Although we’re still almost two months away from the start of college basketball season plenty of NBA draft prospects have been on display this week with the second annual G League Fall Invitational. This year the loaded Ignite team hosted the Perth Wildcats from the NBL, a team featured stud 7-foot center Alexandre Sarr, and the teams split the two game series.
This Ignite team features a boatload of NBA prospects and the youngsters got a lot of run in the two games. Ron Holland was especially impressive, showing off his trademark aggressiveness and assertiveness while also showing an increased confidence in his outside shot. The 6-8 forward from Duncanville, TX scored from everywhere on the court and splashed some impressive 3pt shots. Holland poured in 56 points over the two games and notched 5 steals in game two. He might not be a clear-cut no.1 overall pick type of prospect but he is very much in the running for the top spot this year.
His teammate Matas Buzelis had some solid moments as well but looked like he might take some time to adjust to the speed and physicality of pro ball. He’s got all the tools as a 6-10 wing/guard and once the game slows down for him look out. He showed some impressive defense flashes, using his size and mobility to swallow up ball handlers, and he had some good moments on offense as well. Although he wasn’t the star of this event he’s still very much in the running as a top 5 pick.
But the star of the series (along with Holland) was Perth’s Alexandre Sarr. The springy and athletic 7-0 center showcased a wide range of skill on the offensive end, including range out to 3, and was a menace on defense, swatting six shots in each of the games. He had a few impressive blocks on Ron Holland and showed great footwork and agility, looking up the 6-8 Holland on the perimeter. Sarr also showed an increased level of intensity from what we saw during his time in OTE and he seems to have figured out how to bring the energy and intensity it takes to make it to the NBA. I’ve been a bit lower on Sarr than consensus but have been moving him up my mock draft over the course of the summer and he takes another big leap after these two impressive performances.
Izan Almansa had two solid games for the Ignite. The 6-10 forward from Spain just knows how to be productive on the court. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands a lot and is super efficient with his touches. He’s a high level rebounder, runs the court well and has great touch around the rim.
Other prospects who impressed include Tyler Smith and Babacare Sane of the Ignite and Ben Henshall from Perth.
Yesterday was the last day for prospects to withdraw from the NBA draft (the NCAA deadline was May 31) and we saw a few more big names pull out of this years draft, further strengthening the 2024 draft class.
Bobi Klintman was the highest-ranking prospect to withdraw. After a year at Wake Forest he will be heading to Australia to play for Cairns in the NBL. This was somewhat of a surprise move, as he seemed to have a draft promise this year but there have been some rumblings and rumors this week, so it doesn’t come as a total shock. Klintman will have a chance to continue his upward momentum and solidifying his first round trade for next year, with a chance to rise into the lottery. He lands at no.13 in my latest 2024 mock.
Nikola Durišić was a bit of surprise as well. He would likely have been picked in the second round this year but instead chose to withdraw and will have a chance to improve his draft stock. The 6-7 Serbian is a 3pt shot away from being a first round pick. We’ll be watching closely over the next year to see how that area of his game develops.
Zvonimir Ivisic, the 7-3 Croatian center has taken his name out of this year’s draft, with an eye on 2024 instead. I had a draft-able grade on him this year and look forward to see what he adds to his game over the next 12 months.
And Ousmane N’Diaye is out of this draft as well, further strengthening in the depth of the 2024 international class. He’s an intriguing high upside type of player but I didn’t necessarily see him getting drafted this year.
In college basketball news Alabama has landed top transfer Grant Nelson. Nelson tested the draft waters this year after a great season at North Dakota State but made a good decision to continue to hone his game for a year before entering the 2024 draft.
Arthur Kaluma has made his transfer decision, choosing Kansas State. He’s a possible second round pick next year.
Although the 2024 draft still lacks a top end talent there is an increasing amount of depth in this talent pool. The May 31st NCAA deadline and yesterdays NBA deadline added a lot of solid prospects to next year’s class.
With just about a week to go until the deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft we’ve already seen a handful of big name players pull their name out of the draft and opt to return to school.
Kansas welcomes back veteran wing Kevin McCullar, who might have been a late second round pick this year but instead heads back to Kansas for one more year in hopes of raising his draft stock for 2024.
One decision that surprised me a bit is PJ Hall deciding to return to Clemson. Hall had an impressive draft combine and was trending towards being a second round pick. I actually love this move for him and could see him get some first round buzz next year.
In other 2024 draft news Slovenian star guard Jan Vide has signed with UCLA, continuing an impressive run of international recruiting for the Bruins. We’re still waiting to hear an announcement from potential top 5 pick Aday Mara, who is rumored to be joining the Bruins as well.
Stay tuned for lots of announcements over the next 7 days. A few names I’m most interested in hearing from are Julian Philips, who could stay in the draft or return to school (and transfer), and Andre Jackson who seems to be leaning towards staying in the draft but would be a massive boost to the defending champion UConn Huskies if he returns.
The High School basketball season might be over but this is when the fun begins. We just had the McDonald’s All American Game earlier this week and we’re one week away from the Nike Hoops Summit. Geico Nationals is just wrapping up today and AAU season is here. The nerdy-ist of draft nerds rejoice.
I gave my thoughts on the McDonald’s game here. And I’ll do the same for the Nike Hoops Summit. The bottom line is that this is a nice senior class of prospects but is still missing that true no.1 guy.
We do have some news about returning college players. Tyrese Proctor is the big name, a potential lottery pick in 2024, who gives Duke a chance to be a special team next year. His teammate Mark Mitchell is also returning to Duke for year two.
Former Michigan big man Hunter Dickenson is staying in school but will be transferring. He’ll be a hot commodity – and get big NIL money.
We love looking ahead and getting excited about the upcoming draft classes but so far this 2024 draft class is not looking very exciting. The hype will be there because of some high profile players like Bronny James but the top end talent is lacking, at least so far.
At this very early juncture some of the top players project to be Aday Mara (Spain), Matas Buzelis (G League Ignite), Ron Holland (Texas), Zaccharie Risacher (France), Justin Edwards (Kentucky), Cody Williams (Colorado) and DJ Wagner (Kentucky). None of these players are a clear no.1 overall type of prospect and there doesn’t appear to be a Tier 1 talent in this draft class.
As I write about here the international group and potentially the returning sophomores and upperclassmen will go a long way towards strengthening this down draft year.
Just about 18 months out from the 2024 draft and there’s still a lack of an elite talent in this draft class. I believe that will change over the next year+ as one or more players emerge as Tier 1 talents but at this point it’s not clear who that will be.
It could be Xavier Booker who is off to a strong start to his senior season and will be taking his talents to Michigan State next year. Or maybe one of the wings like Justin Edwards or Matas Buzelis will make a big leap up in their development.
If I had to guess I’d say the no.1 pick in 2024 will be a player that is not currently considered as a top half of the lottery talent. Some player will emerge from lower on the radar and rise all the way up to the no.1 spot.
We’ve seen in before with Anthony Edwards reclassifying and rising up to no.1 and with Zion Williamson going from a top 10 recruit who was mocked in the late lottery to being the clear no.1 pick in 2019.
I’ve stated my theory before that with the strong player development in the States and internationally that we’ll not have any more weak draft classes. I still think that’s true but so far the 2024 class is looking less than stellar.
Over the next year we’ll see which players take their games to a new level and rise up to take over the top spots in this draft class.
Unlike the 2023 draft, which has a clear no.1 overall player, the 2024 draft is wide open at the top.
At this point I’m sticking with the high upside PF/C Xavier Booker at the top spot but that is far from a lock. There are a handful of other players in his class that could take the top spot and there’s also a major wildcard: if the NBA lifts the age limit rule and once again allows high school seniors to enter the draft one of the top 2024 recruits could jump to the top of the 2024 NBA Draft.
The biggest name to keep an eye on if that happens is Tre Johnson, a silky smooth 6-5 scoring guard from Texas. Johnson landed as the no.2 pro prospect in all of high school basketball in the recently released Elite 25 rankings (Patreon preview). If given the option to enter the 2024 draft he’d immediately be in the discussion for no.1 overall. Johnson currently sits at no.1 in our 2025 mock.
Ian Jackson is another elite recruit from the 2024 recruiting class who could look to enter the draft straight out of high school. Jackson is currently mocked no.2 overall in 2025.
With the 2024 draft not having a dominant no.1 overall prospect it might appear to be shaping up to be a weak class. But player will emerge between now and June 2024 – and this class might have the top prospects from two recruiting classes, making it incredibly deep. So don’t get down on the 2024 draft class just yet.
With G.G. Jackson potentially reclassifying and being eligible for the 2023 draft, the 2024 draft class has taken a hit at the top. But there’s plenty of time for many more elite level prospects to emerge.
At this early stage Xavier Booker looks like the most intriguing prospect in this class and is (very early) favorite to be in the running for no.1 overall. The 6-11 lefty has an elite frame and athletic ability, a high skill level and the ability to take over games. If he can ratchet up the intensity a few notches he’ll be scary good.
Kwame Evans Jr. is another player with an elite frame/length and very intriguing upside. He doesn’t always play like a no.1 option, demanding the ball and taking over games but heading into his senior season at Montverde I’ll be looking for him to show more of that top-dog mentality. All the tools are definitely there.
Some of the other top names in this class, at this early stage, include: Ron Holland, Mackenzie Mgbako, Justin Edwards, D.J. Wagner and Matas Buzelis.
Overall it’s looking like a good group and it’ll be interesting to watch over the next 23 months as new names rise to the top of this class.