CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the offseason with a plan to add more shooting.
They took the first step Thursday night, selecting Kansas sharpshooter Ochai Agbaji with the No. 14 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Despite numerous trade rumors involving the Cavs’ first-round pick, sources tell cleveland.com the Cavaliers have no plans to trade the 6-foot-5 swingman.
“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.”
With other potential targets Ousmane Dieng and Jalen Williams going a few picks before to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Cavs opted for Agbaji, considered a ready-made, plug-and-play 3-and-D wing.
They targeted Agbaji throughout the pre-draft process because of his elite shooting, which separates him from any other player currently on the roster. The Cavs saw that stroke in person during his group workout at Cleveland Clinic Courts a few weeks back. He also checks other boxes that Cleveland values – character, stylistic fit, athleticism, versatility and work ethic.
Despite winning 44 games last season, doubling their total from the previous year, the Cavs ranked 20th in offensive rating and made 3s. They ranked just 22nd in 3-point attempts and 15th in percentage.
Agbaji, who ranks fourth in school history in made 3s (250), should help with that. He averaged 1.27 points per catch and shoot jumper, which ranked in the 94th percentile. He also showed an ability to smoothly rise up off screens and dribble hand offs. Complementing his accomplished outside game, Agbaji used his power and athleticism when he had a clear path to the rim, averaging 1.45 points per shot around the rim in the halfcourt (94th percentile).
Making steady improvements each year while at Kansas, Agbaji declared for the 2021 NBA Draft, attended the combine, received feedback about his draft positioning, took it to heart and returned to Kansas for his senior campaign. There were lofty expectations for Agabji upon his return from him. He exceeded all of them, taking Big 12 Player of the Year honors, being named a consensus First-Team All-American and leading the Jayhawks to their first NCAA championship since 2008. He capped his unlikely star turn with Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Final Four. That exceptional senior year elevated Agbaji — a finalist for the 2021-22 Naismith Trophy, Wooden Award and Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award — from second-round pick into the lottery.
“To see the natural progression that’s taken place and to see him being a guy that is going to make a lot of money playing this game for a long time when he wasn’t projected to do that, it’s been special to watch,” he said Kansas coach Bill Self. “He deserves all the credit because there’s nobody that works like him.”
In his final season with the Jayhawks, Agbaji averaged 18.8 points on 47.5% from the field and 40.1% from 3-point range to go with 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.6 steals.
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