What the Minnesota Timberwolves can expect from Josh Okogie

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 01: Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 01: Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in desperate need of talent to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns. Could Josh Okogie be the team’s difference-maker in 2019-20?

After a relatively unexciting offseason from a player acquisition perspective, growth will have to come from within for the 2019-20 Minnesota Timberwolves.

One player who could take that next step and immediately improve the team’s future is second-year shooting guard Josh Okogie.

Okogie has quickly become a fan-favorite thanks to his high energy and motor. He has the raw ability to create jaw-dropping dunks and momentum-changing blocks, leaving the Target Center crowd in awe.

Okogie has already justified his nickname (and part of his Twitter handle) of “Non-Stop” and his energy and work ethic suggest that his best days should be ahead of him.

While Okogie’s high motor has won over much of the fanbase, it is also a characteristic that caused some problems during his rookie campaign. The 20-year-old from Georgia Tech often played out of control, resulting in careless turnovers and poor shot attempts.

Okogie was truly too fast for his own two feet at times, falling to the floor seemingly more often than any player at the professional level. It’s a very exciting style of play but can certainly be a hindrance.

Fortunately for Minnesota, the game seems to have slowed down for Josh Okogie as he enters his second season in the league. At Summer League in Las Vegas, Josh Okogie showcased a greater understanding of the game by playing within himself while also bringing constant energy to the team. This controlled energy helped the Timberwolves win their opening four games before Okogie suffered a leg contusion injury against Dallas.

Okogie finished his summer campaign with an astounding plus-minus of +37 in four games. Now the most important thing for the young guard from Georgia Tech is transitioning his play in Summer League to the upcoming regular season while also improving upon his weaknesses.

The biggest mystery surrounding Josh Okogie is his ceiling at the professional level. Flashes of his enormous potential were evident during his rookie season but his weaknesses, namely shooting, were notable.

One obvious surface-level NBA player comparison for Josh Okogie is Andre Roberson of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Like Okogie, Roberson can be a detriment on the offensive end and has struggled shooting the ball throughout his career. However his energy and defensive capabilities prove to be vital to the Thunder’s success as a whole. Roberson finished the 2017-18 season with a plus-minus of +4.8 per game, tied with Russell Westbrook for best on the Thunder. He then ruptured his patellar tendon in January of 2018, keeping him out through the 2018-19 season and contributing to the deconstruction of the Thunder’s roster this offseason.

Okogie has shown flashes early in his career of being that type of defensive catalyst who can push a team to the next level on that end of the floor. There is also reason to believe that Okogie is already better on the offensive end than Roberson due to his ability to use his athleticism and quickness to attack the basket.

The real question will be whether his jumpshot can become an asset moving forward as opposed to the numbers he has shown thus far.

Okogie continued to struggle shooting during the summer league, finishing the tournament at only 30% from the field. Similarly he shot just 38.6% last season and a disappointing 27.9% from beyond the arc. Okogie is attempting to make a name for himself as a 3 and D specialist but it is clear that he has a long way to go before he is recognized as such.

Okogie will likely never be a knockdown shooter but Minnesota should focus on turning him into an efficient scorer. Okogie played two years at Georgia Tech, leading the team in scoring with shooting splits of 43 percent from the field and over 38 percent from beyond the arc.

These numbers should be the benchmark for the upcoming 2019-20 season. If Okogie can become a legitimate threat from the three-point line, it opens up the floor for him to use his quickness to get to the rim or use his passing ability to find a player cutting into that created space.

A good example of an elite defensive prospect who was able to improve his offensive game later on is Okogie’s former teammate, Jimmy Butler — or, General Soreness, as Wolves fans know him. Butler’s shooting numbers were comparable to Okogie’s during his first three seasons in the NBA. He then made a huge leap in year four, improving his shooting splits to 46.2 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three. As a result, he went from defensive specialist to his first All-Star appearance.

The Jimmy Butler career arc should be viewed as the ideal scenario moving forward for Josh Okogie. Right now, his ceiling seems to be an Andre Roberson type of player who can make a significant impact on the defensive end of the floor. Timberwolves fans should expect continued improvement on that end as the game continues to slow down for him and he becomes more comfortable with the defensive schemes put in place by head coach Ryan Saunders.

The game changer, however, would be if Okogie can show signs of improvement as an efficient scorer and threat from deep. While he is not likely to become an All-Star llike Butler, that type of development would drastically change Okogie’s ceiling and instantly improve the team’s future outlook.

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Hopefully, the nickname Non-Stop can be applied not only to the energy Okogie brings but also to his improvement this season.