The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Ochai Agbaji with the 14th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Ochai Agbaji (pronounced Och-Eye Ah-Bah-Gee) is a 22-year-old SG/SF out of the University of Kansas. Agbaji played all four years at Kansas, completing his career with a National Championship this April. Ochai earned the 2022 Final Four Most Outstanding Player award for how well he played en route to the Championship. Agbaji averaged 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in his senior season. He steadily improved each year at Kansas, which goes to show that he will likely continue that trend in the NBA. Ochai’s most dominant skill is his three-point shooting.
As a senior, he shot a whopping 40.7% from behind the arc. Not to make any sort of comparison, but Steph Curry, arguably the best shooter in NBA history, shot 41.2% throughout his three-year college career. Agbaji was named a consensus first-team All-American this past season, as well as the Big-12 player of the year. It is pretty clear to see that he had an amazing college experience at Kansas. Now, let’s get to his fit in the NBA, and specifically the Cavs.
Fit in the NBA
Ochai is listed at 6’5 3/4″. This makes him a little shorter than most NBA three-men, but given how the Cavs like to play Lauri Markkanen (who is 7’0″) at the three, I don’t think his size is going to determine which position he will play for the Wine and Gold. He provides one thing that the Cavaliers have been sorely lacking, three-point shot-making. The Cavs were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA last year. Outside of Garland, Love, Lauri and maybe Cedi, the Cavs don’t really have any reliable knock-down shooters. Agbaji is a player that can come off the bench, play fairly good defense and hit open threes. It is important for the Cavs to have a shooter to spread the floor when they have two seven-footers playing down low.
It is likely that Agbaji doesn’t get many minutes to start the season, since the Cavs are pretty packed with wing players. He will have to fight for minutes with Sexton (if he comes back to Cleveland as an RFA), LeVert, Okoro, Stevens and Windler. He has a path to earning more minutes if he can hold his own defensively, and shoot at a high percentage. I could see him even starting a game or two alongside Garland, Markkanen, Mobley,and Allen as we get into the second half of the season.
Is his Age a Concern?
His age is one thing that may scare fans. Most NBA draft prospects are usually 19 or 20 years old. This gives younger players more upside and room to grow. The fact that Ochai is 22 does not scare me, however. The Memphis Grizzlies are a team that became a real contender this year. Part of their growth can be attributed to how well their young core of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Desmond Bane have impressed. Desmond Bane is someone that Agbaji gets compared to quite often. I can see the resemblance. Bane was a four-year guard out of TCU.
Many scouts used Bane’s age as a knock against him but put in the right situation, an older prospect can help a team make the jump from a solid team to a playoff contender. I think that is exactly what the Cavs will be trying to do with this selection. Ochai will be able to come right in and play meaningful minutes for the Cavaliers thanks to his extensive college experience. He will be the Desmond Bane-type player that Darius Garland and Evan Mobley need. I can see the Cavaliers making a jump this season, comparable to that of the Memphis Grizzlies last season.
Taking a swing on a younger, higher upside player, may have been more appealing to most Cavs fans. Although I may have even thought that myself, I now strongly believe that this was a great pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am excited to see how the addition of Ochai can take us to the next level, the NBA Playoffs.
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