Timberwolves

Josh Okogie Should Not Be Playing Power Forward

Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Each year before the season, the media covering the Minnesota Timberwolves pushes something that will never happen. Last year, it was Andrew Wiggins ruining the point — sorry, *running* the point. The year before that, it was that we could still fix things with Jimmy Butler. Remember in 2017 when we thought Tom Thibodeau had learned his lesson from overplaying his players?

This year, that something is Josh Okogie starting at power forward (or is it Jarrett Culver going Super Saiyan Third Grade?).

He has a 7’0” wingspan! He can jump out the gym! I hate to break it to us, but Wiggins had a 7’0” wingspan, he is three inches taller and has a vertical of 44 inches (two inches higher than Okogie). He has played a grand total of 5% of his minutes (800) at the position throughout his career. The reason for this isn’t related to length — he has more of it than our boy J.O. — it’s weight, and unfortunately for Okogie, no one yet is talking about his massive gains as mentioned earlier with Culver.

Weight is arguably the most important measurable in forward positioning. It’s why Kevin Durant, entering the draft at 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan, played 94% of his minutes at shooting guard during his rookie year. He weighed 215 pounds. Once he got to the Golden State Warriors, he gained 25 pounds and began playing most of his minutes at power forward. Well, Josh, here’s your come to KGsus moment. Your Basketball Reference page lists you at 213!

In spite of all of the preseason hype and the calamities of the power forward position last year, Okogie has played a whopping zero minutes at power forward in his NBA career. I filed adoption papers for Joshua in 2018. I love him with my whole heart, but the Wolves should want him guarding primary ball handlers as often as possible. Would you have prime Darrelle Revis line up at right end? Play Mookie Betts at first?

Maybe Josh doesn’t fit into the Wolves starting lineup, and maybe that’s OK. He may have led the NBA in plus/minus through the first two games last year (hahaha, crying), but it’s hard to imagine, given current roster construction and offensive struggles, building a championship contender around Karl-Anthony Towns with Josh Okogie locked in as a starter every night. Given that the Wolves seem to have Ricky Rubio/D’Angelo Russell penciled in at the 1 and 2 and Towns engraved in diamond at the 5, who fits best at the other positions on this roster?

I began by calculating the average size of an NBA wing (a table that you can see here). I made three tables, one for each possible wing position: SG, SF and PF. Historically, (is the Gregg Popovich era historical now?), the players in the wings were your shooting guard and small forward, but at this point it’s tough to find a power forward who doesn’t line up at the corner 3 at least part of the time.

Rather than calculate the size of every single player and weigh each size measurement based on the amount of minutes played at each position, I decided to limit the parameters to one player per team at each position. I selected the player by finding which player played the most minutes at their position, including playoffs. This made for a couple of strange results.

For example, Dorian Finney-Smith played the most minutes overall and started 74 games for the Dallas Mavericks, including the playoffs, but he split his minutes evenly amongst SF and PF, and therefore Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis were the Mavs’ representatives because they played the most minutes at those positions, respectively. Tobias Harris happens to represent the Philadelphia 76ers as both a SF and PF, since Al Horford was also Philly’s backup center. These anomalies are okay with me because I am trying to find out who would be the most likely to be guarded on each team. If you want the comprehensive statistics with the size of each team’s position (SG, SF, PF) in the form of a weighted average size, then you are a crazy person (and also me, but I have to get this article out and Chelanga refuses to help anymore).

At first glance, you may be wondering why I have chosen to mix the metric system (height/wingspan) with the imperial system (weight/vertical). The reason for this is because I’m using all of this to create a cumulative statistic for overall bigness. I’m calling it “Bigness Measurement” (BM). With the range of pounds (~200) being in a similar range as centimeter height/wingspan, all three statistics carry a fairly similar weight. I decided to use inches for players’ vertical because I wanted to give the vertical statistic a much smaller weight in the formula, in this case 2.54 times smaller. When you think about the amount of time and force it takes to jump as high as you can versus raise your hand, this makes sense. So the Bigness Measurement is simply: height(cm) + weight(lbs) + wingspan(cm) + vertical(in). I averaged each of these columns and came up with an overall Actual Bigness Measurement for each position.

While going through data entry, not every player presented their wingspan or their vertical, so I inferred the missing data to create “Inferred Bigness Measurements.” If you want to know this process, email me at [email protected] lol

The results are fairly surprising (from the Power Forward tab):

According to my algorithm, which is as tight as a Rubio needle is threaded, Anthony Edwards is the player most well-suited to play power forward, out of the most likely candidates. As Chelanga mentioned in his case for Anthony Edwards as a SF, Jonathan Tjarks reported that Edwards grew an inch in either direction, making him 6’6” with a 6’10” wingspan. Most importantly, my man is THICC: 230 pounds!! One of our writers still thinks he’s a shooting guard, but he is the heaviest SG in my table, and he has the biggest BM of all SG by a significant margin. In fact, Ant Man is heavier than any small forward on my list other than Jae Crowder and OG Anunoby. He has a bigger BM than every SF except for Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby and Harrison Barnes, who played 17%, 36% and 57% of their minutes at power forward or center, respectively. Edwards has elite explosiveness, but do we want him chasing Seth Curry, Duncan Robinson, JJ Redick, etc. all around the court over off-ball screens for the whole game? Personally, I take Okogie for that, which brings me to him.

Unless Josh Okogie has gained 20 pounds over the offseason (quarantine bod am I right ppl?), he’s gotta stick this one out at SG and SF. He’s the second smallest of all the power forward prospects with a tiny BM of 661. Surprisingly, Jake Layman measured as the smallest! I do believe he weighs more than his Basketball-Reference page indicates (209 pounds). Anyway, Okogie’s exceptional agility and chaotic aggression are best suited on the perimeter. I think he would be a fantastic start at small forward, covering the more dangerous option between himself and Russell at the 2. Beasley, then, can be a dynamic scorer off the bench once he is unsuspended, where I think he could develop into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

Edwards may be the most suited to play PF according to my goofy system, but even I can admit that he’s not ready at all to be a slightly undersized 4. He never played PF in college, and since this is his first year, I think I actually like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to start. I know this is a wild card, but Treveon Graham got the opening night start last year, so hear me out. RHJ is a stellar defender. He can protect the rim and switch onto the perimeter when necessary, and with KAT, Rubio and D’Lo on the court, the Wolves have the spacing and efficiency to include a couple of minus offensive players.

Sure, Hollis-Jefferson has been working on a 3-point shot that has seemed to only get less effective since he entered the league, making 3-of-23 shots last year, but he’s only 25, and he shoots 74% from the line. Three of 23 is a streak, not a stat.

If not Hollis-Jefferson, then it’s gotta be Juancho Hernangomez. Starting Hernangomez is the most fun realistic option here. It gives us so much space for activities, but I see a bunch of bunk beds collapsing in the fourth quarter with our crunchtime defense. The Wolves can always start Hernangomez and finish with RHJ. Yes, this is best.

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. D’Angelo Russell
  3. Josh Okogie
  4. Juancho Hernangomez
  5. Karl-Anthony Towns

There’s my final answer. Edwards can develop enough to start at SF by the end of the season, and I hope they finish games with Hollis-Jefferson. Fingers crossed that all of these power forward candidates put some time in the weight room over the offseason. Otherwise, Game 3 in Los Angeles is going to be a massacre. It might be regardless. Three years from now, Anthony Edwards will be Charles Barkley (generously listed at 6’6”, 252 pounds with a 6’10” wingspan), pounding the boards at power forward for the Seattle Timberwolves, but for now, power forward is going to be a group effort.

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