The Hawks have a pair of centers that few can rival. Clint Capela is constantly among the most underappreciated bigs in the league, and Onyeka Okongwu would start in a lot of cities not named Atlanta.
I’ve advocated for the club to move Capela to recoup draft capital, gearing up for a bigger trade, but to also free up minutes for OO. It might make the bench worse immediately, but long term, I think it’s the right play because the youngster’s ceiling is much higher than the veteran’s, particularly on the offensive end.
Clint Capela’s value revolves entirely on Trae Young in the pick-and-roll, and while Okongwu isn’t some point center, his offensive skill set is far superior to his counterpart.
His touch around the rim is already better than Capela’s, as well as his post moves. Moreover, OO returned this past season with a jump shot, which should only improve as he gets more comfortable. He wasn’t consistently taking three’s but he made the ones he took and developed a reliable jumper from the elbow in just one offseason.
However, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone because he’s apparently an extremely quick learner. On an episode of Trae Young’s From The Point podcast, Lonzo Ball shared a story about his former high school teammate.
“Honestly, when he came, he wasn’t even good at it,” Ball said of Okongw. “He just started playing. You could tell. He was super clumsy. He was our third-string center, actually, the year we went undefeated. … O was just the last one up.”
However, Ball noted how rapidly his Chino Hills teammate improved.
“I never seen someone get that good that fast, bro,” Ball continued. “He went from not being able to do layups and stuff to like really just dunking s***, just catching it, hitting 15-footers. And then, yeah, he panned out being No. 6 overall so. O is like my little brother, man. I’m so proud of him.”
The eldest Ball brother explained further how critical Onyeka Okongwu and LaMelo were to Chino Hills’ state title.
Hawks fans should be smiling ear to ear when they hear this. OO is a quick learner but just needs the opportunity. There’s still the off-chance Atlanta moves Clint Capela, paving the way for Okongwu to get major minutes.
Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire