Atlanta Hawks reserve big man Onyeka Okongwu has put in the work

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

What a difference an NBA season makes. In the last offseason, Atlanta Hawks reserve big man, Onyeka Okongwu was working on rehabilitating his shoulder after surgery. He was facing the prospect of six months on the sideline which was not a good way to go from his rookie season into his sophomore season.

Still, he came back early and showed the rest of the NBA why the Hawks took him with pick No. 6 in the 2020 NBA draft. Unfortunately, due to injury, Okongwu is yet to play more than 50 games in a season but this one feels a little different.

Okongwu has had an offseason where he was able to work on his game rather than healing his body and the difference is showing. Okongwu vowed to come back next season with a better jump shot, watching the clip below, take a look at how smooth his shot looks from the baseline.

The Atlanta Hawks could use Onyeka Okongwu very differently with that jumper

The Hawks are a team that is very pick-and-roll oriented. This is the move that opens the floor up for Trae Young. Now that they have Dejounte Murray, they are going to use this play even more. With Young playing off-ball, this will open up the floor for the dynamic Murray.

However, when playing with Clint Capela, unless he is spaced just right, this can close the paint down a little thanks to his lack of range. He does offer vertical spacing with his ability to finish at the rim but it can be potentially problematic for the guard.

However, with Okongwu developing a jumper, he is able to move out of the paint and still be dangerous. This is going to cause his defender to have a split second of deciding where to go on the floor he should guard. As his defender is the opposing pivot who is their rim protector, this miniscule hesitation which will allow both Murray and Young to get to the rim.

On top of the jumper, Okongwu is starting to develop ball handling ability. This will allow him to work in the paint, especially as he has developed a nice little push shot as well. While he is not at the level of Danilo Gallinari yet, this development could see him become a walking mismatch, the same way the big Italian was.

dark. Next. What role will Dejounte Murray have with the Hawks?

This third season of his career, assuming injury does not plague him, should be the making of Okongwu. He has shown an elite level of defense during his two seasons in the league. Now if he can develop a solid offensive game, look out for where he can help the Atlanta Hawks get to this season and beyond.