THE FLATS – Josh Okogie becomes the Suns’ fifth starter for now after Kevin Durant joins the team … Jose Alvarado out with stress reaction in his foot, but still making local appearances … Thaddeus Young finds fun fighting for a plahyoff spot … more in this week’s #ProJackets Report.
OKOGIE GETS NOD AS SUNS’ FIFTH STARTER
The answer, at least for Wednesday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, has come.
Fifth-year wing Josh Okogie will be the Phoenix Suns’ fifth starter alongside Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and the debuting Kevin Durant.
The spot was one of the biggest discussion points to come out of the blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 8. Both Okogie and Torrey Craig had a case for the spot and had been starting in place of the previously injured Durant, and in place of the traded Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson.
Okogie is playing the best basketball of his career. The minimum signing this offseason came to Phoenix after four years with the Minnesota Timberwolves, unable to carve out a consistent role. In the six games Durant missed since the deal, Okogie has averaged 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 turnovers, 2.0 steals and 0.2 blocks per game while shooting 53.4% from the field, 48.6% at three-point range and 71.4% for free throws. The 6-foot-4 wing who was a very poor shooter in Minnesota has been on fire with triples since the turn of the new year, bumping his season percentage all the way up to 34.5%.
— Josh Okogie (@CallMe_NonStop) March 9, 2023
Josh Okogie 🇳🇬 is playing the best basketball of his career. The 5th- year wing Okogie has been on fire with triples since the turn of the new year, bumping his season percentage all the way up to 34.5%. Last night against the Bulls he dropped 25 to lead the Suns to a 125-104 win pic.twitter.com/k3hUEspgUa
— NBA Africa (@NBA_Africa) March 4, 2023
IS JOSH OKOGIE THE FINAL PIECE OF THE SUNS’ PUZZLE?
The Phoenix Suns’ blockbuster trade for Kevin Durant was a no-brainer for a team in their position, and one they’d surely make a thousand times over.
But the trade still posed some lingering questions and lineup challenges … Their answer, to this point, has been to plug in Josh Okogie, the fifth-year energizer who’s re-emerged with the Suns after falling out of the Timberwolves’ rotation last year. He hadn’t started a single game this season before the trade, but he’s started all nine games since.
Okogie is one of the NBA’s very best defenders, an on-ball hellhound with quick and accurate hands, elite lateral speed, tremendous instincts, and great timing on shot contests. It makes sense that coach Monty Williams and his staff saw Okogie as a fit next to Durant, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton. With that quartet around him, the bar for his offense is lower now than it ever was in Minnesota, and lower than it would be on almost any other team. He’s protected, in a way, by all the offensive talent around him, the same way a weak defender can be surrounded and insulated by a strong defensive infrastructure. Meanwhile, his athleticism and boundless energy provide a shot in the arm for an oldish, slowish group, and he does things on defense that no other Sun is capable of.
WHAT A BLOCK BY JOSH OKOGIE ❌
— Suns Nation (@SunsNationCP) March 9, 2023
ALVARADO MAKING APPEARANCE AT LOCAL PIZZA RESTAURANT
New Orleans Pelicans fans will have an opportunity to meet one of the team’s most exciting players at the Fat Boy’s Pizza Mandeville location. Point guard Jose Alvarado, the MVP of the recent NBA Rising Stars Game after hitting the game-winning shot, will sign memorabilia, take photos and raffle off an autographed game jersey.
“It is truly a thrill to partner with a special young man,” Vice-President of Operations Casey Biehl says. “Jose Alvarado is obviously a tenacious and a very talented basketball player, but his humility and connectivity are the reasons why he is such a great match for Fat Boy’s and this guest experience. We hope the Northshore community is equally as excited.”
The fan event will take place on Friday, March 10 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at Fat Boy’s Pizza in Mandeville, located at 1200 W. Causeway Approach.
The Pelicans announced Jose Alvarado has a stress reaction in his right tibia. He will be reevaluated in three weeks. Zion Williamson (hamstring) is progressing; further updates will be provided next week following medical imaging.
Pelicans in the building ‼️
— NBA (@NBA) February 19, 2023
THAD YOUNG FINDS FUN FIGHTING FOR A PLAYOFF SPOT
The games take on an added significance for the Raptors these days, all with a heightened sense of importance and intensity because of what’s at stake in the final push to a possible NBA playoff spot. The pressure can crack some players while others will rise to the moment. The stress is real.
But Thad Young considers the idea of stress and, with the wisdom that comes from a decade and a half in the league, dismisses it.
“It’s always fun when you have something to fight for,” the 34-year-old said Wednesday.
Young and the Raptors have something to fight for over the final 16 games of the season, which included a Wednesday night game here against the Los Angeles Clippers. They are in a fight with Atlanta, Washington and Chicago for the bare minimum that will make the season a bit better: a spot in the play-in portion of the season.
Eurobasket #ProJackets Report
Courtesy of Eurobasket LLC
Josh Okogie (6’4”-G-1998, played in 2016-18, plays pro in the NBA) was the major contributor in a Phoenix Suns’ victory against the Chicago Bulls (29-35) crushing them 125-104 in the NBA on Friday night. He scored 25 points and grabbed 4 rebounds (went 6 for 6 at the free throw line) in 33 minutes. The Phoenix Suns have 35-29 record this season. It’s Okogie’s first year with the team. This year Okogie averages 6.9ppg, 3.4rpg and 1.2apg. He is a naturalized Nigerian.
Moses Wright (6’9”-F-1998, played in 2017-21, plays in China) led Zhejiang Golden Bulls to a victory over the 15th-ranked Long-Lions (13-17) 85-73 in the Chinese CBA in Tuesday night’s game. He was MVP of the game. Wright had a double-double by scoring 25 points and getting 10 rebounds. He also added 4 blocks and 3 steals; quite an impressive performance considering it’s only Wright’s second season in pro basketball. Zhejiang Golden Bulls (25-4) are placed first in the CBA. It was his team’s fifth consecutive victory in a row. Wright has relatively good stats this year 13.0ppg, 6.9rpg, 1.1apg, 1.2bpg and 1.3spg in 26 games he played so far.
Adam Smith (6’1”-PG-1992, played in 2015-16, currently in Spain), who plays in the Spanish Liga Endesa could not help Bilbao (2-1) in their game last Sunday. Despite Smith’s good performance Bilbao was crushed94-71 on the road by the lower-ranked Gran Canaria (#7). He was the top scorer with 14 points. Smith also added 3 assists in 27 minutes. It’s Smith’s first season with the team. He has relatively good stats this year 14.0ppg, 2.2rpg and 2.9apg.
Trae Golden (6’3”-PG-1991, played in 2013-14, plays pro in China) was not able to help one of league’s weakest teams Beijing Royal Fighters (10-19) in their last game. Despite his very good performance Beijing Royal Fighters lost 87-101 in Guangzhou to the higher-ranked (#15) Long-Lions. Golden was the top scorer with 28 points. He also added 4 assists (went 10 for 10 at the free throw line !!!). It’s Golden’s first season with the team. Golden has individually a very good year with high stats. He averages 22.4ppg, 4.4rpg and 5.9apg in 28 games.
Jordan Usher (6’7”-SF-1999, played in 2019-22, plays in Turkey) contributed to a Besiktas Emlakjet Istanbul’s victory against the closely-ranked Galatasaray (7-12) 85-78 in a derby game in the Turkish BSL in Saturday night’s game. He recorded 14 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 28 minutes; not bad, considering it’s only Usher’s first season in pro basketball. Besiktas Emlakjet Istanbul (8-10) is placed eighth in the BSL. His team will play only one more game in the Regular Season. And that game will be critical. It’s Usher’s first year with the team. Usher has relatively good stats this season 13.9ppg, 3.4rpg and 1.2apg.
Experienced Thaddeus Young (6’8”-F-1988, played in 2006-07, currently in the NBA) helped Toronto Raptors win their game against the Chicago Bulls 104-98 in the NBA last Tuesday. Young scored 7 points, had 5 rebounds and dished 3 assists. This year he averages 4.6ppg, 3.2rpg and 1.4apg in 52 games.
Jose Alvarado (6’0”-PG-1998, played in 2017-16, plays pro in the NBA) was not able to secure a victory for the New Orleans Pelicans in their game against the Orlando Magic in the NBA. Alvarado scored 7 points in 16 minutes. His team were defeated 101-93 in the NBA. He has relatively good stats this season 9.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.0apg and 1.1spg.
Brandon Alston (6’5”-G-1995, played in 2017-19, plays in Georgia) helped Batumi win their game against the closely-ranked TSU 86-80 in the Georgian Superleague in Sunday night’s game. Alston scored 14 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished 5 assists. He has relatively good stats this year 12.4ppg, 4.8rpg and 3.8apg in eight games.
Josh Heath (6’1”-PG-1994, played in 2014-17, currently in Belgium) helped his Belgian team Stella Artois Leuven Bears win their game against the tenth-ranked Yoast United crushing them 98-71 in the BNXT League last Saturday. He recorded a double-double by scoring 11 points and making the same number of passes in 29 minutes. Heath has relatively good stats this season 10.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 6.8apg and 1.2spg.
Robert Sampson (6’8”-F-1992, played in 2013-13, plays pro in Japan) helped Yamaguchi win their game against the seventh-ranked Okayama 91-72 in the Japanese B3 League on Saturday night. He had a double-double by scoring 17 points and getting 10 rebounds. Sampson also added 3 assists. He has relatively good stats this year 13.0ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.3apg and 1.3spg in four games. Sampson is a former Eurobasket Summer League player, which is considered top summer league for players who want to play basketball overseas.
Other former Georgia Tech players, who play in pro basketball:
- Ben Lammers (6’10”-C-1995, played in 2014-18) plays for ALBA Berlin in German BBL
- Avi Schafer (6’8”-C-1998, played in 2017-19) plays for SeaHorses Mikawa in Japanese B1 League
- Alade Aminu (6’10”-F/C-1987, played in 2005-09) played for Gigantes de Carolina in Puerto Rican BSN few months ago
- James Banks III (6’10”-F/C-1998, played in 2018-20) plays for Texas Legends in the NBA G League
- Anthony McHenry (6’8”-SF-1983, played in 2001-05) plays for Shinshu BW in Japanese B1 League
- Marcus Georges-Hunt (6’5”-F-1994, played in 2012-16) plays for Kuwait in Kuwaiti D1
- Charles Mitchell (6’8”-F/C-1993, played in 2014-16) plays for Obera in Argentinian La Liga
- Tadric Jackson (6’2”-G-1994, played in 2014-18) plays for Atlanta Aliens in the ABA
- Evan Jester (6’7”-F-1999, played in 2017-19) plays for Atlanta Aliens in the ABA
- Abdoulaye Gueye (6’9”-C-1994, played in 2014-15) plays for Samsunspor in Turkish TBL
- Michael Devoe (6’5”-G-1999, played in 2018-22) plays for Ontario Clippers in the NBA G League
- Gani Lawal (6’9”-F/C-1988, played in 2007-10) plays for Runa Basket in Russian Superleague 1
Notice: The list above includes only some of alumni playing currently in pro basketball. Check complete list of Georgia Tech basketball alumni.