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Ochai Agbaji is worth trading up for

The Kansas guard is as NBA-ready as they come

Villanova v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Ochai Agbaji is one of those guys that you know won’t be a bad NBA player. The First-Team All-American Kansas guard has all the tools needed to make an immediate impact at the next level. But if the Dallas Mavericks want to grab him, they’d likely have to trade up. Let’s take a deeper look at Agbaji.

Specs

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 217 lbs

Wingspan: 6’10”

Key Notes

Offense

  • Knockdown shooter
  • Above-the-rim finisher
  • Lob threat
  • Good off-ball movement
  • Needs to improve ball handling
  • Great footwork shooting off screens

Defense

  • Solid all-around defender
  • Uses his athleticism to his advantage
  • Long wingspan helps big time

Player Comparisons

If everything goes right: Turbo JJ Redick with hops

If everything goes wrong: Lonnie Walker

Most realistic outcome: Consistent Malik Monk with solid defense

Stats and Accomplishments

2021-22 Big 12 Player of the Year

2021-22 Consensus All-America

2021-22 Wooden Award Finalist

2022 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player

Best Games of Last Season

vs. Texas Tech

37 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 13-23 FG, 7-12 3pt FG

vs. Villanova (Final Four)

21 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 6-7 3pt FG

vs. KSU

23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 9-13 FG, 4-6 3pt FG

Three Key Things

1. Shooting off screens

Ochai Agbaji’s shooting is one of the most attractive parts of his game. His 3-point shot has gotten better by roughly three percentage points every season, ultimately leading to his senior year where he shot nearly 41% from beyond the arc on 6.5 attempts per game.

He does a nice job of finding the open space for opportunities off of drive-and-kicks, but he also has a little JJ Redick in him, running around screens, squaring up with the rim, and elevating for the jumper. He can shoot from anywhere on the court, and that’s a skill that always translates.

2. Lob threat

Opposing defenses have to respect Agbaji’s shooting, so he often uses the tight defense to his advantage, blowing by defenders for backdoor alley-oops. All the ball handler has to do is throw it somewhere in the stratosphere and Ochai will go get it. His hops combined with his wingspan make him one of the best perimeter lob threats in the draft.

Agbaji also loves to leak out in transition and get his team easy buckets that way. Once again, any pass remotely near the basket will do just fine. Ochai will snag it.

3. Quiet confidence

Ochai Agbaji isn’t the kind of guy that’s always in your face letting you know what he just did to you, but don’t mistake his quiet demeanor for a lack of confidence. He believes in his game, he’s the ultimate teammate, and every once in a while, you see the emotion come out.

It’s not shyness or timidness. It’s composure. It’s focus.

The Checklist

Role with Mavericks

Picture all of Josh Green’s minutes, but with a good NBA player playing them. Then, picture a world where Tim Hardaway Jr. isn’t on the Mavs and you have a guy on a rookie contract giving you 85% of what Hardaway brings with a little added spice.

Ochai Agbaji’s ceiling is relatively limited. His lack of ball-handling skills right now limit his one-on-one offense. However, he’s one of the safest picks in the whole draft. There is just no way he’ll be bad. He has an NBA body, NBA athleticism, an NBA motor, and NBA range. He also has a history of contributing to winning basketball in any and every way (check his college resume).

Summary

Similar to the Mark Williams situation, if the Mavs want a chance at Ochai Agbaji, they’ll likely have to trade into the back end of the lottery. Will that happen? Probably not. But should they consider it? Absolutely.

Ochai Agbaji is the type of guy you could plug into the Mavs roster right now and feel confident that he’ll help the team win for as long as he’s in uniform. He’d be a constant shooting threat next to Luka Doncic, he leaks out in transition, and he moves well off the ball. I can picture the Luka-Ochai alley oops already. Those two are a basketball match made in Heaven.