Last week while I was MIA due to a damn good vacation in Hawaii followed by a weekend covering Hoophall West for the East Valley Tribune, I really hoped the Phoenix Suns’ bad luck would be over when I come back and I would be able to be positive about something.
The bad luck continues Not over, but I’ve found someone I’d like to sing the praises of and that’s one of the newer Phoenix Suns, Wing Josh Okogie.
After averaging just 6.2 minutes per game in his first 18 games as the Sun, Okogie has played more than 20 minutes in four of his last six games without posting a net negative in the plus/minus column in that six-game streak ( +55 together). . However, the Suns are 1-5 over the stretch.
And really quick, before I get into what made his game so outstanding, I want to ask head coach Monty Williams a question first. Okogie averaged 16.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists (including +13 in the 27-point loss to Boston) in 25.7 minutes in the first three games of this recent stretch.
Then why would his minutes get chopped immediately during the two-game streak in New Orleans, where he only played 18.5 minutes combined?
The point that made me think a lot before writing this story is that Okogie is the perfect type of player to take on the challenge of a team like New Orleans. He is someone who is willing to face the level of physicality and not give in.
So where were Okogie’s logs? He absolutely deserves it. Let’s dive in how:
This is primarily an area of trends. This is the “Filter the NBA tracking shots dashboard to show only the last six games” section. Anyway, it’s always fun when I put on my statistician’s hat (or stats hat, if you will) and then expect to see something, only to see something even more dramatic.
Okogie has gone 11-20 (55.0%) on shots within 10ft (deep paint) in their last six games versus 7-13 (53.8%) in their first 18 games. Not a massive jump in success rate, of course, but it’s a dramatic jump in volume — 3.33 attempts per game within 10 feet versus 0.72 attempts per game at the earlier stretch — and as a statistician, it’s always nice to see the success rate stay about the same as the volume increases.
He also shoots 5-13 (38.5%) on pull-ups (of two and three) at this stretch versus 2-8 (25.0%) in the first 18 games. That’s a jump to 2.2 attempts per game from 0.4 per game before, but this time also a significantly massive jump in the success rate, likely a product of the longer tether.
Okogie’s defensive numbers this year have been pretty stellar, which was expected — no, that selling point – when he first arrived.
His numbers per 100 possessions paint a picture of someone passing with flying colors in this area, with 3.0 steals (highest on the team) and 1.9 blocks (highest among non-centers) per 100 possessions. Okogie also has a sizeable lead in both areas; the second highest steal is Chris Paul at 2.4 and the next highest non-center in blocks is Torrey Craig at 1.4.
Fans of the advanced stats would also be happy, as Okogie is the steal% column at 3.0% (Paul at 2.4%) and the block% column ( at 3.5% (Craig at 2.6%) non-centres). And while we’re looking at the advanced stuff, he’s also the leader off-center in offensive rebounding % at 11.4% (Craig at 9.0%).
Synergy listed Okogie as having 0.884 points per ball possession (PPP) allowed on shot attempts, including 0.821 PPP on dribbling shots. For reference, Mikal Bridges is listed with 0.927 and 0.921 PPP in the same respective categories. An even more revealing comparison is with Cam Payne, listed in the same columns at 0.993 and 1.120 PPP.
A lot of my articles that focus on the rising sun ended exactly how this one is about to end, asking Williams for a longer lead to see what guys are capable of.
Maybe you guys are different, but I have a lot of wiggle room, and as long as the Suns are in position to take a top-six spot in the west where they don’t have to make the playoffs, I prefer a double-digit loss here and it doesn’t matter as long as Guys like Okogie play 20+ minutes and score 8+ shots like he has in three of their recent losses.
If enough playtime shows that Okogie won’t bear fruit in the rotation, it’s obviously a failed experiment and we can move on. But I’m starting to get a little skeptical about William’s rotation decisions after long standing by his process.
According to +55, Okogie has a positive impact on winning basketball in those six games (and I can’t stress that enough, no negative basketball games), and I’m willing to climb the tree to try and find fruit. If there isn’t, so be it, but it’s worth a try.