By: Jake Paynting
Between the swirling rumors of Minnesota's core not functioning smoothly and the Timberwolves fan base's constant disdain toward head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau, the Summer League has been a nice escape from the Wolves' regularly scheduled madness.
The Summer League Timberwolves, who finished the tournament with a 3-2 record, features three players who are already apart of the real squad: Rookies Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop and Jared Terrell, who earned himself a two-way contract after going undrafted. All three players have had their moments of brilliance in Las Vegas, but the standout for everyone in the Wolves camp was undoubtedly Okogie proving to be an off-season defensive juggernaut.
Throughout the five games, Okogie racked up nine steals (2.25 per game) and eight blocks (2.0 per game) and disrupted a bunch of plays, too. After averaging 18.2 points per game and shooting 38 percent from long-range in his final year at Georgia Tech, his offensive struggles (11 points per game on 30% shooting) have been slightly surprising, but he more than made up for it with his intense defensive work.
As you can see in the highlight reel below, Okogie was everywhere. He would apply the clamps to any opposition who tried to beat him off the dribble, sliding his feet beautifully and using his quick hands to poke away multiple balls. On the rare occasion where the 6-foot-4 guard did get beaten off the bounce, he would seemingly springboard off the hardwood to swat a would-be bucket, using his jaw-dropping 42-inch vertical the way it's supposed to be used. While all this was going down, you can bet your bottom dollar coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau was foaming at the lips in the stands.
Summer League certainly isn't the best indicator of success in the big leagues. In fact, previous Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards have been handed out to less-than-stellar players like Josh Selby, Kyle Anderson, and Glen Rice Jr. since its introduction in 2012. Nonetheless, skills like work rate and defensive IQ are usually the type of qualities that are easily translatable into NBA success.
Minnesota finished the season 22nd in defensive efficiency and last in defensive efficiency off the bench, so Josh Okogie's defensive exploits in Las Vegas are something Timberwolves fans will welcome with open arms. Rumors of the Wolves' youngsters not working as hard as expected may have floated around all summer, but Josh Okogie has hit the ground running in that perspective.
Long live the pocket-picking, shot-swatting first round pick.