looks on offense, and if Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are staggered in the rotation, he’ll always have somebody to run the pick-and-roll with. Lou Williams was big for Okongwu’s growth on offense, but with him now gone, he’ll have to find another partner to work alongside with.
Okongwu’s game continues to get better, and in season three it looks like he may have more up his sleeve.