Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where hustle and effort are always rewarded. Here we go:
*The Timberwolves finished up NBA Summer League play in Las Vegas on Friday. If you stayed up late to watch them most or all of the time, you truly are starved for basketball. But you also probably saw this: First round pick Josh Okogie filled up the stat sheet and was exactly the kind of defensive presence the team could use on the perimeter.
Granted, his shooting (just 30 percent) was poor and this was just Summer League. But in averaging 11 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2 blocks per game, Okogie showed how he can be a valuable contributor right away.
In a three-minute highlight video compiled by the Wolves, Okogie’s shot blocking — particularly at the rim — stood out. He launched several fast breaks with his defense, including a block at the rim at the 40-second mark where he controlled the ball after the block and threaded the needle with a beautiful long bounce pass for an open court dunk. Really, just watch the whole thing:
There are some offensive flashes as well, but that defense is enough to turn some heads.
Having a guard get two blocks a game — again, in a small sample size of four games for Okogie — is a ton. No small forward or guard in the NBA averaged that many. And only two (Kevin Durant and Danny Green) averaged even one block per game last year (which is what Okogie’s average was at Georgia Tech). Andrew Wiggins has averaged half a block per game in his career and was No. 15 — not bad — among small forwards last season at 0.6 blocks per game.
If Okogie keeps showing that sort of acumen as training camp and the preseason unfold, it’s easy to see how he could work his way into Tom Thibodeau’s rotation (and easier to see how he might be an ideal starter with Wiggins shifting to a sixth man role).
*Speaking of the Wolves, Jimmy Butler will be featured on the 5 p.m. SportsCenter on Thursday. A 16-year-old named Ethan from Appleton, Wis., was diagnosed with cancer and, through Make-a-Wish, had a chance to meet Butler. Not only that, but Butler brought him out to Los Angeles to hang out. Here’s a trailer for the segment:
*Bryce Harper hit 45 home runs to win the All Star Home Run Derby at his home ballpark. If that isn’t cool enough, his dingers meant Nationals fans had a chance to get $1 tickets to a bunch of upcoming games.