• Sudeep Tumma

Scouting Report: Ochai Agbaji's Shooting Ability is the Backbone of His Profile

Time has served him well.

Good things come to those who wait, right? The expression certainly applies to Kansas shooting guard Ochai Agbaji, who has spent four years in college but is now shaping up to be a lottery pick.

The NBA loves to knock players like him for their age. With guys coming out 22-23 years old, the logic is they’re losing potential years of development over someone who’s 18-19.

It makes sense, the formula works. But it’s not absolute. There always seems to be a crop of players who are knocked down a peg for that reason but emerge as impact players. Damian Lillard and Malcolm Brogdon are two examples.

Agbaji appears to fit that mold.

He has gotten better each of his years at Kansas. The 6-5, 215-pound guard is enjoying a stellar senior year that has put him squarely in the National Player of the Year conversation.

It all starts with his silky-smooth jumper.

Evidenced by the numbers — 19.9 points per game on 50.1% shooting and 43.5% from deep — Agbaji is an efficient player who boasts superb shot selection.

He has a super quick release on his jumper with clean mechanics. Most notable is his shooting pocket, meaninge he doesn’t dip the ball too low, which helps him get the ball out of his hands quickly. And he elevates well on his jump shot, making the contest an even more arduous task.

The majority of his 6.7 attempts a game come off spot-up looks. He runs off pin downs, screens, etc. Then he’ll be the beneficiary of KU guards penetrating and forcing his defender to sag off him and help. And Agbaji only needs a foot or two of space to launch a 3-pointer.

He’s adept at hitting contested triples from deep, deep range. His limitless range will most assuredly translate in the NBA.

But he’s not just standing at the perimeter aimlessly, he does a good job sliding to open spots, ready to catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.

Agbaji also displays the ability to shoot off the bounce. It’s not an advanced, size-you-up, break-you down type of attack, but he’s proven to be potent as the pick-and-roll handler when he creates just enough space to hit threes.

Because of those high-percentage looks — mixed in with his shooting prowess — Agbaji shoots a high percentage. Simple enough, right?

From there, the rest of Agbaji’s game comes to fruition.

When defenses close out — and defenses most certainly are looking to close out — he utilizes pump fakes phenomenally.

He’ll hit you with the one-dribble pull-up as he steps into the mid-range and hits an in-rhythm jumper. Or he’ll pump fake and sidestep the overeager defender to launch a triple.

Or he’ll rip a few dribbles, find a soft spot in the mid-range and settle in to hit off-balance and/or fadeaway jumpers. Agbaji is capable of contorting his body to get the ball off cleanly while still hitting those pull-up jumpers.

There’s always the threat of the jumper, but his dribble-drive game is fantastic.

Agbaji possesses a quick first step. So whether it’s a pump fake or the threat of the jumper, Agbaji attacks downhill off those looks. He’s a north/south driver who can slice through defenses when he finds the creases. He’s also got a reliable floater he loves to go to when the help defender is dropping toward the basket.

But he’s not an ultra-creative finisher. He’s more of a straight-line driver who’s judicious when he attacks. Still, he flashes good body control and the ability to finish through contact.

He’s also outstanding in transition. He doesn’t grab rebounds and push the break, but he’ll run the break with his speed and get down the floor and score at the basket. Or he’ll space out and hit an open three.

Which is a testament to his offensive game. Like we talked about: efficiency. He doesn’t force bad shots, bad passes, bad decisions — he’s just technically sound.

That being said, genuine concern arises over his ability to create his own shot. He has solid handles, and he’s — again — opportunistic with when he hits overreaching defenders with a crossover/behind-the-back move versus breaking them down and manufacturing a decent shot.

That is why he projects better as a No. 2 option in the NBA.

Which is fine. We’re always so concerned with upside and potential stardom, but few players actually reach that feat.

There are ways to utilize him all the same and produce good looks, the way Kansas has. He’s scored in bunches, but the assists numbers aren’t there.

He isn’t an expert facilitator, he usually makes the simple, smart pass out of bad situations.

Still, in my opinion, he’s a better passer than his numbers indicate.

The way Kansas gets him the ball — off screens, cuts, spot-up looks — leaves little room for Agbaji to create for others.

You see flashes when he’s driving the ball to the basket and lofts up a well-placed lob to the big man in the dunker spot. Or some pocket passes here and there.

His rebounding numbers, however, are indicative of his effort in that department.

Agbaji does a tremendous job locating his man, sticking a body and fighting for rebounds. With his 6-10 wingspan, Agbaji gets position, then uses his length to secure boards.

I love how he crashes the boards, putting a priority on that before running out in transition. You don’t see him prematurely darting in transition before he or his team secures the rebound.

It’s an effort thing, which shows up with his defense as well.

His defensive intensity stays square, he doesn’t fall asleep when he doesn’t have the ball. Kansas switches almost everything, even with off-ball matchups. He’s fluid in the system and communicates to switch seamlessly.

With that, he’s an excellent weak-side help defender. He has a good feel for when he should rotate and help. Which plays perfectly to the modern-day NBA.

His one-on-one defense is also a big plus. He has solid lateral quickness to stick and his length helps in there as well.

Overall, Agbaji projects as a 3-and-D wing. And a prodigious one.

Those types of guys are a necessity nowadays. With how efficient and effective Agbaji is in that role, it’s no wonder his draft stock is soaring.

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