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Josh Okogie was instrumental in closing out the Nuggets

The defensive ace had his best scoring night in two weeks and made crucial plays down the stretch to help the Suns improve to 5-0 in games Kevin Durant plays

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive production from Phoenix Suns fifth starter Josh Okogie has admittedly plummeted as of late, but it’s something we saw coming and the team is prepared for to handle.

Over a recent eight-game stretch from Feb. 9 to Mar. 3, which includes seven starts, Okogie averaged 17.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists (1.3 turnovers) on 46.9% on 6.1 three-point attempts per game.

Over the last 13 games since then, most of those numbers have fallen down to 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 31.5% on 4.2 threes per game. Okogie’s playmaking, however, is starting to become a real weapon with 2.2 assists to 0.8 turnovers per game over that stretch, and that’s even considering zero assists to one turnover over the last two games.

This 14-point, 5-rebound, 1-steal game in a 100-93 win over the Denver Nuggets marks consecutive double-digit scoring nights for just the second time in March as we turn to April. It was also his best shooting night of the month from both the field (5-8, 62.5%) and three (4-5, 80.0%).

But like most nights, Okogie’s defense and hustle stood out more than his offense, especially down the stretch. He had two offensive rebounds in the last few minutes, including one that allowed him to dribble out the remaining time.

We can make all the jokes we want about how Okogie is what Mikal Bridges was for the Suns (before he dropped three 40-point performances with the Nets after not even a 35-point game to speak of as a Sun); frankly I can get behind it a little bit. Okogie in some ways has taken the mantle straight from Bridges as my favorite Sun to watch.

Part of that is putting his body on the line for the cause. Despite logging the sixth-most minutes of any Sun this season, Okogie has taken more fouls (not “committed” just to be clear) than any Sun not named Devin Booker. Okogie’s 162 fouls taken are far behind Booker’s 268, but they’re also far ahead the next closest role player still in the rotation, Bismack Biyombo at 78.

Unfortunately, this will likely be the only season we get from Okogie in a Suns uniform. Last summer, he signed a 1-year minimum deal, and with how his shooting has developed, he’s set up for a big payday when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Suns have four guys on their roster making a boatload of money. Between Durant, Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Chris Paul, the Suns owe roughly $135 million across just four players (though only $15.8 million out of $30.8 million is guaranteed for Paul), leaving them with *checks notes* just about zero cap room.

Unless they’re able to pull off some cap shenanigans, like convincing Okogie to sign for the taxpayer mid-level exception (last season, the TP-MLE was worth up to 3-years/$6.479 million) when there will almost certainly be more lucrative offers out there for him, I don’t see much optimism in him being here long-term.

That’s why I find it especially important as the regular season winds down and we get into playoff basketball to appreciate what Okogie brings for this organization on a night-in and night-out basis. He’s a perfect match as a fifth starter with the four big money cornerstones, and it’ll be hard to replace that if he does leave.

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