Josh Okogie

Eight Current NBA Players On Nigeria’s 12-Man Olympic Roster

After making some noise in the exhibition schedule by upsetting Team USA, Nigeria will be looking to become the first African men’s basketball team to win an Olympic medal. And they’ll be doing so with a roster that features eight current NBA players, along with one former NBA player.

Here’s the 12-man squad that will represent Nigeria at the Tokyo games, per the Nigeria Basketball Federation (Twitter link):

Achiuwa, Nwora, Okafor, Okogie, and Okpala are all on guaranteed contracts for next season with their respective teams. Metu and Oni are on non-guaranteed deals, while Vincent will be eligible for restricted free agency after finishing the season on a two-way pact. Udoh, a former sixth overall pick who just finalized a two-year deal with Italian club Virtus Bologna, has appeared in a total of 400 NBA games (regular season and postseason)

While the Nigerian squad isn’t exactly loaded with star power, it’s worth highlighting since it’s rare for any country besides Team USA to send so many current NBA players to the Olympics.

Australia’s team will have seven players who finished the season on NBA rosters, while Spain’s roster features 10 players with at least some NBA experience. But the U.S. team is the only other one in Tokyo that will feature at least eight current NBAers.

Olympic Notes: Nigeria, Morris, Nnaji, Team USA

The Nigerian national team, having originally invited more than 40 players to its training camp, has trimmed its roster to 15 players, according to an announcement earlier in the week (Twitter link).

Three more cuts will be required to set the official roster for the Tokyo Olympics, but it appears there will be no shortage of NBA players on the 12-man squad. Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala, Miye Oni, Josh Okogie, Jordan Nwora, Chimezie Metu, Jahlil Okafor, and Gabe Vincent remain in the mix for the final roster.

One notable player missing from that list is Monte Morris. According to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), the Nuggets guard has been bothered by a nagging knee injury and wants to focus on getting fully healthy for the 2021/22 season. He’s sitting out of the Olympics for precautionary reasons.

Nuggets forward Zeke Nnaji received consideration for Team Nigeria as well, according to Singer (Twitter link), but the 2020 first-rounder decided to focus on individual development this season. Nnaji has interest in representing Nigeria in future international competitions, Singer notes.

Here’s more on the Tokyo games:

  • Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said on Wednesday that he has yet to decide on a captain for the U.S. squad (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press). Given his résumé, his veteran status, and his previous international experience, Kevin Durant seems like the most obvious choice, though Draymond Green and Damian Lillard could also be candidates.
  • Asked how likely it is that members of the U.S. Olympic squad will talk during the next month about teaming up in the NBA, Bradley Beal acknowledged that “probably a lot” of those conversations will take place. “Depends on who’s a free agent or not,” Beal said (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic). “But for the most part, we can’t mix that in right now. We’re focused on one goal at hand, and that’s bringing back a gold medal. Granted, we all have our respective, individual goals and talents once this is done. We can address those issues then.”
  • Organizers confirmed on Thursday that the Tokyo Olympics will be held without spectators due to a recent increase in coronavirus cases in the area. Ayano Shimizu of Kyodo News has the full story.

Olympic Notes: Team USA, Randle, Simmons, Okogie, Senegal

USA Basketball has officially announced its 12-man roster for the Tokyo Olympics, and there are no surprises in the group. The 12 players on the squad are the same dozen that were reported earlier this month.

While it remains to be seen which players will emerge as the go-to crunch-time options for Team USA in Tokyo, Joe Vardon of The Athletic suggests that it’s easy to envision a starting lineup consisting of Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard, and either Devin Booker or Bradley Beal, based on comments made on Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo on Monday.

As Vardon details, Colangelo spoke about virtually every player selected for the 12-man roster, explaining the Jerami Grant was selected for his “versatility,” while Kevin Love‘s past international experienced played a major part in his selection. According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Colangelo said that Knicks forward Julius Randle was one of the players who just missed the cut.

“Regardless of who you select, there’s always a few names that come up regarding why they aren’t there,” Colangelo said. “Randle was right there. He was one of our considerations. Especially when some of the injuries took place and we lost a few players.”

Here’s more on the Olympics and the qualifying tournaments, which get underway today:

  • As expected, Sixers guard Ben Simmons has opted against representing Australia at the Tokyo Olympics, the program confirmed in a press release. Simmons is focusing on his individual development this offseason, agent Rich Paul told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). “I have spoken with Ben and whilst we wanted him to be a part of our team, we understand and support his decision and he has made it clear that this is something that he wants to be a part of in the future,” Australia head coach Brian Goorjian said. “… The best thing for everybody right now is for him to go on and develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas for his next season in the NBA, but the Boomers are always here for him.”
  • Timberwolves wing Josh Okogie has confirmed he’ll be part of the Nigerian team that competes in the Olympics next month (Twitter link). Nigeria’s preliminary roster included 49 names, which the program will have to pare down to 12 for Tokyo.
  • Senegal has withdrawn from the qualifying tournament in Serbia due to “COVID-19 related disruptions,” tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. As a result, Senegal will forfeit games to Puerto Rico and Italy, who will both advance to the next round of the qualifier.
  • Team Canada’s eight NBA players are easily the most of any team in the qualifiers, but they’ll need to rely on more than talent as they face international teams that have developed stronger chemistry, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

And-Ones: Jrue, Vegas, Pangos, Payton, Big Markets

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is the recipient of the Joe Dumars Trophy, having been named the winner of the 2020/21 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the league announced today in a press release.

The award, which aims to honor the player who “best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court,” is voted on by current NBA players. Each team nominates one of its players, a panel of league executives pares the list down to six finalists (one from each division), and the players vote on those six finalists.

Holiday, who earned 130 of 343 first-place votes, beat out runner-up Kemba Walker (74 first-place votes) for the award. Bam Adebayo, Harrison Barnes, Derrick White, and Josh Okogie were the other finalists.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • While it’s unclear when the NBA might seriously pursue expansion, Las Vegas has frequently been cited as a city the league would consider, and a Yahoo News report suggests one potential ownership group may be in place in Vegas. As Kurt Helin of NBC Sports relays, billionaire Jay Bloom heads a series of investors who reportedly have the funds and the connections necessary to be the frontrunners to own a Vegas NBA franchise if the opportunity arises.
  • Kevin Pangos, one of the top point guards in the EuroLeague, is drawing plenty of interest from European teams but may wait until NBA free agency to make a decision, says Aris Barkas of Eurohoops. There’s no indication that Pangos has an NBA offer awaiting him, but the former Gonzaga standout wants to consider all his options before making a decision.
  • Hall-of-Fame guard Gary Payton, who has spoken in the past about wanting to coach in the NBA, tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he has agreed to a multiyear contract to coach Lincoln University in his hometown of Oakland, California.
  • In the wake of teams like the Celtics, the Knicks, and especially the Lakers being eliminated from the postseason, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic explores just how dependent the NBA is on its marquee, big-market franchises, and what the league can do to reduce that dependence.

Western Notes: Oubre, Okogie, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Lakers

Veteran forward Kelly Oubre looks like the Warriors‘ top trade candidate, and he certainly didn’t hurt his value in his last game before the deadline, putting up 24 points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday in a loss to Philadelphia. With today’s deadline looming, head coach Steve Kerr praised Oubre for the way he has taken the trade rumors in stride, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes.

“I love Kelly,” Kerr said. “He’s a pro. We’ve talked a lot about his circumstances, being a free agent, having his name tossed around. It’s not an easy position to be in. But this is how it works. This is the NBA. He’s got an expiring deal, plays a position of need for a lot of teams. He’s athletic and long. He’s coveted. He’s definitely coveted. So his name is naturally going to be out there. He’s done a great job of handling everything. He’s really professional and poised and practical. So we’ll see what happens.”

Slater says he gets the sense that the Warriors want to be able to do something with Oubre’s salary slot in future seasons, as opposed to just letting him walk for nothing this offseason and not being able to replace him due to their cap situation. It remains to be seen whether that means ultimately investing in a longer-term agreement with Oubre or flipping him for another player today.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Timberwolves forward Josh Okogie entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Wednesday night, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). It’s unclear how long Okogie will have to remain in the protocols before being cleared.
  • Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal believes the Grizzlies need to make a big roster move at some point, but thinks it’s more likely to happen in the offseason or further down the road than at today’s deadline.
  • Today’s trade deadline may be the most revealing pivot point for the Pelicans under the direction of head of basketball operations David Griffin, says Scott Kuschner of NOLA.com. In particular, the club’s decision on Lonzo Ball will provide a strong hint of the way in which New Orleans wants to build its roster around Zion Williamson.
  • Some members of the Lakers organization are expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine this week, sources tell Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. More teams are starting to get access to vaccinations, including New Orleans, Atlanta, Portland, and – most recently – the Heat (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel).

Injury Updates: Exum, Hayes, Bogdanovic, Okogie, Towns

Cavaliers guard Dante Exum departed Monday’s game against Orlando in the opening minute with a right calf strain, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He went down with a non-contact injury and eventually hobbled to the bench, unable to put weight on his leg. Cleveland players spoke with optimism regarding the injury after the game, Fedor tweets.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Pistons lottery pick Killian Hayes left Monday’s game against Milwaukee during the third quarter with a right hip injury, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets. Hayes has started regularly during his rookie season. He’ll have an MRI on Tuesday, coach Dwane Casey said after the game.
  • Jazz swingman Bojan Bogdanovic has continually experienced soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News writes. Bogdanovic put on a brace during Sunday’s game against San Antonio and it helped dramatically, as he scored 28 points. “I really hate to play with anything on my body, any tape, any brace, anything,” he said. “But I really needed it because my wrist is kind od sore whenever I follow through when I’m shooting.”
  • Josh Okogie is closer to returning than Karl-Anthony Towns for the Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Okogie has missed the last four games with a left hamstring strain. Towns has only played two games due to a dislocated left wrist. Meanwhile, Jaylen Nowell is ramping up in practice and is close to making his season debut. He’s been sidelined with a left ankle injury.

Timberwolves Pick Up Options On Okogie, Culver

The Timberwolves are picking up their 2021/22 options on Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets.

Okogie’s fourth-year option is worth approximately $4.09MM. The 20th pick of the 2018 draft has been a rotation player since his rookie campaign.

He has started all three games for Minnesota this season, averaging 8.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 1.7 APG in 25.0 MPG. The shooting guard is making $2.65MM this season.

Culver’s third-year option is worth approximately $6.4MM. The 6th overall pick of the 2019 draft averaged 9.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 1.7 APG in 23.9 MPG as a rookie while appearing in 63 games.

He’s coming off the bench this season, averaging 10.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 0.7 APG in 23.3 MPG. The swingman out of Texas Tech is pulling in $6.1MM this season.

Northwest Notes: Okogie, Hill, Harrison, Bol

Due to a lack of established options at the power forward position, the Timberwolves may explore having 6’5″ wing Josh Okogie spend some time at the four, according to Jon Krawczynski of the Athletic.

The recently re-signed Juan Hernangómez figures to have the inside track on the starter job for the Timberwolves. Naz Reid, Jarred Vanderbilt and Okogie will also be in the mix for minutes at the four. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and/or Tyler Cook would also be candidates for playing time if one or both make the team.

Okogie is confident that, if called to play power forward, he will be able to hold his own for the Timberwolves. “I do know, if I was in that position, I don’t think I’d have a lot of trouble,” Okogie said. “Even last year, rarely do I guard somebody that’s smaller than me, unless I’m guarding like a point guard or something. Usually I’m guarding the Kawhi Leonards and Paul Georges, usually people that are taller than me, so I don’t think it’d be much different.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • New Thunder point guard George Hill is looking forward to serving as a veteran presence for his young teammates on a rebuilding squad in Oklahoma City, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman reports. “To be that leader out here is much needed with the young locker room that we have,” Hill said.
  • The latest offseason addition to the Jazz roster, defensive-minded guard Shaquille Harrison, can help guard multiple positions off the bench, according to Tony Jones of the Athletic. Jones adds that, due to Harrison’s lack of shooting touch, he will need to be employed in shooting-heavy lineups.
  • After logging most of his first NBA season in the G League, Nuggets big man Bol Bol flashed intriguing potential in seven of eight regular-season NBA restart seeding game contests. After Denver converted his two-way contract into a two-year, $4.1MM contract this offseason, questions remain about the slight, 7’2″ Bol’s ultimate positional fit on the court, as Mike Singer of the Denver Post details.

Western Notes: Powell, Bazemore, Holiday, Brown, Timberwolves

Mavericks big man Dwight Powell, who is signed through the 2022/23 season, is showing good progress as he rehabs from a torn right Achilles, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reports. Powell, who underwent surgery in January, has no movement limitations. However, the closure of the Mavericks practice facility has created an obstacle to get on-court time. It typically takes an NBA player a year or more to return to action from an Achilles tear but the delayed start of next season should work in his favor.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors could consider adding one of their former players,  the Kings’ Kent Bazemore or the Pacers’ Justin Holiday, in free agency, according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Poole breaks down the pros and cons of both players and concludes Holiday would be a better fit, since he has proven more durable in recent years. However, it’s also likely he’d cost more than Bazemore, Poole adds.
  • It’s unclear if former Sixers coach Brett Brown is a candidate for the Thunder’s opening but there is a strong connection to the front office, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman notes. Brown worked with GM Sam Presti in the Spurs organization from 2002-07.
  • The Timberwolves mini-camp facilitated Jarrett Culver‘s development and Josh Okogie‘s playmaking skills, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. It also reinforced the value of forward Jake Layman, though he suffered a broken nose during the workouts.

Doncic, Young, Zion Headline Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has officially announced the 20 rookies and sophomores who have been named to the league’s Rising Stars game for All-Star weekend. Those 20 players, selected by assistant coaches from around the league, will be divided into a U.S. Team and a World Team, as follows:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

Williamson’s inclusion is notable since he has appeared in just four games due to injuries. It’s not surprising that the NBA found a way to get him into the game, since he’s one of the most exciting prospects to enter the league in years, but it’s a tough break for youngsters who have been on the court since the fall for contenders, such as Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle. or Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

Snubbed players like Thybulle, Porter, and others could eventually make their way into the Rising Stars game if players have to pull out due to injuries, or if All-Stars like Doncic and Young opt not to play in both events.

The Rising Stars game will take place in Chicago on Friday, February 14.