While some took issue with the Toronto Raptors trading a very late first-round pick to the Utah Jazz to acquire veteran big man Kelly Olynyk, the multi-player trade was actually conceived with the intent of landing a promising guard with defensive upside in former Kansas star Ochai Agbaji.
Originally sent to Utah from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster, talent, and pure athletic ability have never been the issue with Agbaji. Olynyk is well aware of the unique physical talent Toronto acquired in the trade, and he knows the type of player Agbaji can be if he hits his stride.
“He’s one of the most physically talented players I’ve ever seen,” Olynyk said, via Aaron Rose of Sports Illustrated. “I've never seen somebody backpedaling to jump higher. He jumps higher backpedaling than a lot of guys do going forward.”
Raptors GM Bobby Webster called Agbaji a “hard working, high character, two-way player," which seems like the type of player Toronto has gone put of their way to acquire in the last few seasons. While he is a bit raw right now, Agbaji's talent on both ends has been obvious to both Jazz and Raptors fans.
The Toronto Raptors are very excited about Ochai Agbaji
Agbaji's 35% 3-point percentage, which is far below what he shot at Kansas, took another dip when he went 0-5 in his debut against Cleveland. While fixing his shot will be important to get him back on track in Toronto, Agbaji showed off plenty of the traits that made him such a valued prospect.
Agbaji is one of the best young swingmen in the league when it comes to finishing at the rim, and he picked up a few of his eight points by going right to the basket. At 6-5 with a 6-10 wingspan, his defense is not in question, and he did a solid job of flexing his muscles on that end in limited time.
It seems as though Toronto will use Agbaji on the wing more than as an old-school shooting guard, as Rajakovic's nine-man rotation will surround Ochai with his old teammate in Olynyk, veteran switchblade Bruce Brown, and another former Jayhawk in rookie Gradey Dick.
Agbaji is a bit of a work in progress, but Toronto thinks he is so close to breaking out that they valued what he could do in the next few seasons more than whatever could be gained by adding another developmental player at the end of the first round.