2022 NBA Draft: Ochai Agbaji's championship past could suit Bulls

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2022 NBA Draft: Could Agbaji's champ pedigree suit Bulls? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Bulls own the 18th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Their options with that selection, should they keep it, are plentiful.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, NBC Sports Chicago will examine a handful of prospects that could be in play for the Bulls in their expected range. Next up: Kansas wing Ochai Agbaji.

Bio

Name: Ochai Agbaji

School: Kansas

Position: SG/SF

Age: 22

Height: 6-5 ¾

Weight: 217

Wingspan: 6-10 ¼

2021-22 Stats: 18.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.6 apg | 47.5% FG, 40.1% 3P, 74.3% FT

Three Things to Know

  • Both of Agbaji’s parents played college basketball at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: The same school Kansas drubbed 95-68 in a non-conference matchup at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 10, 2019 during Agbaji’s sophomore season. Agbaji sank five 3-pointers en route to 22 points. His Dad attended the game wearing a UW-Milwaukee hat and Kansas basketball jacket.

Agbaji’s college career began with him receiving limited recruiting interest until Kansas came calling. It ended with him contributing 12 points in a victorious effort in the national championship.

  • He improved his scoring average and 3-point percentage each of his four seasons at Kansas: And while some of this improvement can merely be tied to opportunity and role, to move from 8.5 points to 18.8 points from freshman to senior season is significant. As is his 3-point shooting improvement from 30.7 percent on 3.4 attempts per game his freshman season to 40.7 percent on 6.5 attempts his senior season.

Kansas coach Bill Self has noted Agbaji’s work ethic and model teammate status on multiple occasions — and for good reason. He worked himself into one of the country’s better catch-and-shoot threats by his senior year.

  • Agbaji entered the draft process in 2021 before pulling out and picking up, on an occasional basis, a high-profile offseason workout partner: Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

Phil Beckner, Lillard’s college coach who now serves as a trainer and worked with Agbaji during the predraft process, connected the two. Agbaji has credited both Beckner and Lillard with teaching him to improve an already strong work ethic.

And the move to delay his draft entry has paid dividends. Not only did he help Kansas with an NCAA title, his draft projection moved from potential second-round pick to just outside the lottery.

Bulls Fit

The Bulls need shooting and two-way players. Agbaji is proficient in catch-and-shoot situations and in transition. He projects to be a plug-and-play "3 and D" wing, a position that is so vital to today's NBA. While there will be a learning curve, Agbaji posted the fourth-highest vertical leap at the NBA Draft Combine at 39 inches. So there’s athleticism along with positional size.

Plus, as the rare four-year college player, he slots in as rotational ready not only from his NCAA championship experience but from an age and maturity standpoint. Agbaji worked out for the Bulls, who, in Ayo Dosunmu, have drafted a multi-year college player recently.

Assuming Zach LaVine is retained, Agbaji would project to a reserve role, allowing him to gain experience and perhaps run with it like Dosunmu did during his standout rookie season. While some scouts suggest Agbaji is a "high floor, low ceiling" type player, the fact he continued to improve throughout his four years at Kansas and rose from unheralded recruit to national championship might also suggest late bloomer.

Agbaji would need to improve his ability to create and get to the free-throw line. But particularly for his rookie season, his catch-and-shoot ability could help space the floor and his high release and sound mechanics project to translate well to the longer 3-point shot.

More 2022 NBA Draft Profiles

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