Hawks’ Onyeka Okongwu has limitless potential and a major flaw

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

Onyeka Okongwu’s fouling problematic for Hawks

In the 2022-2023 season, Okongwu came off the bench in 62 of the 80 games he played. He averaged 23 minutes per game last season but despite his impact when on the court, it is hard for him to stay on the court at times due to his big flaw. Okongwu gets into foul trouble frequently. In said 2022-2023 season, Okongwu was tied for first on the team in fouls per game with John Collins at 3.1 fouls per game.

To make matters worse, Okongwu committed by far the most fouls on the team in 2022-2023 with a total of 251, 31 more fouls than the next-highest in Collins who committed 220 fouls.

The difference is, Collins was a starter who averaged over 30 minutes per game and Okongwu came off the bench and averaged 7.0 minutes less at only 23. Of course, the large number of fouls cuts into his potential playing time, but it is still absurd for a bench player to lead the team in both fouls per game and total fouls.

The crazy part is, Okongwu was fourth in the entire league in 2022-2023 in total personal fouls. On top of that, he is the only player inside the top-25 in this category to come off the bench. That may be bad on its own, but this isn’t an issue that suddenly popped up this season. Surprisingly, he also led the team with 3.1 fouls per game in the 2021-2022 season. He was injured much of the season, so he only played in 48 games, but the fouls are very concerning.

Oftentimes, big men do commit the most fouls as they are constantly being challenged at the rim, but for Okongwu, a lot of his fouls came from contesting jump shots. In his career, Okongwu has committed an insane 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes. This includes 4.9 fouls per 36 minutes in the 2022-2023 season, but Okongwu never fouled out of a game.

He played in 14 games in which he committed five fouls in a game, but never picked up that sixth personal foul. He did, however, foul out in one game last season versus the Indiana Pacers. Despite his large number of fouls, that is the only game in which he has fouled out in his career to this point.

During the 2022-2023 season, in games in which Okongwu committed five personal fouls, he played in less than 20 minutes in four of the 14 games. He also only played over 25 minutes five times. He had three games where he played over 30 minutes including 39 minutes in a game he started against the Pacers on January 13th, 2023. If Okongwu can stay on the court by limiting his fouls, he will become a more valuable piece to this Hawks team that needs his impact on both ends of the floor.

Unfortunately, this hole in his game may prevent him from becoming a starter, but he should step into this role so long as the Hawks trade Capela and open the door for Okongwu.

Next. Pros and cons of potentially trading for Pascal Siakam. dark

With everything “Big O” has to offer, hopefully, he can stay on the court by staying out of foul trouble!