The Phoenix Suns have started the 2023-24 season, and have already faced their fair share of adversity as a result of injuries. Star recruit Bradley Beal is yet to suit up for the team through three games, while Devin Booker has only appeared once himself.
Center Jusuf Nurkic has also missed one game, which has meant it has been up to Kevin Durant to do much of the heavy lifting in the early goings. It is a good thing he is up to the task, as he has done exactly that for the organization, showing up when they’ve needed him most.
Another player who has had some nice moments early in the season for the Suns is Josh Okogie, and he is eyeing some recognition at the end of the campaign.
Speaking to Travis Booth during media availability on Saturday, Okogie mentioned how he wanted to be in consideration for the NBA’s All-Defensive team by year’s end. Doing that he believes, will also give the Suns a better chance at trying to win a championship, the ultimate goal for everybody on the roster.
Every player in the league has individual goals, but Okogie has started this season like a man on a mission. In the win over the Golden State Warriors to begin the campaign, he was huge on both ends of the court. Okogie chipped in with 17 points, and one huge 3-pointer late in the game to keep the Suns ahead.
On the defensive end he has been just as important, and as of this moment is still this group’s fifth starter. Grayson Allen may push him for that role – and really the injuries to both Booker and Beal mean Okogie is going to start anyway – but he has played exactly how the franchise wanted him to when they decided to bring him back this offseason.
Okogie’s defensive rating of 102.2 in a small sample size is currently the second best mark of his career, and to look at him play the eye test backs that up. Many have always felt he has had that ability in his locker going back to his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Okogie is really blossoming under head coach Frank Vogel.
The Suns have surprised many by having a top five defensive rating early in the season, with the team looking difficult to score against on many possessions even without two of their top three guys. A lot of this is down to Durant, who himself surprised the coaching staff with his own requests this summer.
But Okogie has been right there as well, staking his claim to be considered for the All-Defensive team at the end of the season. Unlike All-NBA selections and MVP votes, playing for a contender and with superstars actually works to his advantage here.
Okogie won’t be cancelled out by the defensive exploits of Durant, while the more eyeballs that are on the team when they play, the better. Already the Suns have appeared on national television twice out of three contests, and they’re up again in their next game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Have a decent showing against the not above scolding phenom that is Victor Wembanyama, and Okogie will be doing as much as any player in the entire league right now on the defensive side of the ball. The front office wanted Josh Okogie to be a glue guy for the group, but with an improved offensive game and a career high 11.3 points per game, he’s already much more.