The Charlotte Hornets have an oft documented need for talent at the center spot, but they have two picks. There is room for depth on the wing, especially if Cody Martin departs in free agency. One target to fill that possible void is a 3&D prospect that fills a very desirable NBA prototype.
Height: 6’4.5” w/o shoes
Standing reach: 8’8”
Weight: 217 pounds
Standing vertical: 32”
Max vertical: 39”
3-point shooting, perimeter defense, physical profile, defined role
Agbaji profiles as a knockdown 3-point shooter in a spot up role. He shot 40.7% from three as a senior at Kansas on 6.5 attempts per game. He has beautiful footwork in spot up situations, hopping into the catch and rising up with perfect balance. His release is quick, compact, and repeatable. He’s able to beat late contests with that quick release. He’s very good getting set coming off screens and relocating to open space to make himself available to driving teammates. He’s already shown NBA range. He hit multiple 3-pointers in 29 of 39 games for Kansas as as senior and had five games with at least five 3-pointers made.
Here’s a clip of him shooting at his pro day workout:
Obviously that’s a controlled environment meant to make the player look good, but you can see how clean his shooting form is.
To complement his outside shooting, Agbaji has the tools to be a defensive stopper on the wing. He’s a tremendous athlete with quick feet and a good feel for cutting off attack angles. He makes the effort to recover if he gets screened off or gets beat by the initial move, and he makes a point to close out to every shot. He’s very deliberate about trying to shield the shooters face when closing out instead of passively raising his arm for appearances. His 6’10” wingspan and 8’8” standing reach are both terrific for a wing. Those traits give him more room for error and make him more disruptive on the defensive end.
His stock numbers dipped a bit over his last couple seasons at Kansas, but that’s probably a somewhat due to the increased offensive workload he took on. He’ll be a role player in the NBA, so he’ll be better able to focus his attention on the defensive end of the floor.
With that Agbaji has a very clear role in the NBA. He will space the floor and hit spot up 3-pointers on offense while occasionally using his athleticism on cuts and straight line drives to the basket. He’ll be tasked with guarding 1-3, maybe four defensively. Agbaji seems to have the right mentality for that kind of role. While he was the go-to guy at Kansas as a senior, it didn’t always seem like that was a natural role for him. He had stretches where he would go very quiet offensively, and he seems more comfortable in offensive role where he minimizes mistakes instead of creates opportunities.
Shot creation, playmaking, low ceiling
Agbaji is not a natural shot creator by any stretch of the imagination. He has a very limited repertoire of dribble moves and struggles to create for himself. He’s very athletic without the ball, but the ball weighs him down a lot. He’s a slow attacker off the dribble and isn’t very explosive attacking the basket with the ball in his hands. He struggles to finish in traffic around the rim and is heavily reliant on his floater if he attacks from the perimeter.
He only averaged 0.78 assists per turnover as a senior and had an extremely-low-for-a-top-option 8.7% assist rate. He won’t be expected to create for others in the NBA, but that lack of play making for both himself and others significantly lowers his ceiling. He’ll have to take a giant leap in one or both of those areas to ever elevate himself out of being a role player, and at age 22, there isn’t as much time for that to happen as there is for others in this draft.
Ochai Agbaji has a strikingly similar profile to Desmond Bane coming out of college, and that’s the sort of role he’ll likely fill in the NBA, though maybe not with the volume that Bane has had to this point in his career. Think someone like Dorian Finney-Smith. He likely won’t become a star, but not everyone on the roster can be a star. There is a definite need for players that will create space for the stars and shoulder the defensive burden. The Hornets may need to replace Cody Martin this summer, and a player like Agbaji should be able to slide in and fill that role immediately.