Hawks extend Onyeka Okongwu before deadline: Report

Atlanta Hawks, Onyeka Okongwu. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks, Onyeka Okongwu. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks were facing a time crunch with the deadline to come to terms on contract extensions with players from the 2020 draft class. Atlanta has two – Onyeka Okongwu and Saddiq Bey – and they are taking opposite paths with both.

Atlanta Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu agreed to a four-year, $62 million contract extension,” wrote ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on October 23 citing Okongwu’s agent, Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management. “Okongwu was the 14th and final player from the 2020 NBA draft class to finalize his rookie scale extension ahead of Monday’s 6 p.m. ET deadline.”

Okongwu, 23, was the No. 6 overall pick in 2020 and has steadily improved in each of his three seasons in the NBA.

He set career highs in points, rebounds, steals, and free-throw efficiency.

Okongwu averaged 9.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 blocks – tying his career-high – and 0.7 steals per game last season. He even expanded his range, taking 13 three-pointers last season, and looks to build on this year.

There was a belief the Hawks could let Okongwu test the waters of restricted free agency next summer since they already have a lot of money committed to the roster. They were projected to be $20 million below the luxury tax threshold in 2024-25 after extending Dejounte Murray this offseason (four years, $120 million).

This deal projects to leave them $8.8 million below the line with more significant roster decisions to make.

Atlanta also picked up the fourth and third-year options on Jalen Johnson and AJ Griffin, respectively, earlier in the day. That gives them 13 guaranteed contracts on the books for the 2024-25 season and at least one looming piece of business to tend to.

Hawks’ Saddiq Bey could be popular target in restricted free agency

While Okongwu got his deal done, Bey did not and will head to restricted free agency where he could be an attractive target for teams willing to make the Hawks sweat.

Atlanta acquired Bey from the Detroit Pistons at the trade deadline in February in a three-team trade with the Golden State Warriors. For the cost of a handful of second-round picks on top of his salary, Bey averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 25 appearances.

He also shot 40% on 5.0 threes per game. But, similar to Okongwu, pre-deadline talk for Bey was not trending toward a deal being done according to ESPN NBA reporter Zach Lowe.

It’s no surprise this was the outcome.

“I’ve heard those negotiations have not been going great,” Lowe said on “The Lowe Post with Zach Lowe” on October 20. “I don’t think Atlanta’s gotten to that level yet. And Saddiq Bey is one of those players – kind of like De’Andre Hunter – who looks like a good NBA player: He’s rangy, he’s big shoots it okay from three.

“And then you look and you watch him play and it’s like … what does he do? Doesn’t defend very well, doesn’t pass, doesn’t rebound, okay shooter, not a big-time scorer on a good team. … It’s like, what is he what is he actually good at?”

The prevailing sentiment was Atlanta wanted to retain Bey both because of the cost to acquire him and because he profiled as a piece that fits well into head coach Quin Snyder’s system.

Notably, similar issues are said to have played into Detroit’s willingness to part with Bey.

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As a restricted free agent, the Hawks will still have the right of first refusal, giving them the ability to match any contract offer sheet Bey might sign. But, again, it’s not inconceivable some team could come in and pay him more than the Hawks are willing to.