Projecting the Cavs’ top 4 defenders in the 2022-23 season

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Ochai Agbaji, Kansas Jayhawks. Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images /

Projecting the Cavs’ 4 best defenders in 2022-23 – #3: Ochai Agbaji

Ranking Ochai Agbaji as the 3rd overall defender for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2022-23 season might be a little premature. Yet, looking at the rookie’s stats from his collegiate years and the Las Vegas Summer League, I believe the Cavs’ 14th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft has a strong case to be this team’s 3rd-best defender.

For starters, although he is a rookie to the league, the former Jayhawk is already 22 years old. Having played four years of collegiate ball, Agbaji has had the time to improve his defensive skills on the court. Being one of the younger players on the team, he also has the time to improve and expand his talents.

Ochai Agbaji played as a wing/guard for the Kansas Jayhawks from 2018 to 2022. He and his team would win the NCAA title in his last year, where he would be given the honor of the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. Throughout those four years at Kansas, Ochai managed to put up the following defensive stats.

As a freshman, he averaged 3.6 defensive rebounds per game, 0.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks. Sophomore year, Ochai had an average of 3.0 defensive rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 0.3 blocks. As a junior, he averaged 2.7 defensive rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game. In his final year, Agbaji managed to average 4.2 defensive rebounds per game, along with 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks per game.

Cleveland’s newest addition played in 4 games during the Summer League in Vegas, and managed to average 4 defensive rebounds per game, with 1.25 steals. As a 6-foot-5 wing, Ochai has the potential to be a successful 3-and-D player for the Cavaliers. With his reliable athleticism, Ochai Agbaji easily has one of the best upsides out of any player on this Cavs’ roster. The rookie definitely fits the mold of gritty defenders in Cleveland. The former Jayhawk is a guy I can see being utilized on the court to contest shots against opponents.

I can see Ochai’s defense truly being unlocked by playing in a lineup alongside Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Ochai has had 4 years to develop in the Big 12 Conference.

Many players on the Cavs only played 1 or 2 years in college before entering into the league. Ochai needs to use this extra time to his advantage, and come out this season playing with a high level of confidence. To expand on his defensive capabilities, Agbaji cannot be afraid to take on some of the league’s toughest matchups.

As far as the glass-cleaning element, one could foresee him helping Cleveland some there, and with his vertical athleticism, he could make a difference as an additional rim protector on the weak side. This Cavs rookie has the makings of a successful wing player with high upside on the defensive end of the ball.