Hawks’ Onyeka Okongwu Set For Season Debut

Hawks head coach Nate McMillan says second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu will make his season debut Friday night, according to Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (all Twitter links).

Okongwu will be on a minutes restriction as he continues to build his conditioning, Spencer relays. The young center says he feels sound physically.

I’m good. Coach Mac (McMillan) and the other coaches have been pushing me out here, trying to get me in the best shape, best cardio, so when my name is called, I’ll be ready,” Okongwu said.

Okongwu, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2020 draft, has been recovering from surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. He was originally projected to miss six months, but will make his debut just shy of five, so clearly the rehabilitation process has gone well for the 21-year-old. He’s been playing 5-on-5 practices with the College Park Skyhawks (Atlanta’s G League affiliate) the past couple weeks, and in his lone contest with the Skyhawks, Okongwu put up 10 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks in just 24 minutes.

Okongwu was a bench regular for the Hawks last season, averaging 4.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG while shooting 64.4% from the field in 50 games (12 MPG). He also played in every playoff game during Atlanta’s surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

It’s a welcome return for the 14-14 Hawks, who have missed Okongwu’s energy, athleticism, defense, and above-the-rim finishing off the bench this season. He held a plus-16 net rating as a rookie, per Basketball-Reference, and showed significant growth towards the end of last season. The Hawks face the Nuggets at 6:30 PM CT.

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