Atlanta Hawks rookie Onyeka Okongwu has had a roller-coaster season. He missed the first 10 games with injury and then struggled to get into the rotation after that. It appeared that coach Lloyd Pierce was unsure on how to use Okongwu and as a result, he did not progress much.
Then, when Pierce was sacked, Nate McMillan started to use Okongwu more until John Collins started to really ball out. He started losing minutes due to there only being so much time to share out. Collins simply deserved the playing time more.
Then, when Collins got hurt against the Phoenix Suns, the Hawks needed Okongwu to step up. In the next four games, Okongwu has shown why he was the 6th pick in the 2020 NBA draft. He had connected with the rest of the second unit and is showing that he has a future.
The Atlanta Hawks have benefitted from Onyeka Okongwu’s growth.
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During the four games that Collins has been out, Okongwu has stepped up in a major way. He has shown a level of development in his understanding of what is required of him and the pace of the game. He has always had the talent, it was just a question of if his size and speed suited the NBA game.
Okongwu has averaged 8.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks in the past four games. He has averaged 16.8 minutes per game, which has allowed Clint Capela to sit for longer periods of time. This has been crucial for the energy the starting pivot can bring to the game when he hits the court.
In the second game against the New Orleans Pelicans Okongwu got his fourth and fifth fouls at the start of the fourth period. Coach Nate McMillan left him out there, just to see how he played with five fouls. Four the two minutes he was on the court, Okongwu still hustled as hard.
This is the trademark of a good Okongwu game, he is showing desperation to challenge every shot, chase every rebound, and attacking the rim when he is on offense. This is how he is going to continue to collect playing time, even when Collins returns.