The Atlanta Hawks cleared up some of the log-jam in their frontcourt this offseason when they traded John Collins to the Utah Jazz. Collins' name had been in trade rumors for a while now and Hawks brass must have felt like it was time to pull the trigger. What the trade did was open up playing time and opportunities for some of the other players on the roster. Clint Capela is firmly penciled in as the Hawks starting center, but one player who could stand to gain from Collins' departure is Onyeka Okongwu.

The Hawks selected Onyeka Okongwu with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Each season since he's been drafted, Okongwu's playing time and production have steadily increased. He's primarily been coming off the bench for the Hawks over the last three seasons and has consistently shown why he should be a part of the team's frontcourt of the future.

Now entering his fourth year in the NBA, Okongwu knows this is going to be a crucial one.

“Overall I've just been trying to get better and add little things over the years,” Okongwu told ClutchPoints. “I think media, fans, the team, from that standpoint and perspective I think they can all tell I've been getting better. This year I'm excited to add more to my game like handling and shooting more.”

One of the biggest areas where Okongwu has made his mark in the NBA so far has been on the defensive end. Over the past two seasons, he's averaged 1.3 blocked shots per game. He's only 6 feet 8 inches tall but has developed into one of the better shot blockers in the league. He's mobile and can cover a lot of ground defensively.

It's not just his shot blocking that's made him so valuable, however. He's got the versatility to guard multiple positions and players with different skill sets. The Hawks have used him to guard Joel Embiid in the paint and they've used him to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo on the wing.

“Defense is all about effort and intensity,” Okongwu said. “I'm pretty physical, I have size, I just want to stay solid and force players to make tough shots.”

Since Onyeka Okongwu was a rookie, defense has been his calling card. But it's the other end of the court where he made major strides last season. Going back to his college days at USC, Okongwu has always been able to score the ball. During his lone season as a Trojan, he averaged 16.2 points per game. He's active around the basket and has a nice touch at the rim as a finisher.

This past season, Okongwu averaged a career-best 9.9 points per game while shooting 63.8 percent from the field. But what stood out the most was his increased willingness to step out and shoot whether it was from the midrange or from the three-point line. After not hitting a single three-point shot his first two seasons with the Hawks, Onyeka Okongwu shot 30.8 percent from three-point range during the 2022-23 season.

Being able to space the floor offensively and become a consistent three-point threat will only make him that much more important in the Hawks lineup.

“My three-point shooting is coming along really well,” Okongwu said. “It's all about confidence. The more three-point shots you get up, the more that you're going to make.”

Part of the reason for Okongwu's strong season last year was the addition of new head coach Quin Snyder. After the All-Star break, the Hawks parted ways with Nate McMillan and hired Snyder almost immediately after. It was under Snyder that Okongwu began to get up more three-point shots.

Since he's been a head coach in the NBA, Snyder's teams have been known for their offense. With a full season under Snyder, it's not a stretch to envision Okongwu's offense reaching another level this upcoming year.

“I like Quin,” Okongwu said. “He's got a high IQ, he pays attention to detail, he's fun to play for and I'm excited to play a whole season for him for real.”

This is going to be a big season for Okongwu. He's in the fourth year of his rookie contract and is eligible for a contract extension. If he isn't able to reach an agreement on an extension with the Hawks, he will potentially hit restricted free agency next summer should he decline the qualifying offer.

Not only will it be a big season for him individually, it's going to be a crucial season for the team as a whole. The Hawks showed a lot of promise after their 2021 Eastern Conference Finals run. Since then, they have been able to replicate that type of postseason success having suffered two consecutive first round exits.

But Okongwu isn't too concerned with the individual stuff. For him, what he wants out of next season is quite simple.

“I just want to win,” Okongwu said. “I want to win and see how far we can go in the playoffs.”