Onyeka Okongwu’s arrival triggers optimism in Atlanta: “He’s a beast.”

The Hawks fell on their faces this past morning against a probably unexpected surprise. After many rumors, speculation, and fruitless negotiations, the general manager Trevis Schlenk used his pick 6 in Onyeka Okongwu, one of the best prospects interiors of the entire draft.

While they enjoyed a fairly high selection, they did not expect the product of the University of South California to fall beyond the pick 5, considering the great interest that had aroused, mainly, in Charlotte.

Interestingly, Schlenk himself had never been able to witness in situ the many virtues of rookie. Fate wanted an injury to keep him off the court for three games. One of them had been marked on the calendar by the manager, who proposed to wait until March to make another attempt. However, the COVID-19 pandemic ruined the university competition and Schlenk was left with the desire to see Okongwu in action.

Now, the player faces the recovery of a small fracture in his foot that will not prevent him from starting the new course. This is attested by the Hawks’ own medical corps, who demanded to see the result of the MRI scans that he has undergone. One more demonstration of how difficult it has been for the different executive and technical bodies to make a decision about which player to select in the draft.

Despite all the obstacles faced, Okongwu has proven to be ready for this new challenge. His production in the NCAA at just 19 years old was impressive: more than 16 points per night with an average of ten shots to the basket, 2.7 blocks and 1.2 steals. And better still, his effort, dedication and intensity on the court corresponded more to a seventh game of a playoffs than to one more university commitment. Something that they value a lot in Atlanta, especially in the defensive aspect. During the 2019-20 season, the Hawks allowed more than 119 points per game, the worst mark in the league. A lack on which they hope the rookie will affect very positively.

“Improving defense is important for our group,” Schlenk said in an interview with The Athletic. “The base of a defense is your tall man. They are kind of a defensive quarterback. They are on the bottom line. They see everything and have to talk to everyone. When there is a leak, they have to appear and neutralize it. That is its strength. A very valuable strength in the NBA. He’s going to be a good rebounder and a great protect-rim. He has good footwork and goes very well at pick-and-roll coverage. It is very instinctive. Everyone who has played against him says he is a beast ”.

After starting last year with a front-court Rather flimsy, the Hawks now have a very versatile and hard-hitting inside game. In addition to the newcomer, Clint Capela and John Collins aim to establish themselves as the main faces in painting; while Bruno Fernando and Dewayne Dedmon will lead the second unit. Despite the large number of tall profiles, from The Athletic they point out that in Atlanta they are comfortable in this situation. Thus, they would have all of them despite the rumors that have seen the light, mainly in reference to Collins.

Now, the Hawks’ attention will turn to a free agency in which they promise to be very active. In recent days, various sources have indicated a potential interest in various players such as Gordon Hayward, Rajon Rondo and Danilo Gallinari. In the same way, they would be interested in incorporating one or more shooters to the project.

(Cover photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

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