Ochai Agbaji wrapped up the 2021-2022 collegiate season with about as much hardware as one can. In addition to being a part of the national championship team he was named the Most Outstanding Player of both the NCAA tournament and the Big 12 tournament, and won the Big-12 Player of the Year award.
It was a successful senior season for Kansas City product, who improved impressively during his four years at the University of Kansas. Most notably, he progressed from being a quite questionable perimeter shooter to being one of the single best shooters in the 2022 NBA draft class. Last season, Agbaji converted 40.7% of his 253 three-point attempts.
The improved percentage is but a small part of his growth as a shooter. His ability to shoot on the move, in general, and sprinting off screens, including incredibly precise footwork, sets him apart from most shooters at his age, even the elite ones.
As a prospect, he’s the very manifestation of the so-called 3&D player. In addition to his shooting prowess, Agbaji is widely considered one of the best defensive guards in the class. His reputation may be a but exaggerated as Kansas used a mix of defensive schemes that often took pressure off their point of attack defenders.
However, he shows a lot of useful athleticism and tested to expectations at the NBA draft combine. Still, we really haven’t seen him have to defend consistently in tight quarters and when having to deal with significant traffic. At the next level, if he will be asked to spend sizable time defending on ball, he will have to prove he can sufficiently navigate screens and such.
But, generally, he’s a springy athlete with a helpfully narrow frame and a reliable motor that should set him up to start on a nice trajectory as a defender.
There will be important questions about how his size lines up to impact how much defensively versatility he will bring at the NBA level. He stands 6’4 1⁄2 (no shoes) with a 6’10 1⁄4 wingspan. That’s desirable length to go along with a 216 lb frame.
Agbaji looks the part of a guard that will provide value defending point guards in the De’Anthony Melton mold, even if he has a bit more size with which to work.
Offensively the 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 a workable fit playing next to a high usage point guard or wing.
There are, however, important questions about his other ball skills. Agbaji is a fairly limited ball handler and passer. It can be hard to evaluate his actual current ability in these areas because of how prescriptively the Jayhawks played on offense. Also because of how exceptional he is playing off the ball overall.
Still, he amassed 62 assists compared to 80 turnovers last season when a bit more playmaking opportunity found him. As a creator, he just doesn’t look quite comfortable nor natural.
But, given his growth in other areas, it wouldn’t be too unexpected to see him develop sufficiently in these important phases. It will be a critical projection for NBA teams to get right as it’s hard to play a 6’4 wing that struggles to successfully put the ball on the floor, especially when chase off of the three-point line.
He makes up for some of his deficiencies in the half court by functioning as a dynamic contributor in transition where he put his outlier vertical skills to use. Even in half court sets he often served as a lob threat, especially situational in sideline out of bounds (SLOB) and after timeout (ATO) contexts.
Most encouraging about his development potential overall is the amount of nuance and attention to detail he has demonstrated in his areas of strength. NBA teams often trust the broader development trajectory of a player that has showed the kind of precise execution the way Agbaji has.
Broadly projected to be drafted in the middle of the first round, he is the kind of player whose draft outcome could be greatly impacted by how much trading takes plays as teams potentially move up to take a specific prospect.
A number of teams scheduled to draft on the 20’s, for example Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Dallas, and Miami, may see him as a plug and play 3&D wing worth trying to move up to draft. At the same time, teams may look to move up into the lottery to take players they view as being higher ceiling prospects, which could slide him down a bit.
Wherever he lands, he’s likely to get a chance to play before numerous players that are expected to be drafted ahead of him.