We’re nearing the end of your favorite preseason outlook series for the Phoenix Suns, the Suns Player Preview! On this episode we are previewing a player who arrived in Phoenix a season ago with numerous question marks and by the end of the year was in the starting lineup. He rocked a mask, he played big despite being small, he is...
Guard, 6’4”, 213 pounds, 25-years old
When Okogie came to the Valley from the Minnesota Timberwolves, we weren’t 100% what the Suns were getting. He was known as defensive player with a high motor, but his offensive game left plenty to be desired. In four year in Minny Okogie averaged 6.4 points on 40.3% shooting. It was the 29.5% from beyond on the arc that was a cause for concern.
In his first 18 games, Okogie appeared to be a dud. 1.4 minutes. 7.1% from three. 6.2 minutes played. JO was clearly not one of Monty’s guys and wasn’t getting much of a run. But the effort was there. He was engaged on every play, made it tough on defenders to get to their spots, and in a short amount of time posted a team-best 90 defensive rating.
The infamous injury bug began to infiltrate the Suns lineup in late November and with it came opportunity. Okogie took advantage of that opportunity.
December and January saw Okogie average 17.5 minutes and he began to find his groove on both ends of the floor. He shot 33.3% from deep and posted a 106.6 defensive rating. He came out of his offensive shell in an embarrassing loss to the Boston Celtics. The lone bright spot was his 28 points, 4 three-pointers, and 7 rebounds in 23 off of the bench.
It was his highest scoring output of the season.
Injuries, coupled with the trade for Kevin Durant that left the wing depth for the Suns decimated, led to Okogie starting in 25 of his last 26 regular season games. With the opportunity came more production. He raised his three-point shooting percentage to 33.5% for the season by shooting 37.3% during that timeframe. He was playing 28.9 minutes and contributing on both ends of the floor.
‘Call Me Non Stop’ proved time and again that he had the ability to play bigger than he was. His affinity for rebounding, especially on the offensive boards, placed him amongst players much larger.
Last season's top 10 in Offensive Rebounding Talent— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) July 21, 2023
1. Steven Adams
2. Tari Eason
5. Walker Kessler
6. Nick Richards
9. Jalen Duren
-1000 minute min
-2023 regular season
We were confused when Monty opted to start Torrey Craig against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference First Round. With so much success, which included being part of the 8-0 record when Kevin Durant played during the regular season, it was puzzling. Clearly matchup based, Williams wanted to negate the wing depth of the Clippers.
JO played — and started — in the first five games of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Denver Nuggets, but was largely in effective. He hoisted a total of 16 shots in the series, grabbed 5 total rebounds, and had 1 steal and 1 block in 74 minutes played. The buzzsaw that the Nuggets were took out Phoenix, and Okogie with it.
Okogie, an unrestricted free agent, re-signed with the Suns for two years and $5.7 million. Year two is a player option.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Okogie, as noted above, is a stellar offensive rebounder, plays tenacious defense, and is someone who could quite possibly plug-in as the fifth starter in the Suns lineup. That’s how they have it playing out on NBA2K; Okogie is playing the small forward and Kevin Durant is playing the power forward. His hustle, grit, and dedication on the defensive end is a vital addition to the Suns team.
While he improved on his three-point shooting last season, that still remains a weakness for JO. 47% of his shots come from deep. He shoots 32% on catch-and-shoot jumpers. He was a team-worst 31.5% on corner three-pointers. Both of those are areas and where he might find himself is if he has a part of this starting group. And he’ll need to deliver.
One Key Factor
Mental toughness. Okogie did well in 2022-23 when he was given time with the first team. His season started slow, as did his production, but as the injuries and acquisitions occurred and opportunity presented itself, he flourished.
We are not sure yet as to how Frank Vogel will navigate this roster and if Okogie will automatically be slotted as a starter. If he is, expect defensive production. But don’t expect much on the offensive end. With Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal around him, the shot opportunities will not be plentiful.
If a Vogel is experimenting with his roster, plugging Okogie in and out of the lineup based on recent production or opposing matchups, that is where the mental toughness will have to come in for the player. Instability drives lack of rhythm, lack of rhythm leads to lack of production and engagement. If you could be mentally tough, which the past has shown us that he can, great things might lie ahead for Okogie.
I believe JO will be coming off the bench, and while he was one of my favorite signings this offseason, he might not get the consistent playing time that will equate to statistical success. But it’s not the stats that make Okogie special, it’s the effort. With Vogel at the helm, Josh will thrive in his system and be someone who comes in off the bench and shuts opposing second team units down.
I’m not dropping stats. I’m stating that he’ll have an impact and will once again be a vital cog in the team’s successes.