NBA mock draft 2024: Bronny James headlines class in open race for No. 1 pick

NBA mock draft 2024: Bronny James headlines class in open race for No. 1 pick

There’s no franchise savior sitting at the top of the 2024 NBA Draft on par with Victor Wembanyama. Instead, next year’s draft class features a wide range of candidates who could conceivably emerge as the No. 1 overall pick. Now that the 2023 draft is behind us, it’s time to look ahead at the players expected to be selected in the first round of the 2024 draft.

There’s a chance the first two picks in the 2024 draft are teammates. Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland will both play for the G League Ignite next season, and begin the draft cycle at the top of our board. The top prospect in college basketball is USC point guard Isaiah Collier. Of course, Collier will not be the most well-known prospect on the Trojans. That honor belongs to Bronny James, son of LeBron James, who also begins the year as a projected lottery pick.

The 2024 draft is expected to feature more returning college players than this past draft. Duke’s Kyle Filipowski, UConn’s Donovan Clingan, and Texas’ Dillon Mitchell are three sophomores with lottery potential. There’s also a strong group of international players, led by another talented Frenchman in 6’8 wing Zaccharie Risacher.

This will be the 10th straight year I’ve published a board the day after the NBA draft. My early 2023 projection was surprisingly pretty accurate. You can find my early boards for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 here.

Here’s our first look at the 2024 NBA Draft, with more analysis after the table.

NBA mock draft 2024: First look at next year’s class

Pick Player From Position Age
Pick Player From Position Age
1 Matas Buzelis G League Ignite Wing Born 2004
2 Ron Holland G League Ignite Wing Born 2005
3 Isaiah Collier USC Guard Freshman
4 Zaccharie Risacher France Wing Born 2005
5 DJ Wagner Kentucky Guard Freshman
6 Cody Williams Colorado Wing Freshman
7 Justin Edwards Kentucky Wing Freshman
8 Stephon Castle UConn Guard Freshman
9 Aday Mara Spain Big Born 2005
10 Kyle Filipowski Duke Big Sophomore
11 Omaha Biliew Iowa State Forward Freshman
12 Alexandre Sarr Perth Wildcats (NBL) Forward/Big Born 2005
13 Bronny James USC Guard Freshman
14 Elliot Cadeau North Carolina Guard Freshman
15 Kel’el Ware Indiana Big Sophomore
16 Kwame Evans Oregon Forward Freshman
17 Donovan Clingan UConn Big Sophomore
18 Dillon Mitchell Texas Forward Sophomore
19 Elmarko Jackson Kansas Guard Freshman
20 Ja’Kobe Walter Baylor Wing Freshman
21 Bobi Klintman Cairns Taipans (NBL) Forward Born 2003
22 Thierry Darlan G League Ignite Guard Born 2004
23 Tyese Proctor Duke Guard Sophomore
24 Baba Miller Florida State Forward Sophomore
25 Riley Kugel Florida Guard Sophomore
26 JJ Starling Syracuse Guard Sophomore
27 Adem Bona UCLA Big Sophomore
28 Aaron Bradshaw Kentucky Big Freshman
29 Scotty Middleton Ohio State Wing Freshman
30 Nikola Djurisic Serbia Wing Born 2004

Who is the top prospect in the 2024 NBA Draft?

The last time teammates were selected with the top-two picks in the NBA Draft was back in 2012 when Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went No. 1 and No. 2. It could happen again in 2024, but it will be an even trickier evaluation with Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland sharing the floor for the G League Ignite, the NBA’s minor league team for top prospects who want to bypass college basketball.

Buzelis is a 6’10 shot-creating forward from Hinsdale, Illinois who finished his high school career playing for Kansas basketball factory Sunrise Christian Academy. He’s uniquely skilled at his size for his ability to make plays on the ball: he’s a tight ball-handler, an impressive passer, and looks like a good finisher when he’s driving to the rim. Buzelis has also made serious strides as an off-ball scorer by improving as a three-point shooter over the last year. He reportedly made 44 percent of his spot-up threes as a senior at Sunrise Christian according to indispensable high school scout Mike Gribanov, and showed good touch on his floaters.

Buzelis badly needs to add muscle to his thin frame. His defense will be under a harsh spotlight during his time with the Ignite, too. Still, it’s hard to find 6’10 players with this much offensive talent. Here are three plays that show Buzelis’ skill as a shooter, passer, and finisher from the GEICO high school playoffs:

Buzelis had been committed to the Ignite for about a year before Holland made his pledge. Holland, a native of Duncanville, Texas, was originally set to play for the Texas Longhorns before deciding to bolt to the Ignite after former head coach Chris Beard was fired following allegations of domestic abuse. He is the most decorated player of his high school class as a two-time gold medal winner with USA Basketball and a three-time state champion with Duncanville High (allegedly). He is also one of the youngest players in this class with a July 7, 2005 birthday.

Holland is a 6’8 forward who overwhelms opponents with an onslaught of size, strength, and athleticism, all while playing harder than everyone else at both ends of the floor. He has fantastic physical tools for a wing with prototypical height, long arms, and a strong 200-pound frame. He’s a monster athlete who explodes to the basket both in halfcourt settings and in the open floor. Aside from being really fast and a great leaper, Holland is also quick enough laterally to stick with guards and defend in space. He projects as a wing-stopper defensively while also providing rebounding and supplemental rim protection.

Holland plays the game with a physical edge that can’t be discounted. His skill set is starting to come along, too, with marked improvement as a shooter between his two runs with USA Basketball in 2021 and 2022. Teams will want to see him prove his court vision as a passer if he’s eventually going to be a primary option, but for now he’s an easy bet for his production, tools, and athletic tools. Here are four plays that show Holland’s impact:

Holland and Buzelis will lead an Ignite roster that also includes Thierry Darlan, London Johnson, Dink Pate, Tyler Smith, and Babacar Sane. It will be fascinating to see how the Ignite come together. They have length and athleticism at every position, but their spacing might be a concern again. The program has developed lottery talents every year with Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga in 2021, Dyson Daniels in 2022, and Scoot Henderson in 2023. This feels like the best Ignite roster yet.

Bronny James steps into the NBA Draft spotlight

LeBron James Jr. — better known as Bronny — has been developing under a harsh spotlight since his famous father started showing up to his games as he was entering high school. After four years at Sierra Canyon, James has solidified himself as a five-star recruit and potential first round pick for his two-way toughness and winning mentality.

James would be an elite prospect if he was blessed with his father’s height, but unfortunately he’s only 6’3. Still, James has good tools for a guard with a jacked frame, impressive run-and-jump athleticism, and good lateral quickness. James has never been a huge scorer, instead playing an off-ball role where he can be a connective passer and spot-up shooter while attacking closeouts.

It would be nice to see James generate more rim pressure off the dribble, but that hasn’t ever really been his game. Instead, it feels like he fits best alongside a big initiator (… maybe like his father?) where can he shoot threes with volume, defend point guards, and score in transition. James will be the most famous player in college basketball next year, and the fact that he’s sharing the spotlight and backcourt with an even better prospect in Isaiah Collier will make every game must-see for NBA scouts.

The safest lottery projections in college basketball’s freshman class

These are the freshmen in college basketball who feel destined for the lottery.

  • Isaiah Collier, PG, USC: Masterful facilitator and pick-and-roll manipulator who can throw every pass in the book. Has a strong 6’3 frame and knows how to control the tempo and play with pace even if he doesn’t have top-end athleticism. The big hole in his game right now is his shooting. Teams will want to see how willing he is to shoot from deep with the Trojans, as well as gauging his shooting touch both from deep and from the foul line.
  • DJ Wagner, G, Kentucky: Talented all-around scoring guard who was considered the top player in the class from the start of his prep career as the son of Dajuan Wagner and grandson of Milt Wagner. Fearless driver with good touch around the basket who can get to the free throw line. He’s made improvement as a three-point shooter, but that’s still a question mark moving forward. At 6’3, he probably doesn’t have the size or shooting to get in the mix for No. 1, but his scoring punch will still be valuable.
  • Cody Williams, G/F, Colorado: The younger brother of Oklahoma City Thunder wing Jalen Williams won’t be a fellow mid-major sleeper. Cody has sky-rocketed up the recruiting rankings over the last year with a lanky 6’8 frame, impressive driving ability, and perhaps more athletic pop than his brother. He badly needs to add strength to his frame and prove he can shoot it from deep, but Jalen’s incredible rookie year will help give a big spotlight to his brother at Colorado.
  • Justin Edwards, G/F, Kentucky: Smooth lefty with a pretty mid-range pull-up and shooting range out to three. Some of his defensive tape is a bit spotty. Teams will want to see him develop as a passer, and prove he can get to the foul line. Reportedly a strong rebounder who can score in the open floor. He has obvious NBA tools if he shoots on enough volume from three and improves his attentiveness defensively.
  • Stephon Castle, G, UConn: Huge guard (6’6 or 6’7) who can get downhill. Has made strides as a shooter over the last year. Will step into a starting role on a defending national champion UConn team expected to remain among the country’s best. He’s going to have a big spotlight on him, and every opportunity to prove he should be a top pick.

The 2024 NBA Draft features some interesting international players

There’s another Frenchman expected to be selected at the top of next year’s draft, even if he’s no Victor Wembanyama. Zaccharie Risacher is a 6’8 French forward with high-IQ on both ends and some shooting upside. He likely profiles as more of a super role player than a primary option, but the fact that he’s already logged EuroLeague minutes is a great sign for his future. Think of a him as a mobile defender with size who can add connective passing and spot-up shooting on offense.

Aday Mara is a huge 7’3, 245-pound big man from Spain with a ridiculous 7’7 wingspan. Mara put himself on the map for NBA evaluators with his standout showings at youth FIBA tournaments. He’s a skilled low post scorer and an impressive passer, but his rim protection will be his calling card. Mara isn’t a great mover in space, but he should be effective in drop coverage with that huge reach. Teams will want to see if he’s quick enough for NBA ball, and also want to see if he can improve as an outside shooter.

Who is the best college basketball returner?

The 2023 NBA Draft featured a pretty weak class of returners. That won’t be the case in 2024. We have nine sophomores currently projected as first round picks, led by Duke big man Kyle Filipowski and UConn center Donovan Clingan.

Filipowski likely would have been a first rounder if he entered the 2023 draft. He’s a big 7-foot, 230-pound center who can space the floor as a shooter, hit the glass, and get his hands into the passing lanes defensively. He should be a much better three-point shooter next year after hitting only 28 percent of his attempts as a freshmen. He feels like a possible top-10 pick.

Clingan was UConn’s secret weapon as a freshman on the way to a national championship. He didn’t have a big role while backing up Adama Sanogo, but his massive 7’6 wingspan helped him defend the rim in drop coverage, and hammer home dunks inside. His production on a per-minute basis was jarring, and scouts will want to see how much he can maintain that in a bigger role next season.

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