The Atlanta Hawks are in a difficult position this offseason. They have a number of quality players who are eligible for extensions. While it would usually be a simple case of guaranteeing a player like Onyeka Okongwu and then offering him an extension, this offseason is going to be a little more complicated.
The new CBA which was recently agreed upon means that extensions signed in the next offseason will benefit players a whole lot more than if they sign them this season. While this is going to put pressure on the Atlanta Hawks front office for players like Dejounte Murray and Okongwu, it actually takes the pressure off their decision regarding Saddiq Bey.
However, unlike Bey, Okongwu is going to generate a huge level of interest around the league. He is a defensive-minded big man who works hard on the offensive end, be it in the half-court setting or running the floor. Some of the dunks he has pulled out of his kit bag are insane. Then there is also the fact that he has the ability to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo which is gold in this league.
So, just what should the Atlanta Hawks do with Onyeka Okongwu?
The answer to this one is fairly simple. The Atlanta Hawks need to lock up Okongwu for the longest possible time that they can. When Clint Capela was out at the end of the 2022 season, Okongwu was the main defensive guy on the court. When he was off the opposition almost had the red carpet treatment down the lane.
Right now, with the way that the roster is currently structured, losing Okongwu would be a huge backward step for the franchise. They do not have a viable backup at center, and if the Hawks lost Clint Capela for any length of time, then they would not be competitive.
Without Okongwu, the Hawks’ best option at the five is John Collins, and while he is incredibly athletic and one of the best help-side rim protectors in the league, he is not a starting center, His lack of lateral movement does not allow him to stop the opposition big man. On top of that, Collins does not have the presence to alter shots the same way that Capela and Okongwu do.
So, it is pretty obvious, unless the Hawks are able to make a trade to fix this glaring issue, they should offer Okongwu whatever he asks for. This also ensures that they need to get a decent return for Okongwu should they do the unthinkable and trade him.
The only issue with Okongwu is that he is too good to be a backup but also not good enough to start over Capela. His lack of size is the main reason for this, however, if the Hawks put the right pieces around him, he has the ability to be their starting center. This would then allow them to free up close to $50 million a season as they could trade both Capela and Collins.
It is unlikely that this would happen but the Hawks need to respect the player and talent that is Okongwu. He needs to be a key piece moving forward and the front office knows that.