From: Las Vegas
Talking Josh Okogie with Georgia Tech Hoops Blogger Cade Lawson
Posted by Tim Faklis
Even for those of us that did extensive research ahead of Thursday’s NBA Draft, it’s impossible to have full knowledge of a prospect’s catalog. That was certainly the case for me, especially when it came to Josh Okogie, the versatile wing whom the Wolves drafted 20th overall.
That’s why I enlisted the help of Cade Lawson. He’s the editor in chief of From The Rumble Seat, SB Nation’s Georgia Tech sports blog. He’s gotten to know Okogie from up close through his two seasons as a Yellow Jacket, and had great answers for all my questions.
1. We’ll start simple: What did you see from Okogie this season? What’s your scouting report on him as an NBA prospect?
Josh Okogie is a former three-star prospect who walked into Georgia Tech and changed the program instantly. He is a picture of consistency, having hit double digits in scoring in all but seven of his career games, and has always played up to the level of his competition. One of his true masterpieces at Tech came against then-No. 6 Florida State during his freshman year, a game where he dropped 35 points, and he left us with an unforgettable buzzer-beater against Notre Dame that same year.
As a sophomore, he took a step forward on both ends of the floor that no one really expected. I’ll get into that later, but another thing of note is that Josh became the de-facto leader of the team and really guided it through a frustrating season. No one expected him to declare for the draft, but we couldn’t be happier for him.
2. Defense seems to be his calling card as a prospect, but it rarely translates quickly from college to the NBA. What do you think his learning curve will be like defensively?
Most of us who had watched him for the past two years at Georgia Tech were surprised to see him measure in with a 7-foot wingspan, but length like that will be his best friend in the NBA. This is a guy who spent most of his college career matched up with the other team’s best player in what is arguably the best conference in college basketball.
He defended one through three at Tech and that type of versatility is unquestionably something that helped his draft stock rise; I think he’ll improve quickly in situations where he’s asked to guard a shooting guard or small forward, but the speed of an NBA point guard might be a wakeup call. As our basketball editor Rob Pensa has noted in the past, Okogie’s success to this point is a product of his unmatched work ethic. That’s going to serve him well in the league when it comes to adjusting to the caliber of player he’ll be going against and to the prevalent defensive switching in the NBA.
3. How would you describe his offensive profile?
Josh is as aggressive as they come on the offensive end. He has a nice midrange jumper that he only really tries when he’s wide open, but his main preference is to drive and attack every time. Rob points out that his finishing needs some work, particularly with the off-hand, but he gets to the basketball and draws fouls. There were instances where he had to alter his shot and go for a weird acrobatic finish instead of really going up strong in traffic, but he’s 19 and has plenty of room to grow.
The “3-and-D” label is popular around the NBA, but calling Okogie any variation of that is short-selling him as a player. He’s creative with the ball in his hands and is an incredibly underrated passer, the latter trait being something I haven’t heard anything about from draft reports. Our offense at Tech ran entirely through him for the better part of two seasons, largely because he knows how to find his guys in space and make the tight passes.
4. I noticed he took more 3s this season, but kept his efficiency. That’s a good sign. What does the eye test say about his improvement from deep?
One of the biggest knocks I’ve seen on Okogie is that his jump shot is slow-developing, but cry me a river. That never held him back against ACC opponents because his well-rounded offensive profile forced defenders to respect his driving ability just as much as his jump shot, and I expect that NBA teams will follow that same mantra by forcing Okogie to prove he can make shots at the NBA level and giving him more space early on. Tom Thibodeau may choose to retool some aspects of his shot, but there’s nothing to worry about.
As far as his three pointer is concerned, there was a very real improvement from year one to year two. That is especially impressive when you consider that he was a completely unknown commodity and commanded virtually no attention early in his career (until he dropped 38 on Tulane in his fifth college game, that is) but still managed to improve his shooting percentage as teams gave him more and more attention.
5. What’s something we might not know about Josh Okogie that we should?
Rob notes that Okogie is an exceptionally humble guy who makes everyone around him better with his selflessness, both on and off the court. He won a 2018 ACC Top Six for Service award for the great work he did with the Atlanta community, and you can expect him to continue his good work in Minnesota. I mentioned his worth ethic earlier, I just have to reemphasize how hard he works at everything he does. There’s a reason he went from fringe-draftee at the time he declared to a top-20 pick in four months.
The entire Georgia Tech community was lucky to have Josh Okogie (aka Goatkogie) and the Minnesota community will soon appreciate him as much as we did. The TImberwolves just gained quite a following from down south. You guys got a phenomenal player and person!