San Antonio Spurs Draft

Ochai Agbaji Could Make Spurs' Drop in Draft Lottery Worth It

Ochai Agbaji, Collin Gillespie
Ochai Agbaji, Collin Gillespie / Tom Pennington/GettyImages
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With the San Antonio Spurs suddenly on fire and potentially lowering their lottery pick, the highly-skilled and touted Purdue guard Jaden Ivey will probably be off the table for the Silver and Black. If you are convinced that Joshua Primo is more of a wing or small forward and Dejounte Murray needs help in the backcourt, Ochai Agbaji from the top-seeded NCAA champion Kansas Jayhawks might be the draft pick for you.

Most mock drafts have Agbaji hovering between the tenth and 15th pick (although he ranges from top five to 20th), so the Spurs could be able to select him with their first of three picks in the first round. Agbaji is the second-best guard in the draft class behind Jaden Ivey, and he should be a key role player or starter from the very first game of next season.

He turns 22 later this month, so unlike Josh Primo and Devin Vassell, he will not spend any time in Austin. At 6’5” and 215 pounds, he will not need to spend his entire summer in the gym like some other prospects, as his body is already ready for the NBA physicality. He opted to stay at Kansas for all four years of his eligibility, but so did Tim Duncan and David Robinson, so that should not scare fans away. 

Agbaji averaged 19 points in his final season and was easily the best player on the Jayhawks. He only averaged 1.6 assists, but that’s because he really did not have anyone to pass the ball to. The Spurs should focus on his 41% shooting from deep on a high volume of attempts instead of his perceived lack of sharing the ball. 

How Ochai Agbaji fits in the Spurs' rotation

With Dejounte Murray remaining the primary ball-handler, moving Vassell to the small forward spot and Johnson to the power forward with Poeltl down low would immediately give Murray three great shooters around him without sacrificing rebounding. Agbaji is an elite rebounder for his size, and his strength and wingspan indicate that can translate to the next level. 

Despite a somewhat disappointing individual performance in March Madness with only 14 points a game while Kansas took home the trophy, his perimeter defense took a step forward and his 3-point shooting leaped to 45%. Across both the NCAA and Big 12 Conference Tournaments, his performance remained relatively similar to his regular season, which is good considering he was a first-team All-American.

While he is not quite on Ivey’s level, the only things holding him back are his inability to create his own shot and his turnover-prone ball handling. On the Spurs, he will not be tasked with handling the ball -- that will remain Murray’s job. He also will not have to score off the dribble, just create space for himself off the ball to catch and shoot.

If the Spurs fall out of the top 10 in the draft, they can make it work with Agbaji. He will be the best player available and his fit on the roster does make sense. It would allow San Antonio to give Primo runtime as the leader of the bench unit, and it would instantly create an elite backcourt.

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While it is true that the Spurs need a power forward, adding an instant impact shooting guard who will have a long NBA career isn’t a bad idea.

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