I’ve been working with a theory the past few years that we’ll never again see a really weak draft year; the talent level and training of young prospects is just too good these days – and with the game going global the talent pool is deeper than ever before. That theory is going to get a serious challenge next year with what looks to be a weak 2024 draft class.
It’s a long, long ways off but so far the 2024 draft class is lacking a clear top end talent. That doesn’t mean that one won’t emerge but at this point it would appear there is no Scoot or Wemby level player next year.
The rest of the class looks…solid. There are a bunch of clear NBA level role players/starters and a few high upside boom or bust type players.
The international group looks really strong as well (more on that below) but overall the 2024 draft seems to be lacking elite talent.
The biggest boost to the class could come from returning players who might be tempted to enter the draft this year but would raise their stock and give next year’s class a big bump if they decide to stay. I think this could be an expansive and talented group.
I am ever the optimist and believe that we’ll see more special prospects emerge over the next 15 or so months leading up the 2024 draft. It happens every year. But until those guys emerge there will be reason for concern for any NBA franchise hoping to add top talent in next year’s draft.
Could This Be A Super Draft?
The question about this being a weak draft class will be mute if this ends up being a super draft. At some point the NBA is likely to lower the age limit and allow high school seniors to go straight to the NBA. The first year that happens will be a super draft, with the best prospects from two recruiting classes being combined into one draft class. While I doubt that it will happen by next year it’s worth mentioning as a possibility.
One of the prize prospects the following year is Tre Johnson, a 6-5 offensive juggernaut from Dallas, TX who would immediately jump into the top 5 on my board.
But assuming the rules stay the same and the super draft is postponed here’s what the 2024 draft class could look like (from this super early vantage point).
Big Upside But Unrefined
There are a handful of 2024 draft prospects that have really big time upside but are still very raw and have a long ways to go before being NBA ready. Tools are great but production is paramount and I have my questions about how soon these high upside guys will translate to the NBA.
Justin Edwards – Edwards is a supreme athlete on the wing. The Philadelphia area prospect will be playing next year at Kentucky and will look to help turn around the struggling Wildcats. At this point Edwards lacks a specialty skill. He’s a really good finisher on the break and is a versatile defender but some of his physical dominance will be mitigated at the NBA level and he’ll have to develop some go-to offensive skills if he wants to be a high-level starter in the league.
Xavier Booker – The Michigan State recruit is a 6-11 center with high-end athleticism and an intriguing skill-set. The bouncy lefty has all of the tools but is having an up and down season so far and is looking a long ways off from being NBA ready. The flashes are elite but the consistency just isn’t there yet. A year under Izzo will be really good for him but there are no guarantees it’ll translate to great on court production.
Aaron Bradshaw is a top 10 recruit heading to Kentucky and what could be a packed frontcourt for the Wildcats. His athleticism as a 7-footer is impressive and the long term potential and upside is there but I’m not sure if it’ll all translate early in his Kentucky career. He’s a potential lottery pick, whether that ends up being in 2024 or the following year we’ll have to wait and see.
Matas Buzelis is a tall, skinny ball-handling wing who will be playing for the G League Ignite next season. There are times when he looks like a potential top 2 pick and times when he looks far from NBA ready. He fits the mold of where the league is going with lengthy versatile players who can do a bit of everything but he’s also very skinny and has a ways to go with filling out his frame. Playing for the Ignite next year will be a great proving ground for him and will give scouts a great opportunity to evaluate Buzelis against pros. Of all of these high upside prospects I think Buzelis has the best chance to be a star at the next level.
Solid Wings With NBA Skills
There are a lot of wings to like in the projected 2024 draft class but not a lot of star potential. These wings project as solid starters or role players in the league and could provide really good mid lottery to mid first round value. There’s always a chance that one or more of these players rises to the next level and becomes a tier 1 prospect but at the moment I see them as tier 2 or 3 players:
Ron Holland might be a top 5 prospect next year but he projects as a high-end role player rather than a first option/offensive engine. A great open court athlete who is fluid, fast and strong, he excels at using his physical gifts to get buckets in transition and off of offensive rebounds. Continuing to develop his iso-scoring, ball handling and shot making skills will go a long way towards making him a real offensive threat at the NBA level.
Mackenzie Mgbako will look to continue a very long line of star forwards going through the Duke program. He’s a solid-bodied wing with a feathery jumper and an advanced offensive game. He’s not an elite athlete but we’ve seen over and over again that a high skill level is more important than athletic prowess. One big question with Mgbako next year is how many returning players will Duke have and how will that affect his playing time. At the end of the day talent wins out in the draft and playing time isn’t all that important but it’s still nice to see prospects play a big role in college.
Cody Williams went from being a top 40 recruit to perhaps the best player in his class and a potential lottery pick in 2024 who is bringing his impressive talents to the Colorado Buffalo’s next year. Cody is the younger brother of Jalen Williams, who is taking the NBA by storm his rookie season, and Cody looks to be on his way to doing the same. It’s not every decade that Colorado gets a one and done but it looks likely that Cody will be a high draft pick in 2024.
Omaha Biliew has gone from being an upside athlete with raw tools to an emerging offensive talent who is developing as an iso-scorer and play-maker. It’s rare to see such a high level recruit commit to Iowa State and he promises to give the Cyclones their first one and done in recent memory (if ever??). Biliew is a terrific open court athlete, a big time transition player, a versatile defender, a big time rebounder and, as mentioned above, an ever-improving offensive talent. We’ve seen highly athletic forwards struggle making the adjustment to college (see Dillon Mitchell) but I think Biliew will do just fine and look like a star next season.
Kwame Evans Jr. has been a big name in recruiting circles for years and has a very intriguing mix of size, length and perimeter skills. While he might not project as a no.1 option on offense he has the type of all around game that will fit well on any team. Like the other players on this list, he projects more has a nice role-player or solid starter rather than a star.
Stephon Castle is a late riser in the 2023 recruiting class and will be bringing his 6-7 frame and sweet guard skill to UConn next year. It’s a bit early to say for sure if he’ll be a one and done but he’s one to keep an eye on next year.
The 2024 NBA draft appears to have at least one big time playmaker at the point guard position in Isaiah Collier. After him there are a number of intriguing prospects but none that appear to be certain lottery level talents.
Isaiah Collier is a sturdy 6-3 lead guard who will be attending USC next season and is a likely one and done first rounder with lottery potential. I don’t see him as an elite level point guard prospect but he does project as a starter level player who can lead a team, even if he’s not a no.1 option type of guard. Collier is a great decision maker on the court who plays with good instincts and feel for the game. Improving his 3pt shot will take his game to the next level.
London Johnson is a really intriguing prospect to me. He’ a 6-4 guard who is riding the bench for the G League Ignite this year but should take on a bigger role next season (he’s not draft eligible until next year). While he won’t be the next Scoot Henderson I think he’s being a bit overlooked as a potential first rounder. At this point he remains a bit of mystery but the tools and talent are there.
AJ Johnson is a lanky 6-5 guard heading to Texas. He’s really crafty with the ball, can get to the rim and seems to be just scratching the surface of his potential. Lead guards with size are very en vogue right now and so Johnson could be a first rounder, even if his role is somewhat limited on what projects to be anther deep and talented Longhorn team.
Caleb Foster could be in a point guard time share next season at Duke if Tyrese Proctor and Jeremy Roach return to school. The McDonald’s All American snub is a top 25 prospect in his class and could be a one and done or perhaps a two year player for Duke, partially depending on how big his role is next season. His ability to play off the ball will help him get on the floor early for the Blue Devils. His incoming teammate Jared McCain could get some early draft buzz as well.
Overall it’s not a particularly strong point guard class next year. At this point I have only one lead guard projected in the lottery. The strength of this position could be greatly increased with the return to school of a few current freshmen including (more on that below).
Guards With Big Hype But Will It Last
This draft class is also full of guards who will be coming into college next year with a ton of hype but there are legit questions about whether that hype is fully warranted.
DJ Wagner has been at or near the top his class for a few years now. He’s a talented scorer and is the son and grandson of talented scorers (all three of whom were named McDonald’s All Americans). It’s fairly certain he’ll be able to score at the college and the NBA levels but how much more will he provide and will his scoring outbursts be enough to make him a high level starter or an All Star level player? We’ve been watching over the years to see if his play-making skills would develop, hoping he’d take on the role of being a floor general and orchestrator of the offense to go along with his scoring ability but so far we’ve seen only moderate progress. Wagner seems destined to be in the role of an undersized scoring guard who will have to be really elite at putting the ball in the basket to warrant being a lottery pick in 2024.
Mikey Williams – Williams has been Instagram famous for years thanks to his show-time dunking ability and big scoring outbursts. He projects as a really good college player who should put up numbers next year for Coach Penny at Memphis but undersized high-scoring famous high school guards are notorious for peaking early and not bringing great value at the NBA level. Watching how this plays out at Memphis will be one of the most fascinating things to watch next year.
Bronny James – The hype precedes him. Bronny might not be the best prospect in his class but he’s certainly the most famous. I’ve written more extensively about Bronny here but the long and short of it is he’s a legit NBA prospect but probably not a surefire star in the league. He projects as a high level role player with some starter/star upside if things go right. And he seems more than capable of checking his ego and taking on whatever role is needed of him. Of all the story-lines to watch next year the play of Bronny James (wherever he decides to play) will be far and away the most anticipated, hyped and high profile of them all.
International Prospects Could Save the 2024 NBA Draft
The international class is looking like it could be the saving grace of this apparently weak draft class. Although it’s super early it looks like there will be strong group of international players, a few of whom could be lottery picks next year. There’s no dominant player or truly elite prospect in this group but as a whole it’s very strong and goes a long way to bolster the 2024 draft class.
Below are some of the most promising international prospects who all have a chance to be first rounders next year. And more names will emerge over the coming months.
Aday Mara – Mara is a monster in the paint and certainly looks the part of a lottery pick. The 7-3 Spaniard is an agile athlete for his size, is highly skilled with the ball and is a terrific passer. He kind of reminds me of a modern day Zydrunas Ilgoskus mixed with some Pau Gasol. He’s a very good rim protector who appears to have enough lateral quickness and agility to not get played off the court in the playoffs and his versatile offensive game is a great fit for the league.
Zaccharie Risacher – Risacher is pure silky-smoothness on the wing. The 6-8 French SG/SF is a walking bucket and is lethal from 3-point land. He’s the type of big wing with shooting that is highly coveted in today’s NBA and I think he’ll be drafted accordingly, likely in the lottery.
Alexsandros Samodurav – Samodurav isn’t as well known as the other players on this list but the 6-11 Grecian forward is a unique talent, especially on the offensive end. He’s a mobile stretch big who can also finish above the rim. I see first round potential with him. Watch for his name over the coming months
Izan Almansa – Almansa is a Spanish forward who has been playing in the Overtime Elite league for the past two years. He projects as a glue-guy/energy big at the NBA level who is not super flashy but highly productive especially as a rebounder and interior scorer. He’s not the biggest or most athletic forward you’ll ever see but he’s an extremely hard worker and gets it done on the court.
Thierry Darlan – Darlan is an intriguing 6-7 point guard/wing from Senegal who is coming up through the NBA Academy Africa program and will be playing with the Ignite next year. He’s super long (7-1 wingspan) and a super smooth athlete with a nice looking 3pt shot. Darlan passes the eye test immediately and is oozing with upside. I could see him getting drafted as high as the lottery or in the mid first round range. He’s currently recovering from a serious ankle injury.
Ruben Prey – A strong, versatile and mobile big man from Portugal with clear NBA traits. Might not have huge upside but looks like he could play a solid role in the league.
Illion Peatrus is yet another French prospect making his way to the NBA. The nephew of Mikal Peatrus, Illion is an all around talent who can facilitate an offense and put the ball in the basket. He’s not the biggest, most physically imposing or athletic player but he’s got enough NBA traits and a high skill level and should be in the draft conversation next year.
And expect at least one more big time international prospect to emerge over the coming 15 months.
There are a number of current freshmen who have a chance to return to school and not only raise their draft stock but also raise the ceiling of the 2024 draft class. This includes, Julian Phillips, Jordan Walsh, Riley Kugel, Amari Bailey, Judah Mintz, Adem Bona, Baba Miller, Aidan Mahaney, Bobi Klintman, Kel’el Ware, Donavan Clingan, Felix Okpara, Kylan Boswell, JJ Starling, Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso, Dillon Mitchell and all of the Duke freshmen. Some of these players will enter the draft this year but many of them could return and give a big boost to the 2024 draft.
There are also a few upperclassmen who could be back next year including Michigan’s Kobe Bufkin (although he might have played his way into the 2023 first round). Matthew Cleveland and Jaylen Clark will be names to watch for 2024.
All’s Well That Ends Well
So far it’s not looking good for the 2024 draft class and my theory about there not being any more weak draft classes is going to be on full trial. But there’s a long way to go and we ALWAYS see new star prospects rise up over the final 12 months leading up to the draft. Next year will be no different. The big question is which of these prospects, or others, will make the big jump over the coming months and strengthen this seemingly lackluster draft class.
There might not be an elite talent at the top next year but that doesn’t mean the draft as a whole will end up being bad. It might seem like a long shot right now but I’d place a small bet that my theory holds true – that many more high-end talents will emerge in this class and it’ll end up being yet another good draft year. Time will tell.
Here’s the latest 2024 NBA Mock Draft
and the latest 2023 Mock