Timberwolves

Josh Okogie Is Betting On Himself This Year

Photo Credit: Chuck Cook (USA TODAY Sports)

Adrian Wojnarowski’s Twitter account is bombarding us with news of massive extensions almost daily. Why? It’s time for the best players from the 2018 draft to get paid.

Now, who did the Wolves select in 2018? Jimmy Butler had just led them to the playoffs, netting them the 21st pick. They took Josh Okogie that year, and he quickly became a role player when Tom Thibodeau put him into the rotation. The fact that Thibs put him in the rotation at all was notable, given his reluctance to play rookies. Okogie’s play wasn’t outstanding, but the Wolves got fair value given where he was selected. Namely, he had the potential to be a quality role player for years to come.

His energetic play quickly made him a fan favorite. From his big block on James Harden to his put-back dunks, he immediately endeared himself to the fanbase. However, this plateaued almost immediately after his rookie season.

What Does Have Have To Prove?

Okogie’s upside is as a role player. He’s never going to be a team’s leading scorer, but he also won’t dominate the ball. His 3-point shooting showed no improvement, hovering around 26%, which limited his minutes. He’s become typecast as a defensive specialist who sits at the corner on offense.

Developing into this role isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Every great team has role players who complement the stars by doing the dirty work. They can make anywhere from $6-12 million a year for their services. It would be beneficial for the Wolves after all their chaos, as they benefit from continuity. Okogie’s presence only helps enhance Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards’ play.

Minnesota’s roster continuity should put Okogie in a position to succeed. He knows his role, and he knows what he needs to improve upon.

Shooting from beyond the arc is an obvious one. Okogie must at least become viable from the corners with his shooting. When he shoots the ball outside of the paint, it is usually is from one of the corners. He was in the 65th percentile for attempts, taking 17% of his shots from the corner but only ranked in the 16th percentile on only 29% accuracy from that spot. He is taking high-efficiency shots, but they aren’t falling frequently enough.

His mechanics have looked much more smooth to begin this season, which helps the cause. He has a more fluid motion rather than the set shot hitch from earlier.

Rookie year mechanics

Preseason mechanics

What Would An Okogie Extension Look Like?

David Nwaba and Torrey Craig are similar players and have multi-year deals around $5-6 million per season. Both are defensive specialists who have limited shooting percentages from 3. However, they have made a tangible impact on their teams. Craig with the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns, and Nwaba finally found a home with the Houston Rockets after being a journeyman.

Torrey Craig

David Nwaba

Players who specialize in this role aren’t ever going to earn a blockbuster deal. And given that Nwaba is 28 and Craig is 30, they are not projected to have much potential growth. Okogie will be 23 this offseason, significantly younger than the two. His age would raise the floor of his deal, meaning he could make anywhere between $6-10 million per season over multiple years.

He will be a restricted free agent, meaning that the Wolves can go over their cap figure to retain him. As currently constructed, they would have Taurean Prince’s $13 million, Patrick Beverley’s $14.3 million, and Jake Layman’s $3.9 million coming off the books. They have enough roster flexibility to maneuver and make a deal, even with Towns and Russell on max contracts.

If they cannot come to terms with Okogie, he has a qualifying offer at $5,857,966 million. A QO would bring him back for one more season before he’s an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

Would It Be Worth It?

Okogie must make those advancements in his game and show promise if he wants a multi-year deal. Being a consistent part of the rotation and staying healthy is a great way to start. This team lacks on-ball defense. If he can continue to lock down his man, he’ll become invaluable to the Wolves. He holds a defensive rating of 113 over his career, which is solid considering he is given tough matchups every night.

It could easily be worth it, and knowing the front office has some cap space and taking their time to come to an agreement will drop the price significantly. It could be something similar we saw to Jarred Vanderbilt and his minimal market this offseason. It is something that we should monitor this year. It’s a make-or-break season for Okogie, and he’s betting on himself with a lot at stake.

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