Atlanta Hawks: The energy of Onyeka Okongwu

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

At the start of the season, the Atlanta Hawks looked to have made a mistake with their draft choice Onyeka Okongwu. He was taken with pick No. 6 and then hurt his foot, missing the start of the season.

He struggled to get into the rotation, but that was the story with Lloyd Pierce.  The former head coach seemed to have some difficulty finding minutes for players once his rotations were set. This stunted the growth of Okongwu at the start of the season.

Then when Nate McMillan took over just prior to the All-Star break he wasted no time developing the Hawks rookie. He decided that Okongwu was going to be a better fit with the team than Bruno Fernando and slowly increased his minutes and role with the second unit.

The Atlanta Hawks are benefitting from Onyeka Okongwu’s energy.

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One thing that Okongwu has done is soak up information like a sponge. He has two tremendous role models in Clint Capela and John Collins. Both of these players have tremendous energy when they hit the floor, This has rubbed off on Okongwu.

Capela is the leagues leading rebounder, including leading the league in offensive rebounds. You do not do this for a whole season without energy. The other thing that he does is runs the floor better than most big men. Collins is just a hive of activity on both offense and defense.

Okongwu is doing all that you can ask of a rookie. He is running the floor hard and getting rewarded by his guards and veterans. More often than not Okongwu is getting a wide-open dunk either in transition or in the pick and roll, usually assisted by  Lou Williams, such is the connection these two have already developed. He is also working hard on the offensive glass.

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Okongwu is also stepping up on defense, he has active hands and is starting to block more shots as the season goes on. He is diving on the floor after loose balls and is really starting to show why he was such a highly ranked draft pick last year.