Monday night’s clash against the Denver Nuggets saw Josh Okogie in a Phoenix Suns jersey for the first time. The defensive-minded wing was signed to a minimum deal in free agency, before battling a slight hamstring issue early in training camp.
Okogie joins the Suns having had a strange opening four years in Minnesota, with his production levels decreasing almost season on season. Clearly Phoenix believe they can provide a tweak to his horrific three-point shooting, while utilizing the defensive attributes that have kept him in the league.
Josh Okogie faces an uphill battle to supplant Torrey Craig in the Phoenix Suns rotation, even if his struggles against the Nuggets can be excused.
It’s unfair to evaluate harshly based on one game, particularly when that game is Okogie’s first in a new system. But the reality is this — why do Phoenix think they can get something from him when he fell out of a Timberwolves rotation that only just scraped into the playoffs?
That question is twofold when you factor in that the Suns already have a similar type of player in Torrey Craig. Both players provide defense and invaluable hustle plays, but their lack of shooting and offensive creation will likely limit Monty Williams to utilizing one or the other.
Okogie’s Suns debut didn’t really provide reason for optimism, or any suggestion that he could supplant Craig as the incumbent defensive wing off the bench. He went 1-for-4 from the field, missed both his three-point attempts, and recorded just one rebound.
The biggest issue for Okogie was his four turnovers; opposition teams will want him shooting or putting the ball on the floor, knowing it’s unlikely to lead to any effective resemblance of playmaking or individual shot creation. He fell into that trap on a couple of occasions with disastrous consequences.
In comparison, Craig’s recorded two turnovers in his three games. He’s not setting the world on fire, but at the very least he understands the Suns system and his own individual boundaries within it. It’s the primary reason Williams had him start in the absence of the injured Cameron Johnson.
This was a strange offseason signing at the time; not because Okogie doesn’t deserve to be in the NBA, but because Craig’s presence seemingly makes him surplus to requirements in Phoenix. Who knows though, perhaps there’s some untapped potential there that can be awoken over a long season.