Is There A Way For Okogie To Make it Work In Minnesota?

Photo Credit: Ed Szczepanski (USA TODAY Sports)

Josh Okogie went from the starting five early in the 2021-22 season to one of the last guys off Chris Finch’s bench after about 41 games. What happened to cause such a drastic fall off? Was it his lack of offensive consistency, a log jam at the 2-guard, or just an overall fit issue? We may never know. But Okogie may need to make changes in his game if he wants to return to Minnesota next season.

Okogie’s first couple of seasons in the NBA were promising. He looked to be a key piece in what the Timberwolves were trying to build. We saw some holes in his offensive repertoire early, but his defensive aggressiveness and the heart he played with allowed Wolves fans to occasionally overlook those flaws.

But Okogie fell out of Chris Finch’s rotation last year. He played in only 49 games during the 2021-22 season, but he was in the starting group for Minnesota’s season opener this year. So what happened?

If there has been one consistent level to Okogie’s game, it’s his defensive ability. Every time he took to the floor last season, Okogie made a meaningful impact on the defensive side of the ball. He often matched up with the team’s best player. So why did he only play in 49 of the 82 games? There are a couple of reasons.

One is that Minnesota had a log jam at 2-guard. It was difficult for him to get any playing time with Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, and Jaylen Nowell, who are all above Okogie in the rotation. The other reason, and most likely the biggest, was his inability to perform on the offensive side of the ball.

Okogie has always played defense and had obvious holes on offense. It’s a concern that truly came to light during this past season when he only put up 2.7 points per game. It wasn’t just his lack of open jump-shooting but also his offensive IQ.

He didn’t play many meaningful minutes this season. However, when Okogie was handling the ball, the play often would result in him attacking the rim with no purpose or plan. He often threw a prayer towards the hoop or flung it back out to an unsuspecting teammate.

What’s Next?

There would be nothing I’d want to see more with Okogie than him flourishing with a team that needs perimeter defense like the Timberwolves. But new team president Tim Connelly may view Okogie’s first four years with the Wolves as enough time to have shown his skillset and prove that he belongs in the rotation. Okogie is going to be a restricted free agent this offseason. Okogie will be able to obtain an offer from any team, but the Timberwolves can match that offer. However, they may not opt to do so.

Playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns almost requires his teammates to be able to hit the three, given the number of times the All-Star big gets doubled or even triple-teamed while posting up. With the exception of Jarred Vanderbilt, you can say this is true with pretty much everyone in the Wolves rotation. Therefore, it’s hard to see Okogie being a fit with the Wolves.

Should Okogie want to remain in Minnesota next season, he will need to add that consistent three-ball we’ve all been longing for, along with improved offensive IQ. That’s easier said than done. The Wolves don’t need Okogie to shoot 45% from the arc on 8 three-point attempts per game. Rather, he needs to produce something more along the lines of 35-38% on 3 shots a game. Still, that’s a lofty goal, one that may prove to be insurmountable in the long run.

If Okogie’s time in Minnesota ends by training camp, many teams would be looking for his defensive ability. The Utah Jazz had some interest in Okogie leading up to last season’s Feb. 10th trade deadline. Teams like that who wouldn’t mind taking a chance on the still only 23-year-old guard are the ones looking at him the most.

Regardless of where he lands next season, I will always be rooting for him. No matter what, the team that ends up with him will get one thing for sure, he will always be a warrior on the defensive side.

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