FIBA World Cup Qualifiers Recap: Okogie with Nigeria

FIBA World Cup Qualifiers Recap Okogie with Nigeria

Josh Okogie, who moved to the United States when he was three years old, played in three games for his native Nigeria during some FIBA World Cup Qualifiers at the end of August. Before we get into the film, let’s take a look at the numbers for the Phoenix Suns’ new defensive specialist.

According to Synergy, the 6-foot-4 Okogie ranked in the 51st percentile in overall offense, scoring 0.77 points per possession (PPP) on 61 total possessions.

It’s a little difficult to pinpoint the areas where he excelled. Okogie’s only performance above the 60th percentile was in pick-and-roll (P&R) ball handling, where he scored 0.909 PPP on 11 possessions, ranking in the 93rd percentile.

Much to the chagrin of Suns fans, he struggled in spot-ups, where he averaged 0.857 PPP on 14 possessions, ranking in the 57th percentile. Spot ups are likely to account for the majority of his time with the Suns, but his struggles can be attributed to being one of two viable offensive options on Nigeria’s squad, along with Sacramento Kings wing Chimezie Metu.

As a result, not only did the spacing around Okogie suffer, but he took far more shots than he will with the Suns; in two of the three games, Okogie attempted seven three-pointers, shooting 2-15 (13.3%) overall.

When I switch the stat sheet to the defensive page, my eyes begin to light up. Okogie was credited with defending 22 possessions while allowing only 0.682 PPP, ranking in the 61st percentile.

He excelled at P&R defense, not allowing a single point on the 12 possessions he defended; I’ll share one of those possessions later in this article.

It’s finally time for the movie. I’ll go over Okogie’s general game highlights before delving into a defensive masterclass against Angola.

  • Game 1: 66-78 defeat by Cote d’Ivoire – 23 points (5-10 2P, 1-7 3P, 10-11 FT), 10 rebounds, 2 assists, and 5 steals in 35 minutes
  • Game 2: 89-70 victory over Guinea – 10 points (3-5 2P, 0-1 3P, 4-5 FT), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals in 22 minutes
  • Game 3: 67-70 defeat to Angola – 15 points (2-5 2P, 1-7 3P, 8-10 FT), 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in 36 minutes

Taking a deeper look at defense:

In the first example, Okogie is called upon to defend a P&R action. He realizes it’s going to be a tough fight, so he calls a switch for his teammate, Keith Omoerah, who doesn’t react quickly enough to come up for the pull-up three. Okogie, on the other hand, did an excellent job of communicating the action and moving on to his next assignment:

Following that, there are a few instances of Okogie blocking driving lanes from ball handlers. The offensive player in the first example is dribbling so steeply right that Okogie’s “wall” provides such an open lane that he turns back to go left, but Okogie’s feet are quick enough to be in position for a good closeout:

Here’s another example of Okogie cutting off a driving lane, but this time the driver is attempting to attack the middle of the lane. Okogie stops him, forcing him to take an out-of-rhythm, low-percentage shot:

Later in the game, Okogie was put up against one of Angola’s bigger ball handlers, the 6-4 Gerson Goncalves, who averaged double digits in points (on 37.8% shooting from deep during this event) and is Okogie’s height. Okogie stays with Goncalves every step of the way as he tries a step through move to get to the rim. Gonvalves wins the possession with a bucket, but Okogie is in position for a block regardless.

In the final example, Okogie comes up too high to defend the catch, putting him behind the play. That doesn’t always matter for him because his length — he has a 7-foot wingspan — and athleticism allow him plenty of recovery room, and in this case, he’s able to get the block at the rim:

There’s a lot of uncertainty about how Phoenix plans to use Okogie, and we’ll get a better idea of that when the preseason kicks off on Oct. 2 against the Adelaide 36ers.

When the 24-year-old was first signed, the Suns were still mired in the Kevin Durant saga, and Okogie’s role as an athletic guard free to do only what he’s good at — defense and energy — was much clearer.

Monty Williams has to be a lot more cautious about Okogie’s minute share without that level of offensive firepower that could’ve been on the team, especially when he plays the exact position — roughly the 2/3 — that the Suns get a lot of their offense from with guys like Devin Booker.

Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to see the new depth guard perform well for Nigeria and demonstrate his potential on both ends.

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