Onyeka Okongwu

Southeast Notes: Aminu, Bamba, Collins, Hawks, Hornets

Magic head coach Steve Clifford told reporters today that Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Mohamed Bamba haven’t been cleared for contact work when training camp begins, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Isaac is recovering from a torn ACL and is expected to miss the entire 2020/21 season, so his absence is unsurprising. Aminu and Bamba were unavailable for the Magic at the end of last season due to knee surgery recovery and coronavirus complications, respectively. It’s not clear if those same issues are keeping them sidelined this fall, but Clifford said today that both players are still “a ways away” from being 100%, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links).

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Hawks big man John Collins is still hoping to sign a rookie scale extension before the regular season begins, admitting today that his contract situation is at the forefront of his mind (Twitter links via Chris Kirschner of The Athletic and Sarah Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
  • The Hawks issued a press release announcing injury updates on Kris Dunn (cartilage disruption in right knee), Onyeka Okongwu (inflammation of sesamoid bone in left foot), and Tony Snell (inflammation of cuboid bone in right foot). Dunn is participating in “modified” individual workouts, while Okongwu and Snell are currently limited to shooting and conditioning. Atlanta will provide another update on all three players on December 11.
  • The Hornets will open the 2020/21 season without any fans in attendance at Spectrum Center, the team announced this week in a press release. The Hornets indicated they’ll continue to work with state and local health officials – and the NBA – to develop a plan to get fans back in the building, ideally before the end of the season.
  • In the wake of the Hornets‘ acquisition of Gordon Hayward and release of Nicolas Batum, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer examines the salary cap impact of the two transactions. As Bonnell writes, despite the significant cap charges for Hayward and Batum, the club could still open up a sizeable chunk of cap room in 2021.

Hawks Sign Onyeka Okongwu, Announce Two-Way Players

The Hawks signed first-round pick Onyeka Okongwu and filled both two-way slots, the team announced on its website.

Forward/center Nathan Knight and guard Skylar Mays will both get two-way deals. We shared news of Knight’s expected signing last week, while the contract with Mays is new. They will be limited to 50 NBA games on their two-way contracts and will play in the G League if that season is held.

Knight played four seasons at William & Mary, averaging 20.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game as a senior. Mays was the starting point guard at LSU for the past four years and was a first-team All-SEC selection after averaging 16.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.2 APG in his senior season.

Okungwu was the sixth overall selection in last week’s draft after an outstanding freshman year at USC. Terms of the signing weren’t announced, but he is eligible to receive up to 120% of the rookie scale, which would be $5,813,640.

Hawks Notes: Okongwu, Trade Offers, Labissiere, QOs

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk never got to see Onyeka Okongwu play in person, but he was convinced the USC center was the right choice with the No. 6 pick, according to Chris Kirschner and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. Atlanta’s scouts were promoting Okongwu during the season and urged Schlenk to watch him, but that fell through when the Pac-12 Tournament was canceled.

Okongwu also didn’t work out for the Hawks because of a stress fracture in his sesamoid bone, which is located underneath his big toe. However, Schlenk knows what his new center can provide without seeing him in action.

“He’s going to be a plus rebounder defensively,” the Atlanta GM said. “He’s going to be a rim protector, and the other thing he does is he moves his feet very, very well in pick-and-roll coverages, and as you guys know, that’s extremely important for big guys to be able to guard in pick-and-rolls. Those are his strengths coming in. He’s got great instincts. Improving defensively is important for our group. The foundation of your defense is your big guy. They’re kind of the quarterback of the defense. They’re on the back line. They see everything. … That’s his strength, and that’s a very valuable strength in the NBA.”

There’s more from Atlanta:

  • The Hawks took a long look at Israeli forward Deni Avdija and Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton, according to Kirschner and Vecenie, but decided Okongwu’s potential was too good to pass up. They also listened to trade-down offers from the Knicks, Wizards and a few teams in the teens, but there were no prospects they especially liked in that range.
  • Atlanta now has four centers on its roster, but the front office won’t be in a hurry to unload any of them, Kirschner and Vecenie add. The Hawks traded for Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon last season. They also have Bruno Fernando, and John Collins plays in the middle sometimes. The addition of Okongwu means there’s no longer room on the roster for Skal Labissiere, who will not receive a qualifying offer. QOs also won’t be coming for DeAndre’ Bembry, Damian Jones and Charlie Brown Jr.
  • The Hawks aren’t worried that Okongwu’s injury will be a long-term issue, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Journal-Constitution. Their medical team was able to evaluate his condition during the pre-draft process in October and will check him again soon to see how much he has healed. “The doctors, they weren’t concerned about a long-term injury at all,” Schlenk said. “So hopefully it’s healed from when the MRI was taken probably about four weeks ago, but it’s really hard to say until we get him here and get our doctors to see him. But there was no concern of a long-term injury with it.”

 

Onyeka Okongwu Dealing With Broken Toe

11:00am: Okongwu’s injury is a broken left big toe, a source tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN. It will require about one to three weeks of additional rest, but isn’t expected to affect his availability for the start of the regular season.

Sources from multiple teams tell ESPN that their doctors have known about the injury for some team and have reviewed medical documentation. They don’t expect it to be a long-term issue and don’t expect Okongwu’s draft stock to be significantly impacted, Givony writes.


8:48am: USC big man Onyeka Okongwu, viewed as a probable top-10 pick in this year’s draft, has an injured foot, according to former Suns GM Ryan McDonough (Twitter link). Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, confirming the report, tweets that the injury could cost Okongwu training camp and possibly the start of the regular season.

McDonough says teams are “scrambling” to get full medical info on Okongwu to determine the severity of the foot injury. Bonnell, meanwhile, suggests that the issue may impact where the young center is selected in tonight’s draft, though probably not by a lot.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst had previously alluded to a medical-related issue affecting Okongwu.

It will be interesting to see how substantially Okongwu’s stock is impacted by news of his foot issue. That sort of injury is worrisome for a big man and is probably a major reason why a report this morning suggested Okongwu is no longer seriously receiving consideration for the Hornets at No. 3.

However, if the injury isn’t considered serious, it could be an opportunity for a team that likes Okongwu to select him at a spot where he wasn’t otherwise expected to be available. The Wizards, for instance, have been frequently linked to Okongwu at No. 9, and this news seems likely to increase the odds he’ll still be on the board at that spot.

Draft Rumors: Hayes, Nesmith, Anthony, Okongwu, Hawks, More

In his latest mock draft in advance of tonight’s event, Jeremy Woo of SI.com shares several interesting tidbits, writing that Killian Hayes is “strongly in play” for the Pistons at No. 7 and suggesting there’s some concern about Aaron Nesmith‘s injured foot, which ended his season at Vanderbilt.

Woo also hears from sources that Cole Anthony has interviewed in recent days with multiple teams outside the top 20 and that the Celtics and Spurs would be among the teams with interest in Onyeka Okongwu if he slides out of the top 10 due to his foot injury.

Woo reports that there’s “significant traction” for Devin Vassell within the Knicks‘ front office, making him a viable option at No. 8 if the team stays put. Finally, Woo says the Celtics have shown interest in Duke big man Vernon Carey Jr., who could be an option at No. 26 or No. 30.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • The Hawks are currently planning to keep and use the No. 6 pick tonight, a source tells Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). That could change if Atlanta gets a surprise last-minute offer, Wasserman cautions, but for the time being, it sounds as if the team is comfortable staying put.
  • We still don’t know with any certainty which player the Timberwolves will select with the No. 1 pick tonight, but Georgia guard Anthony Edwards has emerged as the betting favorite at Las Vegas sportsbooks, writes David Purdum of ESPN.com.
  • While USC big man Onyeka Okongwu may not be ready for training camp due to a foot injury, it sounds like the issue shouldn’t impact his draft stock too significantly. One source who spoke to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link) predicted that Okongwu will still likely come off the board before the Wizards pick at No. 9.

Draft Rumors: Hornets, Ball, Wolves, Cavs, Achiuwa, Hawks, More

Assuming the Hornets keep the No. 3 pick in tonight’s NBA draft, team owner Michael Jordan has given the “stamp of approval” to select LaMelo Ball, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. James Wiseman has long been considered to be atop Charlotte’s wish list, but if he and Anthony Edwards are the first two players off the board, Ball may be the top prospect available.

O’Connor suggests that “at this stage” it seems as if USC big man Onyeka Okongwu is no longer in serious consideration for the Hornets at No. 3. It’s worth noting that ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast that there has been some medical-related chatter on Okongwu recently that could affect his stock, though Windhorst cautioned that may just be a smokescreen from a team with interest in him.

Here are several more rumors worth passing along, as we prepare for what should be an eventful 2020 NBA draft:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) is hearing that the Timberwolves continue to operate as if they don’t want to pick at No. 1. Sources tell Wasserman that Minnesota is even signaling it could make a pick for another team – such as Wiseman for the Hornets – and try to figure out a deal later.
  • According to O’Connor, the Cavaliers are interested in potentially trading down a little and still selecting Dayton forward Obi Toppin, who has been linked to them frequently as a potential target at No. 5. O’Connor suggests the Pistons (No. 7) could be one potential trade partner for the Cavs if Detroit wants to move up to secure Florida State’s Patrick Williams.
  • Sources tell both O’Connor and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic that the Wizards (No. 9) are high on Memphis power forward Precious Achiuwa. Krawczynski says the Suns (No. 10) are “fond of” Achiuwa as well.
  • Conversations between the Hawks and Timberwolves about a swap that would send the No. 6 pick to Minnesota for No. 17 and Jarrett Culver have stalled, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta would be open to the idea, but the Wolves have become hesitant about moving Culver unless it helps them land a star, according to Kirschner and Krawczynski. Kirschner adds that talks between the Hawks and teams looking to move up in the draft have “cooled down” as of late.
  • While the Celtics have explored packaging their three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) to move into the mid-lottery, teams in that range have indicated they’d like to stay there, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

O’Connor’s Latest: Hornets, Knicks, Toppin, Spurs, Harris, More

League sources have long said that the Hornets‘ preference on draft night would be adding a big man, either by trading up for James Wiseman or by picking Onyeka Okongwu, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. However, according to O’Connor, there are some people in Charlotte’s front office who like the idea of drafting LaMelo Ball if he’s available.

As O’Connor notes, one potential avenue for the Hornets if Wiseman is off the board at No. 3 and Ball is available would be to trade down with a team like Chicago or Detroit that might be eyeing Ball. In that scenario, Charlotte could theoretically pick up an extra asset or two while still having the opportunity to select Okongwu.

Here are a few more of the most interesting tidbits from O’Connor’s latest mock draft at The Ringer:

  • O’Connor’s sources believe the Knicks will select Obi Toppin if he’s available at No. 8. If the Dayton forward makes it past Cleveland at No. 5, there’s a chance he’ll still be on the board for New York.
  • The Spurs “love” Villanova forward Saddiq Bey, according to O’Connor, who says San Antonio is also one of multiple teams with interest in trading up for Florida State’s Patrick Williams.
  • “Everyone around the league” thinks that the Thunder will look to trade up to land seven-footer Aleksej Pokusevski, who has been frequently linked to Oklahoma City in large part due to his agent’s connection to general manager Sam Presti. Agent Jason Ranne used to work in the Thunder’s front office.
  • Within his note on the Nets‘ potential pick at No. 19, O’Connor cites sources who say that Brooklyn is likely to re-sign free agent sharpshooter Joe Harris.
  • The Nuggets are thought to be targeting a frontcourt player at No. 22, league sources tell O’Connor, who identifies Isaiah Stewart and Zeke Nnaji as a couple possibilities.

Hawks Rumors: Holiday, No. 6 Pick, Haliburton, Okongwu

Following up on Wednesday’s report linking the Hawks to Jrue Holiday, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explains in further detail why he’s hearing that Atlanta currently isn’t a probable landing spot for the Pelicans guard.

According to Kirschner, there’s a belief that if Atlanta pursued Holiday, it would take the No. 6 overall pick and two young players. The Hawks aren’t interested in giving up that substantial a package for a 30-year-old on an expiring contract, even if Holiday would be a great fit next to Trae Young in the backcourt.

The Hawks could still be involved in a three-team deal where Holiday goes to another team, and could even emerge as a viable landing spot for Holiday if the Pelicans’ asking price drops, says Kirschner. However, a trade that sees the club giving up two young players isn’t being considered.

Here’s more on the Hawks from Kirschner:

  • Kirschner also addressed trade rumors related to the No. 6 pick, writing that if the draft were today, Atlanta would be prepared to make that selection rather than moving it. He also clarifies that the rumored Timberwolves proposal for the No. 6 pick – which includes the No. 17 pick and Jarrett Culver – is an offer Minnesota has put on the table for multiple teams.
  • Deni Avdija, Tyrese Haliburton, and Onyeka Okongwu look like the Hawks’ most likely targets if the club remains at No. 6, though Avdija may be off the board by then, Kirschner writes. If Haliburton and Okongwu are available, Kirschner thinks Atlanta would probably lean toward the former Iowa State guard.
  • Kirschner wonders if the Spurs, who own the No. 11 pick, might be a potential trade partner for Atlanta. Kirschner believes the Hawks would be interested in moving down if they could acquire a young player like Derrick White or Dejounte Murray, though I’m skeptical San Antonio would give up either player to move up five spots. Because Atlanta would prefer a young player whose timeline matches up with the current core, veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are probably unlikely targets, Kirschner adds.

Draft Updates: Ball, Nesmith, Green, Nnaji, Hornets, More

With one week to go until the 2020 NBA draft, we’re continuing to get conflicting information on LaMelo Ball‘s outlook. Earlier this week, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony said that most front office are operating under the assumption that Ball will be the No. 1 pick. Today, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes that league sources have begun speculating that the Timberwolves have decided to draft Ball, assuming they keep the top selection.

However, there’s still plenty of chatter pointing in another direction. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this week during an appearance on The Jump (video link) that many of the executives he has spoken to think Ball could slide a little on draft night. Jeremy Woo of SI.com has heard similar whispers, writing that there’s an increasing belief that Ball could fall into the 4-6 range of the draft.

As we wait to see which reports pan out, here are several more draft-related updates:

  • Vanderbilt sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith told reporters today that he has worked out for the Pelicans, Suns, Spurs, Heat, and Pistons so far, and has a workout lined up with the Celtics (Twitter link via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington). Nesmith is considered likely to be drafted in the back half of the lottery.
  • Arizona guard Josh Green has worked out for the Nuggets, while his college teammate Zeke Nnaji has had workouts for the Nuggets, Clippers, and Jazz, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Green’s workout with Utah and Nnaji’s workout with Miami – both mentioned by Rankin – were previously reported.
  • Count K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link) among those hearing more and more talk around the NBA linking the Hornets to Onyeka Okongwu. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer previously reported that Charlotte is eyeing Okongwu, but ESPN said the team hasn’t seriously considered picking any prospects outside the top tier of Ball, James Wiseman, and Anthony Edwards.
  • ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, and Kevin Pelton share their mock draft detailing which player each team in the first round should pick.

Draft Rumors: Edwards, Haliburton, Pistons, Cavs, Suns, More

While John Hollinger of The Athletic believes Anthony Edwards will still come off the board very early in next Wednesday’s draft, he notes within his new mock draft that many teams don’t seem especially enthusiastic about the former Georgia guard. Those teams believe in Edwards’ talent, but a “blah” Pro Day workout and some “iffy” background reports have made them nervous, according to Hollinger.

Hollinger has also heard that LaMelo Ball and Nico Mannion are among the players who haven’t necessarily had great interviews with teams, though it remains to be seen how much it’ll affect where they’re drafted.

On the other end of the spectrum, everybody seems to be high on Tyrese Haliburton, according to Hollinger, who says the former Iowa State guard is benefiting from 1-on-0 workouts and the background on him is “impeccable.” Desmond Bane and Isaiah Stewart are among the other prospects who have received some positive buzz for the impressions they’ve made in interviews with teams, writes Hollinger.

Hollinger’s mock draft for The Athletic is full of interesting tidbits and is worth checking out in full if you’re a subscriber. Here are a few more highlights:

  • Hollinger confirms that the Pistons are very interested in Florida State’s Patrick Williams – as has been previously reported – and suggests there are whispers that Detroit has made Williams a promise.
  • Obi Toppin and Deni Avdija are the only two names Hollinger has heard regularly connected to the Cavaliers at No. 5.
  • Onyeka Okongwu looks like a lock to go to Washington at No. 9 if he makes it that far, according to Hollinger, who says the question isn’t whether the Wizards will take Okongwu — it’s who they’ll take if he’s not available.
  • “The word is pretty strong” that the Suns are eyeing a backcourt piece with the No. 10 pick, prompting Hollinger to point out that the team may be looking to address the power forward spot in free agency.
  • There are rumors that Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski received a promise from a team in the first round. As Hollinger observes, Pokusevski’s agent Jason Ranne used to work for the Thunder, who have been willing to make draft promises in the past. However, even if Oklahoma City did make Pokusevski a promise, Hollinger is skeptical that he’ll still be on the board at No. 25.