Amid all of the trade rumors, the Atlanta Hawks have a couple of legitimate pieces of business to handle with both Onyeka Okongwu and Saddiq Bey barreling toward restricted free agency next offseason. And the Los Angeles Lakers could have already provided the blueprint for how this should play out.
Okongwu was the No. 6 overall pick in 2020, and he has shown steady improvement over his three seasons in the NBA.
The 6-foot-8 big man even led the team with 80 appearances last season.
“While their games are different, Okongwu plays a similar heavy-minute role off the bench to Kyle Kuzma (when with the Lakers through 2019-20),” wrote Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report on September 22. “L.A. gave Kuzma an extension starting at $13 million (11.6 percent of the cap), which equates to $16.4 million for 2024-25.”
Okongwu would be the sixth highest-paid player on the Hawks’ roster in 2024-25 behind Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, and Bogdan Bogdanovic if he received that contract.
Capela’s presence, in particular, is a complicating factor. The veteran center is still effective when healthy.
But the $38-plus million the Hawks would be paying him and Okongwu in 2024-25 is untenable.
Capela has been bandied about in trade rumors this offseason, in part because they wanted to clear the runway for Okongwu. Trading John Collins free up some of the backup center minutes but Okongwu’s jump shot may not be ready for that just yet. Still, Pincus expects that the Hawks and Okongwu could agree on a new deal by the start of the season.
Okongwu averaged 9.9 points, 7.2 rebounds,1.3 blocks, and 1.0 assists last season despite coming off the bench for 62 of his 80 appearances in 2022-23. In his 18 starts, the former USC standout averaged 10.3 points, 9.2 boards, and 1.2 assists.
Hawks expected to pay up to keep Saddiq Bey
“Another Kuzma comp, with Bey coming off the bench, providing double-digit scoring,” Pincus wrote in another section. “Kuzma shot just 31.6 percent from deep before his extension with the Lakers—Bey can argue that he’s the better floor spacer.”
Bey shot 40% in his 25 appearances with the Hawks after the trade deadline. Atlanta sent out a handful of second-round picks to acquire the 6-foot-7 forward in February.
The Hawks have long been rumored to have an interest in re-signing Bey on a new deal.
With Collins gone, the Hawks have an opening at power forward with Bey likely to contend with third-year forward Jalen Johnson for the bulk of the minutes barring a last-minute resolution to Atlanta’s pursuit of Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam. Pincus bakes that uncertainty into his prediction for Bey’s next contract.
“A $15 million starting figure for Bey could work,” Pincus wrote. “Provided the Hawks have a clear plan with the depth chart.”
Bey averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in his time with the Hawks, but falling just shy of 1.0 steals. The scoring output would have been the lowest of his career across an entire season.
But Bey and Okongwu could fit better with head coach Quin Snyder’s three-point-heavy scheme than the current alternatives. Even Okongwu’s still-budding jump shot would help alleviate some congestion in the lane that comes with playing Capela who is mostly limited to lobs, quick dumpoffs, and putbacks.