Ochai Agbaji finished the 2021-2022 student season using the best possible equipment. In addition to being part of the National Championship Team, he was named Most Outstanding Player of both the NCAA Tournament and the Big 12 Tournament, and received the Big 12 Player of the Year award.
It has been a successful senior season for the Kansas City product, which has improved significantly in its four years at the University of Kansas. Most notably, he went from a rather dubious perimeter shooter to one of the top shooters in the 2022 NBA draft class. Agbaci made 40.7% of his 253 three-pointers last season.
The improved percentage is only a small part of his growth as an arrow. His ability to shoot on the move in general and run behind the scenes, including incredibly accurate footwork, sets him apart from most shooters of his age, even the elite ones.
As a prospect, he is the epitome of the so-called 3&D player. In addition to his shooting prowess, Agbaji is widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in his class. His reputation may be exaggerated as Kansas used a combination of defensive formations that often took the pressure off point guards.
However, he shows a lot of useful athleticism and has lived up to expectations in the NBA draft. However, we haven’t really seen him have to constantly defend himself in tight quarters and when he has to deal with significant traffic. At the next level, if he is asked to spend significant time defending the ball, he will have to prove that he can navigate enough on screens and the like.
But overall, he’s a springy athlete with a helpfully slim build and a reliable motor that should set him up for a good start as a defender.
There will be important questions about how his rise will affect the defensive versatility he will bring at the NBA level. It costs 6’4 one⁄2 (without shoes) from 6’10 one⁄four wingspan. This is the desired length for a 216 lb frame.
Agbaji looks like the part of a De’Anthony Melton-style point guard capable of protecting point guards, even if he has a bit more size to work with.
On offense, shooting is the part of his game that should get him on the floor relatively early in his NBA career. On paper, he should be in good shape playing alongside a frequently used point guard or cornerback.
However, there are important questions about his other ball skills. Agbaji is a rather limited ball carrier and passer. It can be difficult to gauge his current ability in these areas due to how prescriptive the Jayhawks have been on offense. Also because of how exceptionally he plays off the ball in general.
However, he scored 62 assists compared to 80 turnovers last season when he had slightly more opportunities to play. As a creator, he does not look very comfortable and natural.
But given its growth in other areas, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see it mature enough in these important milestones. NBA teams will be critical to getting the prediction right, as it’s hard to play a 6-foot-4 hitter who struggles to land the ball successfully, especially when he’s chasing the three-point line.
He makes up for some of his shortcomings on the half court by acting as a dynamic transition participant where he applies his exceptional vertical skills. Even in half-court sets, he often served as a cross threat, especially in off-field (SLOB) and after time-out (ATO) situations.
What is most reassuring about his overall development potential is the amount of nuance and attention to detail he has shown in his strengths. NBA teams often trust the wider trajectory of a player who has delivered such accurate performance as Agbaji.
Widely predicted to be drafted in the middle of the first round, he is the type of player whose draft outcome can be heavily influenced by how many draws the game takes as teams potentially move up to take a particular prospect.
A number of teams scheduled for the 20s draft, such as Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Dallas, and Miami, may see him as a 3&D wing worth trying and trying. At the same time, teams may try to move up in the lottery to take on players they think are more promising, which could push him down a bit.
Wherever he ends up, he will most likely have the chance to play in front of numerous players who are expected to be selected ahead of him.