The Atlanta Hawks received the terrible news that Onyeka Okongwu, the sixth pick of the 2020 NBA draft, is going to be out for the next six months. As reported by Woj of ESPN, Okongwu had surgery to repair a torn laburnum on Wednesday.
While Okongwu only averaged 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, and 0.5 steals in just 12.0 minutes per game, his role on the team was vital last season. Onyeka provided valuable backup minutes for Clint Capela and bought some incredible energy and intensity every time he hit the court.
Add to this the impressive defense that he played, including against the Finals MVP, Giannis Atetokounmpo, and you know that this is going to be a big loss. Okongwu was also improving offensively thanks to the connection he has with veteran Lou Williams in the pick and roll.
The Atlanta Hawks options for trade may now be diminished
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One of the issues that this news has is that Okongwu was a really attractive piece for other teams if the Hawks were looking to make a trade this offseason to improve their roster. Now, these teams will have to assess if they are willing to wait for Okongwu to return prior to making any trade.
Where the Hawks are fortunate is that Okongwu will miss three months of the offseason, meaning that he will potentially only miss three months of the regular season. This will put his return at the end of January.
The Hawks have the option of trying to use Bruno Fernando or Danilo Gallinari as the backup big, assuming that John Collins does not re-sign with the Hawks. If he stays then the Hawks will be able to use him at the five at times when Capela sits.
While the injury should not change the Hawk’s first-round draft strategy, they could use their second-round pick to select a role player who will be able to take some of the reserve minutes. They could also use this pick to leverage an under-utilized big man from another franchise.
When Okongwu returns to the court, he is going to be a burst of energy and that will only be a good thing for the Hawks. He will return just prior to the All-Star break which is when players are looking for a rest.