Atlanta Hawks: How Onyeka Okongwu can reach Bam Adebayo ceiling

Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta HAwks
Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images) /

How Atlanta Hawks rookie Onyeka Okongwu can reach Bam Adebayo ceiling: Limit fouls

Onyeka Okungwu is going to have to limit his fouls to become like Bam Adebayo, an almost sure-to-be issue in his first few seasons.

Especially as the size and strength will elevate at the pro level, the smaller-frame Okongwu may be tempted (and may have) to commit fouls to stop the opposition.

His 5.0 fouls per 100 possessions while at USC are along the same amount of fouls some strong defensive centers put up (Deandre Ayton committed 4.0 his sole year at Arizona, Mohamed Bamba 5.0 at Texas).

Defensive intelligence is an advantage Okongwu will have, and his versatility to guard players 1-through-4 (maybe 5, eventually) should allow him to almost always be a plus-defender.

But when bigger centers hunt him and as he adjusts to speed, fouls are going to happen.

It was an issue for Adebayo to some degree before this year. He committed 5.1 fouls per 100 possessions in his rookie year, then 5.2, and in this most recent breakout season he worked it down to 3.7.

Some of that has to do with a switch in positional usage. Adebayo played 57 percent of his minutes as a power forward (per Basketball-Reference) last season, after spending 96 and 99 percent of his minutes in his first two seasons as a center.

For that reason, running Okongwu as a four in certain situations with a player like Clint Capela at the five may be advantageous for his development (but not quite the greatest fit for the team).

Not having quite as much pressure on him to be the final wall at the rim surely helped him limit his fouls. Zone defense, which Miami employed liberally, helped Adebayo as well.