Player Previews: Josh Akognon

July 18, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Ben Uzoh (18) chases Sacramento Kings guard Josh Akognon (0) in the second half of the game at the Thomas

Who is Josh Akognon? The Memphis Grizzlies picked up the guard off waivers this offseason, following his release from the Dallas Mavericks. He’s hardly a familiar name to NBA fans, having played a grand total of nine minutes with the Dallas Mavericks.

Akognon is a 27-year old 5’11″ guard, and the first thing about his game that you would ever hear about is his shooting. Part of the reason for that is because, well, he’s a really good shooter. In this offseason’s Summer League, Akognon averaged a strong 19.3 points in 18.3 minutes on 53.3% shooting from the field and 38.5% from deep. Before making it into the NBA, Akognon led the Chinese Basketball Association in scoring for two consecutive seasons. Akognon is the rare breed of scorer who can create his own shot from as far out as he wants, and drill that shot at a high rate.

Of course, the other reason you only hear about Akognon’s deep range is because he really doesn’t offer much else. His height would indicate that he’s best suited for the point guard position, but his game is basically limited to shooting the ball. There are plenty of scoring point guards in the NBA, but Akognon is different. He is a scoring guard in a point guard’s body. Akognon averaged 0.7 assists per game in Summer League. And, he can’t really defend or do much of anything else.

Of course, there is a niche in the NBA for players who can find one thing they are really good at and run with it. Brooklyn’s Reggie Evans has made a career out of rebounding and doing everything for the loose ball. Toronto’s Steve Novak is limited to shooting threes, but he’s one of the league’s most accurate. Like those guys, there is one skill Akognon offers at a premium: shooting the basketball.

His height could prove to be a bit of a problem, especially against NBA-level competition. Even on offense, Akognon could find himself stumped by some of the world’s best on-ball defenders at the guard position. However, if ever Memphis needs a scoring burst from its backcourt, Akognon is an option that they can turn to. Nothing will be handed to him without him earning it, but there might be an opportunity for Akognon.

Jerryd Bayless looks like the backup point guard right now, and he like Akognon is a scorer at that position. However, Bayless is prone to bouts of inconsistency and poor shot selection. If he falters and the Grizzlies need someone for a scoring burst from their bench (and the Grizzlies aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut–offensive struggles do crop up now and then), Akognon might get a sniff.

Nick Calathes, another point guard, was brought on this offseason, so Akognon might not necessarily be the third-string point guard. However, he is the significantly better scorer of the two (Calathes has a more all-around game). Mike Miller and Quincy Pondexter are great three-point shooters, but they can’t create their own shot. That’s the niche that Akognon can fill for the Grizzlies.

It might not be worth much, but for a guy simply looking for a shot in the NBA (no pun intended), it’ll do for Akognon. In all likelihood, he could spend the bulk of the season in the D-League or on the inactive list. In a best case scenario, however, he could take on a minor role in the Grizzlies’ rotation and give them a handful of quick points when they need it. For an end-of-the-bench guy with his level of NBA experience, he’s got a pretty decent chance of walking into such a role. That chance still isn’t much to speak of, but at least it’s something.

 

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