How long will it take for Cavs’ Ochai Agbaji to have a notable role?

Ochai Agbaji (right), Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ochai Agbaji (right), Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers got their guy in Ochai Agbaji in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft. It seemed like he was going to be the pick all along, with Koby Altman looking for a winner and more of a “veteran” prospect over someone to develop.

Fresh off a National Championship at Kansas, Agbaji adds three-point prowess, defensive versatility, wing depth, and a winning mentality. The Cavs had four years of college tape to use in their evaluation of Agbaji as well as the upcoming Summer League to get a further understanding of his game on a semi-NBA level.

Now, the question turns to how many opportunities will Ochai get during his rookie season?

How long will it be until Agbaji has a notable Cavs role?

The biggest thing for Agbaji or young shooters, in general, is how they need consistent roles/opportunities to keep their shooting up. Consistency helps to remain in a rhythm and helps to keep your confidence afloat.

The Cavaliers have seen firsthand how a lack of opportunities can affect shooters. Joe Harris and Dylan Windler are two examples of this as both weren’t given a proper role on the team. For Harris, a trade ensued and he has since blossomed in Brooklyn with the Nets.

For Windler, a similar fate seems likely and we’ll see how that turns out.

Chris Fedor of compared Agbaji’s game to Desmond Bane’s, both sharpshooters with great frames. Fedor didn’t state in a report that they’re identical players or anything, he was comparing the two based on their experience and late bloomer-type play, and steadying development over time.

Despite being the 30th overall pick, Bane was a consistent 20-minute-a-game player for a Memphis Grizzlies team that made the playoffs. Of the 68 games he played during his rookie year, Bane played 20 or more minutes in ~ 68% of games.

The Grizzlies allowed him to play through slumps and it’s something like that that allowed him to grow into the player we see today.

Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff loves players who show great effort, hustle hard, and perform in a team sense. Agbaji can do that and adds spacing, something players like Lamar Stevens and Isaac Okoro can’t really provide at the moment for Cleveland.

But how much will J.B. trust Ochai in his rookie season? The starting lineup seems set with Caris LeVert and Kevin Love being the first two off the bench, in the case if Collin Sexton is back.

Early indications tell me that the eighth spot comes down to Okoro or Agbaji so which direction will Coach Bickerstaff go in?

I envision training camp will be a big part of this decision, as it has over the last couple of seasons. Training camp helped guys like Isaac Okoro and Lauri Markkanen earn starting spots. It was also during training camp that the Cavs made the decision to move Kevin Love to the bench.

If I had to guess, I would expect Agbaji to take over Cedi Osman’s role from this past season, playing 20 minutes a game, and gunning for three-pointers while providing more on the defensive end. Though it wasn’t his bread and butter, it would be nice to see Agbaji get a couple of on-ball opportunities.

Also, there should be some creativity in his three-point attempts. There should be plenty of running-off-screens attempts rather than him just standing around waiting for a pass to come his way. And it appears the movement looks will come.

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All in all, Ochai should be a steady contributor based on his strengths and play style. Plug-and-play guys are what every NBA team needs, and the Cavaliers should be ecstatic with the one they got.