Know the Prospect: Ochai Agbaji

Shooting, athleticism, and defense. Three things that translate well in the NBA that scouts often love to see in a potential draft pick. Luckily for Ochai Agbaji, the University of Kansas senior wing, these might be his three biggest strengths. Predicted to go in the middle of the first round, Agbaji has the shooting, body frame, athleticism and defense to make him an intriguing prospect and fit in with almost any type of roster.

During his final year at Kansas, Agbaji averaged 18.8PPG, 5.1RPG and 1.6APG on an impressive 47.5%/40.9%/74.3% shooting split as he took on and embraced his new role as the “go-to-guy”. Agbaji did the majority of his damage from beyond the arc as he finished 15th in the nation in 3-point FGM with 103 in 39 games. He showcased some really good footwork before the catch, has a pretty high release, and can knock down shots on the move on highly-contested attempts. This will be Agbaji’s calling card in the NBA, a big reason he should find playing time regardless of the team and situation he ends up in. The former Jayhawk is not just a shooter, though.

While he is by no means a constant threat of isolation or the most creative ballhandler, he did improve as a playmaker and shot creator last season. He still relies on his teammates and the offense as a whole to get him going downhill at times, but he was able to score off the dribble and in transition more than he had during his previous years at Kansas. Agbaji shouldn’t be asked to do too much as a ball handler early on in his career; he should be able to take advantage of bad defenders and mismatches well enough to either create a shot for himself or get others involved. It is worthwhile noting that unlike some of the prospects who played on star-studded teams, Agbaji often had to deal with the opposing team’s best defenders, so he is used to dealing with that. Overall, his offense will always be centered around his ability to knock down outside shots both on the move and on spot ups, but if you want to be optimistic, there is some hope that he can at least turn into a respectable shot creator and scorer off the dribble.

Defensively, the 6-foot-6, 215 pound wing should have no problems dealing with and getting used to the physicality of the NBA. He has most of the tools necessary to be an elite lockdown defender at the next level. That being said, one concern is that he never showed an ability to consistently force turnovers or make plays on the defensive end, evident by his lack of steals and blocks. And while his on-ball defense was very good for the most part, his upright defensive stance led him to being beat on simple screens at times and he got beat on backdoor screens more often than coaches and scouts would like.

People have also questioned his motor at times, as he averaged just 4.3RPG in 35.1MPG, which is somewhat low for his size and athleticism. Agbaji also disappeared at times during big games and sporadically though out the season. And ultimately this is not something you want to hear out of anybody but it could be especially alarming for a prospect like Agbaji. One that already struggles to get his own shot and relies on his teammates to get him looks at times. This is somewhat of an enigma though as he had a very high motor in the games in which he was focused, motivated, and engaged, which to be fair was still most of the games.

Overall, Agbaji should still fit in nicely with whatever team drafts him, but the better the team, the better the look. Despite concerns about his ballhandling and engagement, Agbaji is one of the best 3-point shooters in the draft and his NBA-ready body and physicality should allow him to start in to any rotation from day 1. You won’t want to ask him to be the center piece of your franchise, especially offensively, but if you already have shot creators and playmakers around, he could be a very nice role player with a very long career. For those who like player comps, I’d think of him to be a guy that projects to fit into the mold of former Knick Trevor Ariza, or someone along those lines.

I honestly could see the Knicks taking him but not at 11. If the Knicks moved back, then there is a possibility there. The Knicks have liked taking guys who can defend (Quentin Grimes, Deuce McBride, Jericho Sims), which is not surprising seeing as how they are coached by Tom Thibodeau and teams are’ always looking to add shooting. That being said, this isn’t a pick I would want or go for myself. The Knicks have needs at other positions since they currently have multiple wings (RJ Barrett, Fournier, Grimes, Reddish) and I’d want them to go after someone with more upside and a higher floor.

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