The Cleveland Cavaliers have added Ochai Agbaji, the Kansas product and Most Outstanding Player at last year’s Final Four, with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Agbjai, 22, is a 6’5”, 215-pound wing with a 6’10” wingspan who fits a need for Cleveland. This is a team in real need of players on the wing who can shoot and defend and Agbjai is that guy.
He maybe doesn’t have the upside of other wing options, but he’s going to likely be good in his role. He provides something they actually need.
Last year at Kanas, he averaged 18.8 points per game and shot 41% from three. He was also an AP All-American in his senior year with the Jayhawks.
He improved each year as a shooter in college, jumping from 31% as a freshman to 34% as a sophomore to 38% as a junior and, finally, 41% as a senior. As a defender, he figures to be, at worst, solid. He feels like a J.B. Bickerstaff player.
“I think I can play off whoever it is, a guy who sees the court well, has a good IQ and can find me in the right spots, whether it’s cutting to the basket or spotting up in the corner, different spots on the court,” Agbaji said in a pre-draft interview, per the Athletic. “But I feel like I’m really unselfish. I’ll screen. I’ll play for the other guys on the team and just try to win.”
Agbaji initially wanted to play soccer in college and was not a highly-touted recruit through his first three years of high school.
Both of his parents played collegiate basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but Agbaji was only recruited by mid-majors until his senior year of high school when he averaged 27.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for Oak Park after hitting a growth spurt that made him 6-5.
A Kansas assistant coach caught wind of Agbaji, and the three-star recruit decided to become a Jayhawk. His Kansas career started as a redshirt freshman and ended with a Big 12 Player of the Year selection, a consensus First-Team All-American nod, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player Award and Kansas’ first NCAA title win since 2008.
His basketball career will continue in Cleveland.
Agbaji declared for the 2021 draft and attended last year’s combine before deciding to return to school. That decision paid off as his stock took a major leap and he emerged as one of the NCAA’s best shooters, though his toughness defensively already had him on the NBA radar.
His ascension to one of college basketball’s top players and an NBA lottery pick was a surprise to some, but if Agbaji comes in and puts in the same work that made him this far, his future, and the Cavs’ future, is very bright.
“I just want to thank the organization and Cleveland for drafting me, believing in me,” Agbaji said Thursday night from the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. “I’m going to give you 110 percent every single day and a positive attitude. I’m going to be a hard worker. Come in, be humble and represent my city well.”