5. Riser: Onyeka Okongwu
This season was expected to be big for fourth-year big man Onyeka Okongwu and, despite the situation around him changing very little, he is still maximizing his opportunities so far.
Okongwu is averaging career-best marks with 11.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists this season.
Even more encouraging, he is working on spreading the floor, shooting 28.6% on 1.0 threes.
The Hawks signed Okongwu to a four-year, $62 million contract extension ahead of the deadline, locking him in through the 2027-28 season. It also brings the future of Clint Capela into question. Capela was a mainstay in trade rumors late in the offseason but, healthy to start the season, he has been a pivotal part of their success.
Still, Oknogwu is the future. They have given him some burn at power forward. But that being his permanent home in the lineup is a long shot barring his three-ball becoming far more efficient and consistent.
It’s a good problem for the Hawks – who rank third in rebounding on the season – to have, especially as they still feel their way out on offense.
Okongwu was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft.
There have been high expectations for Okongwu from the beginning. And he has long shown the flashes of a ceiling as a switchable big who is equally as malleable on offense. His willingness to be open about his shortcomings and where he is working to improve is also encouraging.
And, until the Hawks have to make a decision, they can reap the benefits of rostering two of the more active bigs in the league.