Onyeka Okongwu

Southeast Notes: Okongwu, Wagner, Wizards

Hawks reserve center Onyeka Okongwu took a big leap during his second NBA season in 2021/22, though Atlanta as a team took a significant step back in the playoffs. Okongwu is taking pains to put in the work during the offseason to improve his skill set, per Lauren Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 48 games last year, the 6’8″ big man out of USC averaged 8.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 1.1 APG, while shooting an excellent 69% from the floor.

The 21-year-old big man is striving to improve his jump shooting. “People are going to have expectations for me,” Okongwu said. “You know, I got to this point for a reason. I got drafted by this team for a reason. So, I definitely make sure I do what I do, but adding on something every year, every year, just add a little something.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Magic small forward Franz Wagner has played somewhat erratically in EuroBasket competition, but has managed to be a big contributor for the German national team when firing on all cylinders, per Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. Fuller writes that Wagner appears to have improved his pull-up three-point shooting and his play around the rim during this international run.
  • The Wizards currently boast a plethora of solid wing players, to the point that Josh Robbins of The Athletic addresses whether or not Washington may look to make a move to address that logjam by making a consolidation trade. Elsewhere in his mailbag, Robbins projects where the club could finish in a loaded Eastern Conference this season after missing the playoffs last year, as well as contextualizing the Summer League struggles of rookie lottery pick Johnny Davis.
  • In case you missed it, our Rory Maher recently took a look at extension-eligible Heat guard Tyler Herro, and assessed the reigning Sixth Man of the Year’s candidacy for a lucrative new contract.

Hawks Rumors: Collins, Capela, Grant, Bogdanovic

A John Collins trade appears more likely to happen this offseason than it ever has in the past, according to Marc Stein, who writes in his latest Substack article that a deal involving the Hawks big man seems to be “pretty much expected.”

Both Stein and Jeremy Woo of SI.com continue to link Collins to the Trail Blazers, with Woo suggesting that Atlanta is “eyeing” Portland’s No. 7 overall pick and Stein agreeing that a Collins deal structured around that No. 7 pick seems plausible.

Stein adds that Suns general manager James Jones has “rated Collins highly in the past,” so if Atlanta does pursue a sign-and-trade deal for Phoenix center Deandre Ayton, there could be a fit there.

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • Clint Capela‘s name continues to pop up in trade rumors, with Shams Charania of The Athletic reporting earlier today that the Timberwolves have talked to Atlanta about the veteran center. However, Stein notes that Capela is close with Trae Young and has been described as a “true Young favorite,” so if the Hawks move the big man, they’d have to be pretty confident the deal upgraded the roster.
  • After writing a couple weeks ago that the Hawks continued to exhibit interest in Pistons forward Jerami Grant, Stein clarifies that it was actually Detroit that showed more interest in a hypothetical deal that would involve Grant, the Hawks’ No. 16 overall pick, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, while Atlanta was less enthusiastic about the idea. It’s not clear how Bogdanovic’s recent knee surgery might affect the Pistons’ interest in such a trade or the Hawks’ ability to move him, Stein writes.
  • Despite Travis Schlenk‘s insistence that the Hawks won’t undergo a “major overhaul” this summer, rival teams still believe they’re looking to make significant changes, with Young, De’Andre Hunter, and Onyeka Okongwu widely believed to be the only players who are probably off limits, according to Stein.

Hawks To Pursue Extension With De’Andre Hunter

The Hawks‘ plans for an offseason roster shakeup won’t include trading De’Andre Hunter, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

At one time, Atlanta was thought to be willing to part with anyone except Trae Young, but Fischer reports that the team now plans keep Hunter and try to work out a contract extension. The 24-year-old small forward has dealt with injuries throughout his first three NBA seasons, but he has been a full-time starter when healthy.

The Hawks are pursuing numerous trades with the goals of finding a reliable guard to play alongside Young and creating a larger role for second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu, Fischer adds. Atlanta has been mentioned as a possible destination for Jazz center Rudy Gobert, with Clint CapelaJohn Collins, Kevin Huerter and the No. 16 pick in next week’s draft all considered potential trade chips.

Fischer points out that Utah CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge has pursued a deal for Capela before. According to Fischer’s sources, when Ainge was running the Celtics in 2019, he talked to the Rockets on draft night about swapping Marcus Smart and the No. 22 pick to land Capela. The trade was agreed to in principle, but it fell through when the Grizzlies selected Houston target Brandon Clarke at No. 21.

Collins could also be an option for the Trail Blazers, who are looking to deal the seventh pick in the draft for veteran help, Fischer adds. If Atlanta acquires that pick, G League Ignite guard Dyson Daniels will likely be the target, Fischer’s sources say.

The Hawks have been seeking backcourt help for several years, Fischer adds. They tried to acquire CJ McCollum and Goran Dragic before this year’s deadline and have been involved in talks involving Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal. They also discussed a deal with the Pelicans about Jrue Holiday before he was moved to Milwaukee.

Hawks Notes: Bogdanovic, Draft Workout, Trade Tiers

Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s lingering knee issue will likely prevent the Hawks wing from participating with the Serbian National Team in the EuroBasket tournament during September, according to MozzartSport.com (hat tip to Eurohoops.net). Bogdanovic, who was limited to 63 regular-season games,  played through the pain in the first round of the playoffs, and MozzartSport’s report suggests offseason surgery is a possibility.

We have more on the Hawks:

Southeast Notes: Satoransky, I. Thomas, Okongwu, Hawks

Tomas Satoransky is excited to rejoin the Wizards and have the opportunity to play with Kristaps Porzingis again, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “It feels like home and it’s always easier to go somewhere you like,” Satoransky said of D.C. and the Wizards.

As Hughes details, Satoransky has had a tough season to this point. The 30-year-old suffered a flexor muscle injury while playing with his native Czech Republic in the Olympics last summer, which limited his ability to train. He was traded to the Pelicans from the Bulls in the offseason, then was dealt to the Spurs ahead of the trade deadline last month. He reached a buyout agreement with the Spurs and then signed with the Wizards after clearing waivers.

Satoransky has appeared in 34 games (14.8 minutes) so far this season, averaging just 2.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on .306/.161/.774 shooting. He admits it’s been a challenging year. “It was the first time I really struggled like that in the NBA, but it happens sometimes. It’s a tough league and you have to be mentally resilient,” he said, per Hughes. Satoransky holds career averages of 7.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on .468/.356/.819 shooting in 367 games (22.4 minutes), so 2021/22 is an outlier statistically.

Satoransky was Porzingis’ teammate with Spanish club Casajol from 2012-14 and he’s looking forward to being on the court with him again, Hughes relays. “I was also excited that Kristaps is on the team because Kristaps is my good friend from the past. I played with him for three years, 10-11 years ago. Imagine that, it’s really crazy. I always wished that I could play with him again. This chance is pretty awesome to have,” Satoransky said.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Isaiah Thomas, who inked a 10-day deal with the Hornets Wednesday, says he’ll bring a positive attitude to his new team, regardless of how much he actually plays, according to Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer. “I have no expectations,” Thomas said. “My expectation is just to make a positive impact on the organization whether I play or I don’t. I’ve been able to make positive impacts on organizations if I’m in the game or if I’m not. So it really doesn’t matter if I play or not. I’m here to be a positive influence on those guys and hopefully turn this ship around a little bit. But if my name is called, I’ve been prepared for these moments. So I’m more than prepared and more than ready to take advantage.” Thomas put up 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in 14 minutes in Charlotte’s 119-98 victory over Cleveland Wednesday.
  • Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu has entered the league’s concussion protocol and is out for Thursday’s game against Chicago, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. John Collins is also out as he continues to be bothered by a right foot straight, while Trae Young is questionable with a sprained ankle, Spencer relays (Twitter link). It’ll be Collins’ seventh straight missed game.
  • Time is running out to save the Hawks’ frustratingly inconsistent season, says Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “I don’t know why it’s going up and down,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said after Atlanta blew a 15-point lead to the Celtics and lost 107-98. “Like why is it going from the greatest game we just had against Toronto (Saturday night) to the worst game maybe in the season? I don’t know. I’m experiencing this for the first time of my career. I don’t know.” After finishing last season 41-31 and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks are just 29-32 to this point, 10th in the East. They hold a one-game lead over Washington for the final spot in the play-in tournament.

Southeast Notes: Okongwu, Anthony, Heat

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu believes he deserves to be part of this year’s Rising Stars Game over All-Star Weekend, he told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. On the season, he’s averaged 9.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 23.3 minutes per game, though he’s only played in 16 contests to date.

“I think I should, honestly,” Okongwu said. “Everybody can see what I do out there on the court. I think my play really speaks for itself, especially defensively with what I’ve been able to do, guarding on the ball and helping. Offensively, I’ve got my confidence back. I’ve doubled my points scoring to almost 10.

“At the end of the day, we’re on a six-game winning streak playing good basketball, and I’m part of the mix, which is always a blessing. I’m thankful to be able to be on the Hawks, and we’re playing good basketball. I think, all things considered, I should get a Rising Stars nod.”

Okongwu also discussed other topics in the interview, including who he compares himself to as a player and what the team’s expectations are. Atlanta selected the 21-year-old with the No. 6 pick in 2020.

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic guard Cole Anthony was fined $25K for directing profane and derogatory remarks toward a game official, the NBA announced this week (Twitter link). Anthony made his comments after the team’s 111-102 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday. He finished with 19 points, 11 assists and three steals in the contest, shooting 5-of-11 (45%).
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat need more versatile players in the closing moments of a game. Miami has finished with either Tyler Herro or Duncan Robinson in most of its close games, adding offense but hurting its defense. Once Victor Oladipo returns, head coach Erik Spoelstra will have another defensive option to insert when necessary.

COVID-19 Updates: Doncic, SGA, Robinson, Hawks, Nuggets, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Doncic, who hasn’t played since December 10, missed a combined 10 games due to a left ankle injury and his time in the protocols. He’s expected to meet his teammates in Oklahoma City and may return to the court on Sunday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber may also be able to exit the protocols in time for Sunday’s game, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas, which has five other players still in protocols, managed to go 5-5 without Doncic and is holding onto eighth place in the Western Conference.

Here are more updates on players entering and exiting the protocols:

COVID-19 Updates: Hawks, Blazers, Celtics, Bucks, Nets

Wesley Iwundu, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Hawks on Thursday, has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Iwundu played 23 minutes in the Hawks’ 98-96 victory over the Sixers Thursday night, scoring two points and grabbing five rebounds. ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets that the Hawks will need to sign another replacement player to replace Iwundu — himself a replacement player.

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu, who made his season debut last week, has entered the protocols as well, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. In three games this season (22.3 MPG), Okongwu is averaging 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. The Hawks now have nine players in the protocols.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates:

  • Backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and two-way rookie Trendon Watford have entered the protocols for the Trail Blazers and the rest of the team will now be re-tested, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). DSJ and Watford are the only players currently in the protocols for the Blazers.
  • The Celtics have four new players entering the protocols: C.J. Miles, Justin Jackson, Aaron Nesmith, and Bruno Fernando, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. However, Al Horford, Juan Hernangomez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas, who’ve all been in the protocols, are listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, so they could be exiting the protocols soon. Until those four are cleared, the Celtics will have 12 players in the COVID-19 protocols — the largest outbreak in the NBA.
  • In addition to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis has exited the protocols for the Bucks, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. Like Horford and the other Celtics, Donte DiVincenzo, who’s also been in the protocols, is listed as questionable to make his season debut Saturday.
  • Meanwhile, Bruce Brown and James Johnson have exited the protocols for the Nets, but seven others, including star Kevin Durant, remain in the protocols for their game Saturday against the Lakers, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
  • Warriors rookie Moses Moody has entered the protocols, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Golden State now has four players in the protocols.

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.

Southeast Notes: Reddish, Bogdanovic, Okongwu, Hornets, Sabonis, Martin

Hawks forward Cam Reddish, who is recovering from a wrist injury, went through a full practice on Thursday, according to coach Nate McMillan. Reddish did some shooting and participated in drills at 75% speed. He’s listed as probable to play on Friday.

Bogdan Bogdanovic still needs more time to return from his ankle injury, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports in a series of tweets. “Bogi’s not doing anything other than shooting. He looks better,” McMillan said. “He’s up on his feet and he’s moving around.”

Second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu is continuing his rehab assignment from shoulder surgery. He’s with the G League College Park Skyhawks and is expected to play on Thursday.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • There’s been no change regarding the Hornets‘ COVID-19 issues. LaMelo Ball, Jalen McDaniels, Mason Plumlee, Terry Rozier and Ish Smith are all listed as out for Friday’s game against Sacramento due to the league’s health and safety protocols, the team’s PR department tweets. Charlotte’s depleted roster has managed to beat Atlanta and lose two close games to Philadelphia since those players were sidelined over the weekend.
  • With a recent report claiming that the Pacers may shake up their roster, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines whether Domantas Sabonis should be a trade target for the Wizards. Hughes notes that Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are expected to return soon and the front office would like to see how they fit with their revamped roster. Hughes adds that the club already has the look of a playoff team and the addition of Sabonis may not move the needle all that much.
  • Caleb Martin may eventually have his two-way contract converted to a standard deal by the Heat but there are luxury tax concerns, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Martin has been active for 24 of the Heat’s 26 games and can only be active for 50 games under two-way rules. If he remained on the active roster for every game, he’d be able to play until nearly the end of January. But the Heat would have to wait a couple of weeks after that to convert his contract in order to avoid surpassing the tax threshold.