The Atlanta Hawks enter training camp this 2023-24 season with more question marks than answers. Ideally, the Hawks should be right up there with the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat in terms of being true title contenders in the Eastern Conference, especially after they made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021 led by Trae Young. But since then, the Hawks have failed to capitalize on that rather surprising postseason run and have taken a couple of steps back instead of progressing forward.
Atlanta has shaken things up a bit recently. They hired Quin Snyder as their head coach earlier this year in February after firing Nate McMillan. After years of trade rumors, they finally dealt forward John Collins this offseason in what was more seen as a salary dump on the part of the Hawks.
And Atlanta isn't done yet. The Hawks are still looking to make more moves to improve their chances of competing. In particular, the Hawks are aggressively pursuing Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam in a trade.
As training camp approaches soon, Quin Snyder may be willing to shake things up internally and make changes within the starting lineup. With that said, here is one Hawks player who could potentially lose his starting job in training camp.
The player who could lose his spot in the starting lineup with the Hawks during training camp is Clint Capela. Capela has dealt with his fair share of injuries, which has limited and hampered his athleticism over the last couple of seasons. He may still be a nightly double-double threat, but Capela's numbers have gone down over the past few years.
Capela may still be one of the better rim protectors in the NBA, but his aging body has made him less nimble against perimeter guys. He is no longer as effective as he was a couple of years ago, where he used to wreck havoc inside the paint, while also being able to come out and guard smaller players from the outside.
Atlanta is actually already gauging the trade market in what they could get for Capela. But if Atlanta is unable to trade its current first-unit center, Snyder might just consider elevating youngster Onyeka Okongwu to the starting five.
Okongwu may bring the jolt of youthful energy that this Hawks starting lineup needs. Perhaps Quin Snyder could look to give the 22-year-old a shot, especially with what the youngster showed with energetic defense and hustle plays throughout the course of the 2022-23 season.
In an exclusive with ClutchPoints, Okongwu sounded like he is primed to become the star the Hawks hoped he would turn into when they took him 6th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.
After two injury-riddled campaigns, the former USC standout finally had a healthy 80-game season for Atlanta in 2022-23. The 6-foot-8 big man averaged career-highs in points (9.9), rebounds (7.2), and blocks (1.3). His per 36 numbers (15.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG, and 2.1 BPG) have also always looked impressive, which suggests he has what it takes to produce if given the opportunity.
One of Okongwu's biggest strengths is his play on the defensive side of the floor. The Los Angeles, California native is the perfect big man in today's NBA with his ability to guard one-through-five. Okongwu has the size, length, and the strength to deal with elite bigs like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. But he is also able to step out to the perimeter to cover switches and properly deal with pick-and-roll.
Offensively, Okongwu has also expanded his game little by little every season. He hasn't become a stretch big by any means. But he has become more capable of stepping out and shooting jumpers in the mid-range and even in the perimeter.
Over 80 percent of Okongwu's shots still come within 10 feet of the basket, but he did shoot 10 percent of his shots from 16 feet and beyond. That isn't much, but progress is still progress. Perhaps this is another dimension of Okongwu's game that could make him a viable starting candidate over Capela as soon as this upcoming season.