With March Madness coming to a close and the Portland Trail Blazers scouting the best college players in the country to potentially join the squad next season, we spoke to Black Rock Chalk Talk site manager Nick about Kansas Jayhawks leading scorer Ochai Agbaji ahead of Monday’s National Championship.
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Thank you Nick for participating in our Q&A.
1. The Blazers could potentially hold the Pelicans’ pick this year after the CJ McCollum trade if it falls in their favor in the draft lottery. Agbaji has been rumored to go in this range after flying up boards. Do you think he is worth a late lottery/mid-round pick?
I understand that I’m biased when it comes to Kansas Basketball players, but there is no doubt in my mind that Agbaji is worth a late lottery pick. His length, athleticism, motor, and 3-point shooting ability would make him a valuable asset on any NBA roster. He was able to produce close to 20 points a night despite being consistently face guarded by some of the best defenses in the country. But even when he doesn’t have it going offensively, he’s a guy that can use his athleticism to produce on the glass and the defensive end.
2. Agbaji has grown a lot in his four years at Kansas and is the leading scorer for a team in the National Championship. What strides has he been able to make this season?
Agbaji’s made tremendous improvements to his 3-point percentage, dribbling ability, and overall feel for the game. But his mentality on offense is the one area that’s night and day compared to last season. In 2020-21, you could see that he has star potential, but he would often disappear in large stretches or crucial moments. This year, he’s become a killer. He wants the ball in big moments because he knows he’s the best player on the floor.
3. What will Agbaji’s biggest weakness be on the NBA level?
While his dribbling has certainly improved, it’s still a work in progress. With that, he can sometimes struggle to create shots on his own. Agbaji excels most at scoring on off-ball motion plays where he can get his feet set. He can score off the bounce too, but it’s typically 2-3 dribbles max.
4. If everything goes right, what is Agbaji’s ceiling in the NBA?
In reality, I see Agbaji’s ceiling as being one of the top 3 and D players in the league. Hopefully, he improves enough to become an all-star level player, but I think that’s unlikely.
5. What do you think is Agbaji’s likeliest career trajectory in the NBA? Is there an NBA player he reminds you of?
Agbaji seems like a guy that starts the majority of games on the bench early in his career. Once he builds confidence and gets comfortable with the NBA playing style in year 2 or 3, I can definitely see him earning a starting role. He reminds me most of former TCU star Desmond Bane.