The Cavaliers might have found exactly what they were looking for in this year’s draft.
It was no secret what Cleveland was looking for: an established 3-and-D wing capable of playing both in a rotation unit and spending time with a starting squad.
Enter Ochai Agbaji.
So far, rookie Ochai Agbaji has had a solid start to Summer League.
Earlier in the week, he began his Cavs career against the San Antonio Spurs, splashing his first two shots from three and finishing 4-9 from beyond the arc.
And look, before we get carried away, let’s remember that Agbaji should look good in Summer League.
The same goes for Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and every other lottery pick on the court in Las Vegas.
When a team spends a top-14 pick on a player, the expectation is that they’ll contribute.
Speaking of, what might Ochai Agbaji’s rookie season look like?
While the Cavs needed depth at wing, it’s also no secret that the team boasts several vets at the position.
Names like Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro, even Lamar Stevens each bring one thing to the table that Agbaji lacks: experience.
Ochai Agbaji knocks down the stepback jumper in the corner 🔥
— NBA (@NBA) July 8, 2022
Even throw in Collin Sexton, who is more of a pure scoring guard than wing, as currently ahead of Agbaji on the depth chart.
Of course, that’s also provided the Cavs bring back Sexton, who is a restricted free agent.
But that’s no fewer than four names ahead of Agbaji.
It’s a crowded room, for sure, but there’s reason to believe that Agbaji might quickly make his way up the pecking order.
Talent Over Time
It’s going to be difficult for Agbaji to come in right away and unseat LeVert, who is the projected starter at small forward.
But aside from the former Pacer and Net, Agbaji should have every chance to carve out a role as a catch-and-shoot threat.
Let’s break it down player by player.
If Sexton returns, it will likely be on a deal far less than the $22 million he once sought.
That lessens the pressure for Sexton to be an everyday starter, which might be best for the team.
Sexton’s offense is electric, but he’s a liability defensively.
Cavs rookie Ochai Agbaji’s five made shots in his NBA Summer League debut Friday night:
• Three while drifting left
• Three while drifting right
• Step-back pull-up on the three-point line
• Catch-and-shoot three
• Three while moving right off of a screen pic.twitter.com/FlC5NmDuWn
— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) July 9, 2022
It’s also unclear how Sexton fits into last year’s Cavs team; Cleveland took a major step forward defensively last year without him on the floor.
Agbaji, on the other hand, projects to be a much stronger defensive player, though perhaps without Sexton’s insane offensive peaks.
Then there’s Isaac Okoro.
Despite flashing signs at the end of last season, Okoro hasn’t quite lived up to his top-five draft selection through two seasons.
The talent is there, but he’s been essentially average compared to league averages in three-point shooting and wins shares.
With his experience, though, Okoro should likely get the early roster nod ahead of Agbaji.
The addition of Agbaji also gives the Cavs a fun small-ball lineup to go with.
By playing Evan Mobley at the five while Jarrett Allen rests, Cleveland could trot out Darius Garland, Agbaji, Okoro, and LeVert.
While Mobley is a giant at 6’11, the rest of that lineup would instead thrive on outside shooting, with Garland getting involved in the pick and roll with Mobley.
If Agbaji continues putting the ball in the hoop from three and not coughing up baskets on the other end, he’ll find a way into this lineup.