Assessing Josh Okogie

April 28, 2018

By Alan Lu

I decided to take the opportunity to watch Georgia Tech’s 6-4 sophomore combo guard, Josh Okogie, as he has recently elected to enter the 2018 NBA Draft.  Right now, he may be just testing the waters, but he is slated to be a potential second round pick if he stays in.  I elected to scout a game that he played against Louisville that was on February 8th, as I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via B2B Sports.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared in this game, as well as how his skills may translate to the NBA.

Josh Okogie did a very good job of knocking down jumpers to effectively space the floor for his team.  He showed a knack for making quick, open threes off the catch, as he would often take advantage of the space that opponents would give him.  He also used a jab step, a quick hesitation move, and a step back to score on a nifty, pull-up three.  He also showed a good ability to make pull-up jumpers in the mid-range area.   However, he did have his shot blocked once by a shorter defender despite using a pump fake, as he didn’t fully get him out of the way on that move.

He also would look to score on hustle plays.  Okogie ran the floor to catch the pass, he drove to the hoop to score on a strong, acrobatic layup out on the break while drawing an extra free throw to help his team.  He did a good job of getting to the free throw line as opponents would foul him on fast break drives as well as off of an offensive rebound, but sometimes he would not always play under control, which would lead to some misses.

Plus, Okogie also moved off the ball to post up, as he managed to score on a drop step move on a taller player.  However, he struggled to consistently score on half-court drives.  He is a good ball handler that can split double teams, but Okogie generally struggled to score in traffic, especially when the shot blocker would come to help, which would cause him to miss shots in the paint.

Also, Okogie displayed decent playmaking skills.  He is a score-first player that generally handles the ball well, and he will also occasionally look to find the open man to set up scoring chances for his teammates, especially when he is in a standstill position.  He can also sometimes patiently find teammates on the move, and he managed to throw a long outlet pass to set up a fast break score once. 

However, Okogie can mishandle the basketball at times, as he almost committed an over and back violation, but he was able to get away with it as the referee thought an opponent had deflected it first.  But Okogie did get a ball poked off his leg while driving in transition to commit a turnover, and he also threw a bad inbounds pass that ended up getting intercepted.  After using a ball fake, Okogie charged into an opponent on a drive to commit an offensive foul and a turnover another time.

In addition, Okogie did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would leap up to haul in numerous boards, especially on the defensive end, and he would tend to push the ball up the floor off of defensive rebounds.  Okogie is a good athlete that would hustle to get many rebounds to help his team.  However, he did commit a foul when jostling for rebounding position, as he was called for hooking an opponent on the arm in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent his man from grabbing an offensive rebound.

Against Louisville, he seemed to exhibit average at best defensive skills in this game.  For the positives, Okogie would play passing lanes as he would tip passes and he also heaped upon a loose ball that a teammate poked away to help his team get steals and deflections.  Also, he would look to stay in front of his man on drives, and he would look to contest shots to force some misses.

However, he had trouble defending drives, as even though he is a good athlete, he does not possess elite lateral quickness.  Okogie would get beat on moves which would cause the team to allow scores, and he also bit on a pump fake as he got beat off the dribble, which led to a pass that set up a corner three score.  He also struggled to defend opponents in transition.  Sometimes, he would not hustle back on defense, as this would lead his team to commit fouls on the break. 

Another time, he did get back on defense, but he backpedaled too far, as he ended up allowing a fast break score.  Another time, he was late to rotate to his man, and he didn’t close out in time, which led him to allow a three-point basket to the opposition.  Also, he had his hands down when defending an entry pass late in the game, as he allowed an easy pass to get through that caused his teammate to foul an opponent around the basket.

In general, Okogie played fairly well in his team’s loss, as he generally excelled as a shooter and rebounder and showed off good athletic gifts, but he will need to improve his ability to regularly finish plays off the dribble, and he will need to work on his passing and position defense.  While he can knock down jumpers, Okogie struggled to consistently score on drives, and he did not always show great court vision or play with great motor on the defensive end. 

As there is a lot of competition for spots in this year’s NBA draft, Okogie may end up being a second round pick if he stays in the pool.  But if he chooses to go back to college, he will have to work on the finer points of the game, and if he does so, he could end up being a potential first round pick if he has a strong junior year next season.

Other Notes:

As Louisville ended up cruising to a blow out win over Georgia Tech, the Cardinals played very well to help get themselves the victory, and Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud excelled at making plays on both ends of the floor in this contest.

Louisville’s 6-10 junior big man, Ray Spalding did a good job of getting scores in the paint, as he would tend to score in the post, as well as on transition scoring opportunities.  He also showed off some defensive skills, as he made one impressive shot block early in this match, even though he swatted it out of bounds rather than to a teammate.

Spalding showed a decent ability to score in the post.  He has good hands, and he can score on catch and finish plays.  He also managed to score on a turnaround jump hook, and he also can draw fouls upon the opposition.  He also almost scored on a drop step move, but the referee had whistled the play dead before he was able to do so.  However, he tended to miss on turnaround jumpers and jump hooks, as he struggled with his shooting touch on various occasions.

He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Spalding ran the floor well, as he would caught long passes, as he would draw fouls, and he also managed to score on a nice drive to the hoop in transition.  He also managed to draw free throws after boxing out his man to get an offensive board another time.  Though he did not grab many rebounds in this game, Spalding was able to haul in boards on both ends of the floor, as he would leap up to get some tough boards to help his team.

He also played adequate defense.  Spalding rotated to defend in the post, and he managed to emphatically block a shot out of bounds.  He also would look to contest shots in the post to force some misses.  In this game though, he would tend to bite on pump fakes and he also whiffed on a steal attempt when defending in the post, but his opponents would miss those shots anyways.  But he was called for a goaltend when rotating to defend in the post once.

In summary, Ray Spalding is an energetic, athletic big man that could project into a defensive specialist role in the NBA.  He will need to expand upon his skill set offensively, but he is a high-motor player that could end up being a good find for a team in the upcoming draft, as he could end up getting selected in the second round range.

Louisville’s 7-0 senior center, Anas Mahmoud also played very well to help get Louisville a double-digit victory over Georgia Tech.  He did a good job of scoring in the post, and he also excelled as an interior defender as his presence made it difficult for his opponents to get quality shots up in the paint.  Mahmoud did a good job of scoring in the post.  Like Spalding, Mahmoud has good hands to catch passes, and he also exhibited solid footwork when making moves in the paint.  Mahmoud managed to use a pivot move to score on a jump hook in traffic, as he generally showed a knack for scoring on sweeping jump hooks.  Also, he used a jab step and a pivot move to score on a nifty, step-through move.

Plus, Mahmoud also slipped a screen as he rolled hard to the hoop to catch a lob pass, and he managed to throw down a thunderous two-handed dunk to get a score around the basket late in this game.  He also flashed the ability to score on high post drives, as he drove in once to score on a sweeping jump hook.  However, he had trouble scoring on drives consistently, as he would not always have his balance or shooting touch when looking to score off the dribble.

Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Mahmoud drove to the hoop once and made a nice dump off pass to set up a score for a teammate, as he showed good vision on the play very early in this contest.  He also would throw accurate entry passes to his teammates.  However, he also was called for a traveling violation after attempting to use a hop step on a drive once.  He also displayed an adequate ability to rebound the basketball.  He would leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he also managed to tip a ball to himself to get an offensive board on one possession.

In addition, Mahmoud played very good defense.  He excelled as a shot blocker as he would rotate to swat shots in the paint, and he would also swat them to teammates.  Plus, he would get his hands on passes to help his team come away with steals.  Mahmoud would rotate to force opponents to miss shots on drives as well as in the post, and he also has good length and timing, as he can defend both out on the perimeter as well as in the post.

However, he did once get outmuscled on a drop step move after trying to front his man in the post early on to allow a score, as he may still need to add strength.  He also attempted to go for a steal when defending on the block another time but missed, as he ended up allowing the catch and drop step score.  In summary, Anas Mahmoud had a solid showing in his team’s win over Georgia Tech.  He is an athletic, energetic big man that can make hustle plays on both ends of the floor, and he could project into a defensive specialist role in the NBA.  He recently played at this year’s Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, but did not appear to stand out, so he might be facing considerable odds to get a combine invite.  Even if he doesn’t get one, Mahmoud’s skills as an interior defender could potentially help him land a roster spot in the NBA.

One player that caught my eye in this game was Louisville’s 6-11 freshman big man, Malik Williams, as he could be a prospect to watch for the 2019 draft.  Though he did not declare to be in this year’s draft, he is an athletic big man that can shoot the basketball, as his ability to space the floor could potentially enable him to be a stretch big at the next level.

Early in this game, Williams sprinted down the court as he beat Okogie down the floor, and he managed to get the ball on a fast break to draw free throws on an aggressive dunk attempt in transition.  He also managed to score on a tip in after make a nice hustle play on offense, as he leapt up to get an offensive board to score early in the first half.

Williams also shot the ball well, especially from beyond the arc.  He has great size to shoot over the top of defenders, and he can either pull opposing big men away from the hoop, or make them pay for sagging off of him.  Williams would patiently make open threes off the catch, and he also made an open three-point shot on a pick and pop play after initially setting the screen for his teammate.

In this game, Malik Williams had a strong showing, as his ability to knock down jumpers and score on hustle plays could make him a player to watch in 2019.  He is an athletic big man that has a great motor, and his intriguing skill set especially from an offensive standpoint could make him a potential second round pick sometime down the road.

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