There has been much speculation about who would be the Phoenix Suns’ fifth starter. With Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal and Jusuf Nurkic already occupying the first four starting spots, the fifth spot seems to be up for grabs.
The NBA preseason allows coaches to test lineups and see what players work well together. Although the Suns have only played two games of the preseason, Josh Okogie has stood out as the likely candidate to fill this role, already starting in both games.
Okogie has shown versatility on the offensive end during the preseason, showing aggressiveness when driving to the rim with lightning speed.
He made some good slashing plays to the rim in the Suns recent preseason loss to the Denver Nuggets, which will open up chances for him to be a solid starter at the small forward position.
With threats from range such as Booker and Durant in the starting five, Okogie’s ability as a slasher would be valued as the defense will be focused on the superstar players. He would be able to create a lot of opportunities with the opposing team’s focus directed elsewhere.
Okogie’s ability as a shooter has also improved after hitting a career high percentage from the three point line last season. In the game against Denver, Okogie shot a nice 50 percent from beyond the arc with 9 of his 17 points coming from deep.
Coach Frank Vogel has put an emphasis on shooters this preseason, with players such as Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon standing out. If Okogie can continue to develop his shot and show consistency from beyond the arc, his case will become even stronger for the fifth starting position.
Another strong aspect of his game is the defensive ability. In the game against the Nuggets, Okogie had a pair of steals and blocks, showing aggression on the defensive end of the floor. He is a great perimeter defender and continues to showcase this, something Frank Vogel appreciates.
Vogel has stated that he sees Okogie as a player that can defend any player on the opposing team:
"“Josh is someone that I view as somebody that can guard the other team’s primary ball handler and point guards, as well as body up with some of their big wings. So we have the ability to slide him from guarding [power forwards] to guarding point guards. That versatility is something that I value, and I love his game overall. His toughness, his energy, his motor – all those things.”"
Vogel’s defensive minded coaching style will benefit Okogie, who will develop more as a player with Vogel’s guidance. With an increase in minutes and a potential starting position, this could be a career year for the young forward.
Okogie will be relied upon to defend the best players on the opposing team, something that will be valued alongside a number of superstar offensive talents such as Durant, Booker and Beal. If Okogie can continue to showcase his improvement on the offensive end of the court, the starting spot should almost be locked up for him on most nights.