In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 33 picks.
Today’s edition features Georgia Tech’s own Josh Okogie.
After a surprising 2016-17 campaign brought the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to the NIT Final, then-freshman guard Josh Okogie forewent the opportunity to capitalize on his good press and went back to Atlanta for his sophomore year. Now, one year later, Okogie has declared for the draft after another solid season in college that has seen him sky as high as a late-first-round prospect on some boards. Okogie took part in the U-19 training camp for USA Basketball last summer and stood out with his physical attributes, but there’s plenty on the technical and mental side that he’ll have to improve if he’s going to make it as a rotation player at the NBA level.
Short (he stands just 6-foot-4) but with a long wingspan (7-foot), Okogie has the physical makeup of a strong on-ball defender who can harass players at both guard positions with his length, strength, and lateral quickness. Horizontally, Okogie is one of the better athletes in the draft—he’s got a quick first step with the ball in his hands and can stick to opposing guards in isolation and pick-and-roll defense, then use his length to contest jump shots.
Vertically, Okogie has Taurean Prince Syndrome: he just doesn’t get up well off the ground and struggles with finishing around the rim as a result. His foul rate might also prove to be somewhat misleading; he got fouled a lot in transition, but those opportunities fell precipitously once he got into the halfcourt.
Offensively, Okogie’s three-point shot will make or break his NBA career. An 82 percent free-throw shooter during his sophomore year, all indications are that he could be a quality outside shooter in the league, but his jumper will have to be overhauled by his coaches—he brings the ball out in front of his face a bit too much and doesn’t get enough air under the ball, especially when he’s further away from the basket.
Okogie was a tremendous shooter in catch-and-shoot situations in 2016-17, scoring in the 92nd percentile in Division I on points per possession on catch-and-shoot jumpers. With his feet set and a bit of room, he’s already a knockdown shooter, though how well that translates to the NBA level remains to be seen.
Okogie’s offensive role will likely be as a shooter at the NBA level, despite how much Georgia Tech put the ball in his hands this past season. The Yellow Jackets struggled for creation off the dribble and relied heavily on Okogie to create shots for himself and others, but that won’t be his game going forward.
That quick first step will help him beat closing defenders, but he won’t be a pick-and-roll operator without massive improvements to his handle, passing, and vision. It’s almost impossible to imagine that he’ll improve enough to be a primary ball handler, but there’s at least a path for him to be a solid secondary guy for an offense with a ball-dominant point guard. Without much to his handle other than a straight-line drive with his dominant right hand, it seems unlikely that he’ll be a pure scorer in the NBA but playing off-ball will suit him fine if he can knock down three-pointers.
Defensively, Okogie profiles as a primary stopper at both guard positions. He’s slippery getting through screens, possesses good quickness and length to make life tough for his similarly-sized counterparts. In an increasingly-switchy league, he’ll have to learn a few tricks to guard bigger players, but as a primary defender against an opposing point guard, he could be a quality option from day one.
He’ll have to work on the mental side of that side of the ball, most notably staying focused and getting into a stance every time down the floor. Okogie reaches more often than coaches will tolerate in the NBA and gets burned too often when caught flat-footed. Smart guards also had a lot of success turning down screens against him—he’s good at getting through screens but anticipates his mark’s actions too often, leaving him susceptible to counter moves.
Overall, Okogie’s ceiling is probably Danny Green with a bit more off-the-dribble burst, but he’ll have to prove he can knock down shots and stay engaged defensively at all times to reach Green’s level. As a late first-round pick or early second-round pick (both of which the Hawks possess), he may be worth a flier to see if the coaching staff can work out the kinks in his jumper and school him on the defensive end.
The first step is already there for Okogie; if he can turn himself into a high-30s three-point shooter at the NBA level, he’ll have a lot of offensive success. Combine that with strong point-of-attack defense and he’s an eight-figure role player, but he’s not quite there on either end of the floor quite yet.