Regardless of his role or rival to the Orlando Magic, Chuma OKK was steadfast on the less glamorous end of the floor throughout the 2021-22 season.
The second-year forward was once again one of the Magic’s high-ranking and consistent defensive contributors, even though the plan was to deploy coach Jamal Mosley.
In the zone, the OKK will show the active hand and fly around its territory to the floor. In man-to-man, he often protected the better wing scorer, closing the passing lane and even stealing the ball from opposing ballhandlers mid-dribble.
OKK led the Magic in Steels (1.4) for the second consecutive season, and his 2.1 deflections per game was second only to Jalen Suggs after leading Orlando the previous season.
“A lot of dirty work,” Mosley said when asked how the OKK grew the most. “He may start some games and not start some games. He takes on that role and responsibility. He just embraces it. Some nights if his shot is going in, that’s good. If not, he’s still going to play the same way. We keep asking him to guard in many positions. He does it selflessly, being able to do whatever is necessary to help the team. ,
OKK’s defensive versatility helped him remain a positive contributor, even when his offensive output – particularly his outside shooting – waned.
OKK dealt with a bone injury in his right hip for most of the preseason, doing what he could during training camp and keeping him out of preseason action.
He could not play in the first six matches of the season due to injury. OKK returned in late October, but it was clear that he had shot 23.4% at 3-pointers (4 attempts per game) in his first 27 appearances before the league entered health and safety protocols in late December. He made 34.8% in his rookie season.
“I’ve had some ups and downs with my shots,” Ocke said. “I don’t think it hurt my confidence. I don’t like to shoot much when I am missing. I always believe in my shot. This season has made me take my shots and be aggressive. Played a big part in feeling confident.”
OKK returned from protocol with a better outside shot, knocking down 35.2% of his 3s (6.1 attempts) in his last 43 games (15 starts). He finished the season in 25 minutes in 70 games (25 starts) with 8.6 points (31.8% shooting on 3s), 5 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
Mosley can be heard continuously telling OKK to let go of the ball after catching it.
“He’s telling me that just boosts my confidence,” Ocke said. “That’s what my friends always tell me. They believed in me. I believed in myself too.”
OKK was in spot-up positions – 45% of his offensive use – higher than he was last season (35.2%), making his credibility and effectiveness even more important to his scoring.
Steadier shooting would also force defenders to work harder on the OKK, which would open up the driving lane to demonstrate their underrated passing.
“You want these people to continue to have a level of confidence in themselves and within each other,” Mosley said. “The fact that he is willing to do that and we encourage that is something we have to continue to look at. I want these guys to feel confident every time they step on the field.”
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