Atlanta Hawks: The rookie and the veteran connection

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Atlanta Hawks selected Onyeka Okongwu with the sixth pick in the 2020 draft, they were getting a gifted basketball player. While he is a little undersized to play the center position, has very little range on his shot, and does not create much for himself, Okongwu has a very specific skill set.

Okongwu made a name for himself as being one of the best pick and roll players in college last season. While the pick and roll is one of the most-used plays in the NBA, if you are as good as Okongwu is, you just need to find a skilled guard to work with you and the play is incredibly dangerous.

When the Hawks traded Rajon Rondo for Lou Williams they got Okongwu that dangerous partner which started to unlock his offense at the NBA level. Williams has shown how good he is in the pick and roll, especially during his time with the LA Clippers where he was partnered with Montrezl Harrell.

How the Atlanta Hawks are benefitting from this second unit connection.

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All that Okongwu needs to do to have an impact on a game is to hit one dunk in the pick and roll with Williams. Opposition teams then have to defend Okongwu a little closer meaning that Williams has a little more room, and we all know how dangerous that can be.

It is this type of play that was a key to unlocking the offense of the second unit. Kevin Huerter can score on many levels, as well as create for others. We all know how well Williams scores and Danilo Gallinari’s shooting has been elite for many years.

Tony Snell was a tremendous floor spacer and defender which only left Okongwu being a slight liability on offense. With him being utilized in the picks and roll, the rest of the team has greater freedom as all five players need to be defended.

It is one of the best attributes of team sport, when a veteran and a rookie are able to connect on plays that benefit their team so much. Lou Willaims and Onyeka Okongwu are doing this for the Atlanta Hawks and it is a key to making the bench unit one of the best in the NBA.

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