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Player Preview: Josh Okogie

What to expect from Minnesota’s sophomore

NBA: Minnesota Timebrwolves-Media Day Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After being selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Josh Okogie quickly made himself a fan favorite in the Twin Cities.

All season long, it felt like Okogie was able to make an impact on the game just by outworking the opposition.

Okogie’s dedication to outworking opponents is, by far, the biggest positive takeaway from his rookie campaign. It led to him spending an unusual amount of time for a rookie guarding the best opposing wing threat. I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone of his defensive performance against James Harden, but heck, let’s watch it again anyways.

While he only stands 6’4”, his monstrous 7’ wingspan allows Okogie to bother most wings of any size. He is a nice defensive partner for Robert Covington on the wing, as Covington can take on much larger wing players such as Paul George.

While the effort was remarkable, it didn’t always lead to positive results, which is something the Georgia Tech product understands.

I tend to believe that Okogie will make this happen. It’s a heck of a lot easier to turn down a motor a half-notch than it is to turn one up. By playing more under control, we should (hope to) see fewer fouls and turnovers from the sophomore. For what it’s worth, a rookie fouling too often and turning the ball over too much is pretty standard. Okogie growing in those areas will make a huge difference for Minnesota.

The real question with Josh Okogie, both in the short-term and the long-term, is whether or not he can find a way to be a positive contributor on the offensive end of the floor. Okogie’s shooting splits were pretty ugly (38.6/27.9), but again, that’s not unusual for a rookie. There are obvious mechanical issues with his jumper, but the somewhat respectable free-throw percentage (~73%) would suggest that there’s some better shooting in there, somewhere.

While it’s unlikely he’s ever a knockdown shooter or much of a playmaker at all, there’s still an opportunity for Okogie to make an impact. For one, I’d like to see him involved more often as a cutter. He attacks the rim with such aggression, so finding Okogie as a cutter could maximize his (limited) offensive skill set.

Jake Layman is a notoriously good cutter away from the ball so hopefully, that’s something that the youngster can pick up on from his new teammate.

As far as his fit with the rest of the team goes, Okogie is going to be in a battle for minutes with several other wing players. RoCo will get his minutes, although they likely seem to come at the 4 quite often this season. That leaves a whole lot of minutes up for grabs between Okogie, the aforementioned Layman, as well as Jarrett Culver and of course, Andrew Wiggins.

As long as Okogie can be somewhat passable on the offensive end, he feels like a good bet for 25 or so minutes a game. Beyond that, his shooting — as well as the play of the other wings — will dictate how much he plays.

In a season where Minnesota likely isn’t ready to compete for a playoff spot, I’d love to see what an Okogie/Culver wing pairing looks like as much as possible. There are obvious concerns surrounding the shooting of that combination, but the defensive potential is sky high, something that would help Karl-Anthony Towns immensely on that end of the floor.

This is the question Minnesota will have to answer in the future: how much shooting/spacing are you willing to give up in favor of dynamite wing defense? Culver becoming a reliable shooter (more likely than Okogie) changes this a lot, but for now, it feels like the most prevailing non-Andrew Wiggins related question on the roster.

As is often the case with young players, Josh Okogie provides both excitement and question marks. It’s hard to say whether he’ll eventually be a starting-caliber wing or not, but for now, I’m just excited to see how it all plays out.