It was borderline painful to watch at points this season.
Opposing teams would sag so far off Minnesota’s Josh Okogie that the guard would almost always receive the kick-out passes off drives, and fire up one open triple after another.
Clank, clank, clank.
It was almost as if the Timberwolves and Okogie were playing into the defense’s hands. Okogie can do a lot of things on the floor — firing the long ball is not one of the top items on that list. The 22-year-old is shooting 21 percent from deep this season.
A better game script for Okogie is the one that played out in Minnesota’s win Sunday over Portland. Okogie’s stat line: 0 for 2 from the field, 0 for 1 from deep, and 10 for 11 from the free-throw line for 10 points. With that, the guard became only the second player in Timberwolves history to score in double figures without making a shot from the field, joining Scott Roth.
“He was driving the ball hard. We found him in good space, and he did a good job of getting into the paint and playing off the catch, like we asked him to do,” Finch said, “and his decision-making offensively was extremely efficient.”
Finch and Co. have moved Okogie around in the offense, moving him in at times to play from the elbow, where it’s more difficult for teams to simply sag off him.
“Being on the elbow, being able to make different decisions, whether it’s to play weak side, drive uphill or get a quick screen,” Okogie said. “It’s just more different options with that and having like Jalen (McDaniels) and Ant (Edwards) and Jake (Layman) and others, you can’t really help off them because of their shooting ability. It makes it easier for me to drive, as well, and get them open.”
Okogie noted he’s getting more touches within the offense now versus before the all-star break, and he thinks those touches are better utilizing his skill set.
“I mean, primarily I like driving to the basket, attacking, creating for others,” Okogie said. “So I’m in a better position to do that getting the ball from kind of the wing, getting the ball on the elbow, being able to create and attack from there. So I think I’m definitely in a better position.”
And when Okogie is out on the perimeter, when he catches the ball with his defender well off of him, Finch said the coaching staff has talked to him about potentially attacking that space to gain a head of steam going downhill.
“It’s all about when he gets the ball in the shot clock,” Finch said. “If there’s another drive and another play to be made, then he’s really good and capable of that.”
But Finch noted the Wolves aren’t afraid of Okogie letting it fly from 3-point range, either.
“He has the license to take those good open threes when they’re in the flow of the offense,” Finch said.