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Should Josh Okogie Be The Suns 5th Starter?

Phoenix Suns

Before the first playoff matchup against the Clippers last season, Phoenix Suns’ guard/forward Josh Okogie was in the starting lineup alongside Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Deandre Ayton, and former Suns Chris Paul.

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With this lineup, the team was an electric 8-0 in the regular season and 8-2 overall last season. With Kevin Durant alone, Okogie’s record was 10-3 in the starting lineup.

With Okogie resigned to a two-year deal, many people are wondering who will be the Suns’ fifth starter next to Booker, Durant, Ayton, and newcomer Bradley Beal.

There’s reason to go with a guy like Keita Bates-Diop or even Eric Gordon to some extent. However, I’m a firm believer in Okogie being the fifth starter and I’m going to give you three reasons why Okogie should continue to be the Suns starter.

1. Defense

It’s no secret that with the Suns’ new head coach Frank Vogel operating the ship, the Suns will have a new defensive system that’s going to focus primarily on spacing and switching a ton.

Vogel is one if not the best defensive-minded coach in the game of basketball and he has led a bunch of teams like the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Lakers to top 5 in defense.

Although the Suns weren’t a bad defensive team last season, there’s definitely room for improvement as the Suns’ switching on defense wasn’t where it needed to be.

The one bright spot on defense last season was none other than Okogie who shows a lot of athleticism and speed to help break on block shots as well as being active with hands-on steals.

He also does a great job of being able to stay in front of his man and make shots tough for his opposition.

There are unbelievable stats out there that explains more of Okogie’s impact on the defensive side of the ball from a season ago.

According to the BBall Index, Okogie was 99th percentile against on-ball defenders 98th percentile against in-ball screen navigation, 97th percentile in off-ball chaser defense, and 91st percentile on blocks and screens.

It’s safe to say that with Vogel’s tutelage, being on a championship-contending team, and another year in the league, Okogie could wind up getting notoriety and joining the All-NBA defensive team this upcoming season.

2. Spacing

No matter who the fifth starter for the Suns is, that player is going to get so many quality open looks from beyond the arc because the spacing that both Booker and Durant create for one another is as big as the ocean.

What will hurt this take is Okogie isn’t the best three-point shooter out there. Last year, he shot 34% from three which was a career-high, but come playoff time he only hit a whopping 2 threes on 14 attempts.

His best stretch though came in January and February when he shot 42%. This shows that when open, he can be capable of getting hot from beyond the arc.

Okogie even spoke about this with people from PHNX this offseason and he discussed how he’s still working on his three-point shot to be even better.

“Just looking back, that was probably my best year shooting the 3-ball, and I just want to keep getting better,” Okogie said. “I want to be better at that. I didn’t start off this season doing well at all, in terms of the 3-point line. I’m working hard on it now, but if I can have how I played in the latter part of the season, play that [way] in the beginning and kind of sustain that throughout, I think that I’m gonna be good.”

If Okogie can unlock this part of his game, the Suns will be even more dangerous as a unit come next season than they already are.

3. Second Chance Points

One of the best attributes of Okogie’s game was his ability to get second-chance points for his team with offensive rebounds.

His offensive rebounding percentage was at 8.8% which is the 82nd percentile in the NBA. To put this into more perspective, he was the only small forward, shooting guard, or point guard to be as high as 80 in this category.

This ability as well as his defense gives the Suns an advantage to get second-chance points as well as fast break opportunities to 3 of the most gifted scorers the NBA has ever seen.

It makes game-planning against this team very tough because they got players that can beat you in all different kinds of ways on the court.

I would say the one thing Okogie needs to get better at other than just 3-point shooting, is his ability to finish around the rim. With second-chance points, he needs to be able to finish.

Okogie only shot 52% from the floor on plays around the rim which ranked for 28th percentile in the league. There’s no question that Okogie will get easy looks, he will just need to capitalize on the offensive side a little more.

The emergence of Josh Okogie is just what the Suns needed

Okogie has a chance to be a big-time Sun’s x-factor player this year especially come playoff time. If this team can stay healthy, with Okogie in the lineup, the Suns could have the most efficient starting unit in the NBA and top 5 in both offense and defense.

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