Josh Okogie Took A Big Step Forward In His 2nd Season With Timberwolves

SG | 6’4, 213 lbs2019-20 season: 62 games, 28 starts, 25.0 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 42.7 FG%, 26.6 3P%, 79.6 FT%

Josh Okogie showed improvement in his points per game, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage in his second season in the NBA, but he did so much more than provide sophomore growth for the 2019-20 Timberwolves.

Okogie entered his second NBA season with promising potential but a fluctuating role. His “nonstop” energy and defensive aptitude earned him a starting role for the Wolves’ final 45 games of the 2018-19 season. However, he was demoted to the bench for all but three of the Wolves’ first 20 games of the 2019-20 season after Ryan Saunders and his coaching staff decided to role with Treveon Graham in the starting lineup instead.

He hasn’t been in the league for long, but it’s evident that Okogie isn’t a player who’s going to pay too much thought to whether or not he’s serving as a starter or a reserve. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing as he navigated the adjustment of his role.

Okogie shot 37.9% from the field and 26.7% from 3-point range through the month of December. With few outside shooting options on the roster, Okogie was tasked with providing an outside presence for the Wolves’ offense in an attempt to space the floor for Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Opposing defenses deemed Okogie a minor risk from behind the arc and began disregarding him. There was a 10-game stretch from Dec. 20 to Jan. 7 in which Okogie shot 2-for-22 from 3, and his confidence seemed to evaporate on both ends of the court. It became undeniably clear that the Wolves were in desperate need of roster reconstruction when they were relying on Okogie and Graham to provide outside shooting.

The Wolves improved their outside shooting arsenal by bringing in D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez before the Feb. 6 trade deadline but refused to part ways with Okogie who’s now the second-longest tenured player on the Wolves’ roster despite only being 22 years old.

At the start of the 2019-20 season, Saunders shared his hope that Okogie would continue to provide the Wolves with relentless energy while limiting how much he “gambled” on defensive plays as the team attempted to change their defensive principles. Okogie delivered and has since become a staple of the Wolves’ transforming defense.

Okogie forced a team-high 434 mid-range shots from opponents and allowed just 46.8% shooting from that zone. He held opponents to 35% shooting from above the break 3s despite defending a team-high 801 (16 more than Jarrett Culver’s 785 defended above-the-break 3s) and being assigned with defending most team’s best players.

The trade deadline moves alleviated Okogie of some of his prior offensive responsibilities after the trade deadline. He averaged 27 minutes, 9.0 points and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 50% from the field, 35.5% from 3 and 84.6% from the free-throw line in the Wolves’ final 14 games of the season.

Okogie flourished when he once again became the slasher and playmaker who grabbed offensive rebounds and got to the free-throw line and was no longer planted out on the perimeter.

Improved outside shooting should be at the top of Okogie’s priority list this offseason, but based on his final stretch of the 2019-20 season, there’s reason to believe he’s on the right track of becoming the well-rounded player he’s shown flashes of.