The Atlanta Hawks have been carrying an open roster spot for much of the offseason. At a time when teams are filling theirs, and the media is overreacting accordingly, Travis Schlenk has made it clear they are comfortable riding into the season with 14 players on guaranteed contracts.
It’s a move we explored a few days ago as Okafor becomes the fourth player to sign such a deal, joining guards Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and A.J. Lawson as well as center Johnny Hamilton.
The Atlanta Hawks could use Jahlil Okafor if he were to make the final roster
Okafor was originally the third-overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. It was there that he tantalized us with his ability to control the paint on offense and showed potential to be a force defensively as well. He became just another failed part of “The Process” for the Sixers.
The 6-foot-10 big averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds while blocking 1.2 shots per game as a rookie. He averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in his second season. With Joel Embiid healthy after his first two seasons, Okafor’s time was up before it ever really began.
Almost simultaneously, the league began to speed up its shift from the traditional big man, opting for the more perimeter-oriented game we see today.
That was quite unfortunate for Okafor, about as traditional of a center as they come with all of the talent needed to play close to the basket but none of those necessary to step outside the paint.
He has only averaged 7.5 points and 4.1 boards in the three full seasons since he was traded by Philly. Last season, he put up 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in 27 appearances (two starts) for the Detroit Pistons. But, in the two prior years spent with the New Orleans Pelicans, he averaged 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Okafor’s limitations will likely keep him as a bench option at best, and on the Hawks that is just as deep as others on the roster.
The Hawks have 2021 rebounding champ Clint Capela, signed stretch big Gorgui Dieng as well as Hamilton in free agency, and will get Onyeka Okongwu back from offseason shoulder surgery around late January or early February.
It’s going to be tough for Okafor to make this roster, but not as much as it will be for the other non-guaranteed players the Hawks will head into camp with.