The four-year starter for the Kansas Jayhawks, who’s March Madness run lead the team to a national title, earned first team All-American honors as well as Big 12 Player of the Year honors.
In his final senior year, Ochai Agbaji tallied career-highs in points (18.8), and rebounds (5.1) per game. All while shooting high percentages from the free-throw line (74.3), three-point line (40.9) and from the field (47.5) in over 35 minutes per night.
While his defensive stats might not compare to Liddel’s or Beauchamp’s, he can still play at an elite level on that side of the floor. Although, if your need is scoring, then Agbaji has you covered, as his potency on offense is a major strength that any NBA franchise would covet.
He can create his own shot in transition while still being able to catch and shoot automatically and hustle down the floor to make plays on or off the ball. For a team like the Denver Nuggets, who have a top-five offense, it’s crucial to add the extra scoring depth to create mismatches while also having a guy who can be a nightmare for defenders in the open court.
Due to his improvements and accolades in his final senior year with the Jayhawks, he does enter the 2022 NBA Draft as a bit of a wild card. One who could either fall late into the lottery or further into the middle of the first round.
Some draft analysts favor his college teammate, Christian Braun, and suspect that the Denver Nuggets will use their 30th overall pick on him instead.
For Agbaji, some key areas of his game include ball handling, setting up his shot, consistency in scoring and being one of the older prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft at 22 years old. His high-octane offensive prowess and swing an ability could make him a great role player, especially if he were to go to a team like the Nuggets. Where, compared to the Jayhawks, he wouldn’t be relied on as the focal point of the offense.
Some experts have likened him to a Mikal Bridges or Buddy Hield, as a good spot-up scorer who can play well in their roles both offensively and defensively. It’s important to note that the spot-up scoring and defensive mark of a two guard is an important part of the modern NBA. So, having a player with Agbaji’s skill set is incredibly valuable and they don’t come around very often.
He could be an important player in the Denver Nuggets second unit alongside Bones Hyland and Monte Morris as a polished, experienced player who can come in right away for a team in a win-now mindset. Obviously, every time you draft a player into the league there’s going to be learning curve. However, for Agbaji, he has already grown up as a Jayhawk, so, he can be ready for what an NBA team needs right away.
Agbaji has talked about how much he’s improved his game over the years but still knows that there is more to come if he wants to contribute night in and night out at the NBA level.
"“Really my main focus has been consistency, focusing on that more than anything,” Agbaji said. “Not going out with a total in mind for points or anything like that. Just being assertive and consistent.”"
Being a four-year starter that’s still worthy a being a high lottery pick isn’t that common in today’s NBA, particularly with all of the one-and-done college and G-League athletes surfacing. But for a player who has done what it has takes to grow his game, it can be important to have a player who can contribute and play right away in any role at the highest level.
Of all the players who stayed four years in college, like Agbaji, the young Kansas guard noted one player, in particular, that he’s been watching heavily leading up to the draft. During an interview with NBC Sports Washington, Agbaji mentioned how he’s studied the Memphis Grizzlies’ Desmond Bane. Noting how he feels that he can play up to his level and with the Denver Nuggets having the 30th pick in the draft, it could be lightning in a bottle to jolt up a team from good to great.
"“I watch a lot of Desmond Bane. That’s someone that I would say is similar to me game-wise. We’re both athletic, strong and can guard and make plays off the bounce, too.” Agbaji said. “Sometimes you’ve gotta stay patient, sometimes it’s not going to be there right away, the first two years or first three years. But if you stay the course, things will come to fruition.”"
If the Denver Nuggets do draft Agbaji, it would surely be a piece the team could use in their pursuit to win.
All three prospects add defense with some unique mix of offense that could make them a key contributor on an NBA roster. If any one of these players are available for Calvin Booth, alongside or instead of Jovic, then they could prove to be the piece necessary to bring a contender back as a whole again.
Draft night is just hours away, and the Denver Nuggets will be a team to follow tonight with the NBA’s second season (the offseason) now well underway.