Josh Okogie gets Suns’ 5th starter nod alongside debuting Kevin Durant

Mar 1, 2023, 4:33 PM
Josh Okogie #2 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on De...
Josh Okogie #2 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on December 07, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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.

Head coach Monty Williams did hint in the past that the person getting the nod could be based on matchups.

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%.

Craig’s stats aren’t as eye-popping but it is his third straight season that will end with the Suns and he brings a level of experience and know-how with his presence. On top of that, Craig’s 6-foot-7 frame gives the Suns a legitimately big starting lineup that should now do well on the glass.

Both players are primarily known for their defense and will have to likely take on the role of marking the opposing team’s primary perimeter player, a job Bridges did every night.

Craig will still presumably play a fairly important role off the bench as one of the first reserves in the game alongside backup point guard Cam Payne and scoring guard Terrence Ross. Ross, though, will miss Wednesday’s game because of right toe soreness.

Wednesday’s 5 p.m. tip off can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7.

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