Next up for our draft profiles here at Denver Stiffs is Ochai Agbaji, who is coming off a national championship with the Kansas Jayhawks. Agbaji enters the draft following a four year collegiate career at Kansas where he got better and better as the years went on.
After starting 16 of the 22 games he played in his freshman season, Agbaji started his final 100 games he played in a Kansas uniform. Agbaji played a massive role in Kansas winning the national championship this past season and is certainly an option if he’s available when the Denver Nuggets are on the clock in just under two weeks.
Ochai Agbaji, Wing, Kansas
Age: 22 (4/20/2000)
Agbaji’s per game stats his senior season (2021-22)
It was a phenomenal senior season for Agbaji, who was the unanimous Big 12 player of the year thanks to his 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. Not only did Agbaji put up eye popping numbers, but he also put up eye popping minutes as he played 35.1 minutes per game as the Jayhawks rarely played with #30 off the court.
Agbaji shot an efficient 47.5 percent from the field and a scorching 40.7 percent from beyond the arc. Not only did Agbaji shoot over 40 percent from three, but he did so with pretty high volume as he attempted 6.5 threes per game.
Looking at some of his defensive stats, Agbaji averaged just 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks per game as he really made his presence felt statistically on the offensive end of the court. One more note on Agbaji’s shooting numbers is that he shot a career-high 74.3 percent from the free-throw line last year, which speaks to his growth shooting the basketball.
We touched on it above, but Agbaji is a lights out shooter from three and was a nightmare for opposing defenses to try and slow down this past season. Agbaji constantly got better as a three-point shooter during his time at Kansas as his percentages went from 30.7 (freshman), 33.8 (sophomore), 37.7 (junior), to 40.7 percent his senior season.
Footage from Ochai Agbaji at the Octagon Pro Day. The NCAA champion and Final Four Most Outstanding Player showed off his smooth shooting stroke and explosive athleticism in front of a large group of NBA executives. pic.twitter.com/d757lX0LOF— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 22, 2022
Agbaji always seem to have a really good base when he gets the ball and that helps him rise up and show off his smooth stroke. Not only can Agbaji create his own shot and score in transition, but he can also score on catch and shoot threes and hit a number of big shots for the Jayhawks throughout his college career.
It feels like defense always comes down to motor and effort, which are two things Agbaji plays with. Agbaji is an exceptional on-ball defender who has a knack for staying in front of his opponent and forcing them to take tough contested shots:
Good on-ball defense from Agbaji here. Denies Tyty's drive baseline and then while Tyty gets a step on him; he still gets a decent contest on the recovery. pic.twitter.com/n2XG4ZZufg— Asher Levy (@asherlevynba) January 30, 2022
Agbaji is not afraid to make the hustle plays you need to be successful and showcased that a number of times in the NCAA Tournament during Kansas’ title run. Not only was his on-ball defense exceptional in the tournament, but so was his off-ball defense as he bailed his teammates out a handful of times.
In the NBA, Agbaji may struggle to guard bigger wings, but should have not trouble matching up with most players positioned 1-4. His high energy play style and motor will help Agbaji have success sooner rather than later at the next level on the defensive end of the floor.
If you are looking for someone in this draft who is super athletic and not afraid to make things happen at the rim then Agbaji is your guy. Agbaji is a super explosive wing who can do some really special things with the ball in his hands near the basket:
It should also be mentioned that Agbaji is a really smart off-ball offensive player, which would fit in great with the Nuggets. Playing off someone like Nikola Jokic could unlock Agbaji as a player and help him grow even more, which he already has done a really solid job of throughout these past four seasons.
It’s funny but Agbaji’s greatest strength — scoring — is sometimes his greatest weakness with how streaky he can be. During his four years at Kansas, Agbaji was an incredibly streaky player who experienced a number of dry spells. Hopefully with a larger sample size like 82 regular season games, Agbaji is able to straighten out some of those inconsistencies, but they just happened to many times at Kansas.
Ochai Agbaji had a rough outing vs Tennessee going 1-9 from 3, but he has a very quick release with no time wasted on the shot. Despite 1-9 shooting Saturday, he’s still at a career best 39% from 3 on a career high 6+ attempts per game pic.twitter.com/AdNJuZZRUg— Mavs / Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) February 1, 2021
Dry spells is something all scorers go through, but in the NBA it will be important for Agbaji to limit his struggles and bounce back as quickly as possible. Luckily for Agbaji he’s more than just a one-dimensional players and will often find a way to make a positive impact whether his shot is going through the hoop or not.
At 22 years old it makes Agbaji one of the older prospects in the draft. It’s weird to think 22 is a little old for a prospect, but when some of the other players are 19 or 20 years old there is certainly something to be said when comparing ages. If Agbaji is close with another prospect and that player is two years younger than him it makes it more likely an NBA team is going to take the player with more upside.
When you look at the situation the Nuggets are currently in though they may be able to afford drafting a more polished player like Agbaji. The Nuggets are in win-now mode and Agbaji is a player who could certainly help them as early as next season. Not only could Agbaji come off the bench and be an instant scorer for the Nuggets, but he could also help them on the defensive end of the floor.
For a team that is looking for more explosiveness on the wing, I see Agbaji as a really solid fit for the Nuggets. Even though he is a streaky player, Agbaji’s offense off the bench could pair perfectly with Bones Hyland and Monte Morris and his defensive upside would also really boost the Nuggets second unit.
The only question I have is if there is someone on the board who is a little younger — say a Kendall Brown (19) or Wendell Moore Jr. (20) — then do you take one of those guys who might have a little more upside? Or do you take Agbaji and feel good about it? I’m not sure there is a wrong answer and regardless, I think if Agbaji fell to the Nuggets on draft night he most certainly has to be in the conversation of someone who would make this team better.