July 19, 2024

NBA mock draft 2024: Donovan Clingan to Hawks? Why No. 1 pick is still up for grabs


We have less than a week until the 2024 NBA Draft, and we have just as much clarity about what will happen as we did about a month ago. By that, I mean we have little clarity.

The Atlanta Hawks hold all the cards with the No. 1 pick, and league sources are still unsure of their plans. The Hawks seem to have several potential options as they sort through a draft class that does not have typical quality at the top.

As one NBA executive told me earlier this week, this class, unlike most that feature certainty with its top prospects, has an inordinate number of eye-of-the-beholder talents. Do you believe Zaccharie Risacher has significant athletic upside? Do you think Donovan Clingan can stay on the court in the playoffs? Do you believe Alex Sarr’s offensive game will keep developing? Do you think Stephon Castle will become at least a competent perimeter shooter? Do you think Reed Sheppard’s size is a significant hindrance? These are the top five players on my board, yet questions like these have been regularly bandied about in front offices all over the league. How key decision-makers answer those fundamental questions — as well as several others regarding the players I rank below them — will determine the outcome of this draft.

NBA teams largely agree this is a down class from the top of the draft through the top-10. However, many believe the middle of the first round, going all the way to the No. 20-25 range, features intriguing options before the class levels out again in the second round. Most of the intriguing wings are likely to be taken near the top of the class, with that middle portion of the first round littered with big men and guard depth that could yield several long-term NBA players. I anticipate fewer All-Stars this season than the six or so that come from a normal draft class, but the number of players who stick in the NBA may be about the same.

Here’s where we stand one week out. (Ages listed are as of draft night; heights listed are NBA Draft Combine or G League Elite Camp measurements without shoes, when available):

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1. Atlanta Hawks

Donovan Clingan | 7-2 center | 20 years old | Connecticut

The conversation around the Hawks has been fascinating to track. Despite Hawks’ general manager Landry Fields saying the team is comfortable selecting at No. 1, league sources continue to get the impression Atlanta is open to offers for the right deal.

One reason: Clingan is the name I have heard linked with the Hawks most often over this past week. He wouldn’t be the sexiest pick, but would fill a few objectives for Atlanta. Firstly, the organization has not yet shown any indication of rebuilding, so it might prefer to select a player who can fit with its roster sooner rather than later. Secondly, coach Quin Snyder had success in Utah building around an elite big man screener and rim protector in Rudy Gobert. Clingan, who impressed in a recent workout for Atlanta, would provide the Hawks a potentially dominant interior presence and high-character big locked up for the near term.

Clingan had a monster close to the season, helping lead Connecticut to a second straight national title while averaging 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks over his last 18 games, including 16 points, 9.4 rebounds and three blocks in his last seven. After returning from early-season ankle and foot injuries and getting back up to speed, he was one of the most dominant players in college basketball and was arguably the most imposing defender in the country through his sheer presence.

In my last mock draft in early June, I noted Clingan has been viewed as a potential option to go in the top three, and that remains the case. The Hawks might view Clingan more as a potential trade-down target and believe Risacher is a better potential option if they keep the No. 1 pick. The team has a workout with Risacher scheduled this week, which could result in a change of course in one direction or another. This selection process doesn’t seem like a done deal at this stage.

Atlanta might not even be able to move down all that far if it wants Clingan, as several teams picking below the top 3, including Memphis and Chicago, are interested in him and might try to trade up themselves.

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Alex Sarr | 7-0 big | 19 years old | Perth Wildcats

League sources continue connecting Sarr to Washington if he falls to No. 2. The Wizards, under Monumental Basketball president Michael Winger and general manager Will Dawkins, are in the market for upside swings, according to league sources. Dawkins comes from the Oklahoma City Thunder tree, where positional size, skill and on-court intelligence reign supreme. The Thunder selected another perimeter 7-footer at No. 2 (Chet Holmgren) during Dawkins’ tenure there, and it’s possible Dawkins sees Sarr as a different, yet stylistically similar player. At 7-feet tall with long arms and remarkable athleticism, Sarr fits that bill if his development comes together.

Sarr is a defensive difference-maker who covers a ton of ground with his arms and quick feet, much like Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr., Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Brooklyn’s Nic Claxton. Sarr flies around off the ball and can thrive in a variety of ball-screen coverages, ranging from switching to drop. If he’s waiting at the rim and opponents challenge him, odds are he’ll contest the shot, if not outright block it.

The other end of the floor is the question. Sarr has shown potential as a rim runner in ball screens, but for the most part, his offensive game involves pick-and-pops, and he doesn’t make great screen contact. He’s not a high-impact defensive rebounder, which has led to some questioning if he can consistently play center in the NBA. If Sarr indeed requires a more physical center alongside him, his limited offensive game might be exposed. He’s best served playing next to a floor-spacing five, unless he can become a dangerous perimeter shooter himself.

Reed Sheppard | 6-2 guard | 20 years old | Kentucky

The Rockets are well stocked with young players, with a potential all-star big man in Alperen Şengün, plus athletic wings and forwards in Jalen Green, Cam Whitmore, Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason. Last year’s No. 4 pick, Amen Thompson, possesses similar size, but he was drafted as a point guard and played tremendously down the stretch of the 2023-24 season as a do-everything, multi-positional talent.

The Rockets don’t have a “need” among their young core positionally, which allows them to explore several avenues with this pick. Unsurprisingly, league sources continue to believe the Rockets will explore trading it. With young talent in addition to this pick and control of the Nets’ picks in 2025 (swap), 2026 (outright) and 2027 (swap), there might be no team more well-positioned to make a star trade.

For now, I went with Sheppard. His stock is polarizing, with more analytically inclined organizations seeing him as a No. 1 pick contender and others viewing him more as a late lottery pick due to his lack of size. At this point, it seems likely he’ll be drafted somewhere within the top half of the lottery. The Rockets can afford to take a chance on him because he is an ideal connective piece for their young talent. In particular, he’s an elite shooter, which is the one skill this young core lacks. While Smith can hit from the perimeter, Green has had stretches of great shot-making and Whitmore has the potential to fill it up, teams don’t guard Eason, and neither Şengün or Thompson are proficient marksmen.

Sheppard also thinks the game at an elite level and quickly moves the ball to get everyone involved. He averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting an absurd 53.6 percent from the field and 52.1 percent from 3. He also blocked nearly a shot per game and grabbed 2.5 steals.

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Zaccharie Risacher | 6-8 wing/forward | 19 years old | JL Bourg

Risacher remains firmly in the mix to go No. 1 overall, and his name remains connected with Atlanta. However, if he is not the No. 1 pick, it’s plausible he drops into the No. 4 or 5 range if the Rockets and Wizards like Sheppard and Sarr. League sources believe the Spurs are interested in Risacher as a player who fits Victor Wembanyama’s age timeline, but was also productive in a real professional environment this season for France’s JL Bourg.

For his part, Risacher turned on the jets in the French league playoffs, averaging 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in two series against Nanterre and Monaco. The French wing also produced at a high level in EuroCup competition. Overall, he averaged 11.1 points across 65 EuroCup and French League games while shooting 47 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from 3 and 70.7 percent from the free-throw line. He rebounded at a reasonable rate for a wing and has shown some passing and decision-making chops.

This last playoff burst was critical for Risacher’s stock. After a prolonged three-month shooting slump, Risacher seemed to be dropping. However, league sources still see Risacher as a likely top-four pick following his excellent final month.

Matas Buzelis | 6-9 wing/forward | 19 years old | G League Ignite

This pick is a key swing spot in the draft. League sources are struggling to determine the preferences of new president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon, since he wasn’t running the show in New Orleans. However, the Pelicans have a history of taking long, rangy players such as Herb Jones, Dyson Daniels and Trey Murphy. That type of bigger wing also seems to be among the most notable positional needs for the Pistons.

Buzelis ticks that box at least, offering positional size for the wing/forward role. Players with somewhat similar profiles in last year’s class, such as Charlotte’s Brandon Miller, Memphis’ G.G. Jackson, Washington’s Bilal Coulibaly and Whitmore, put together promising rookie seasons while flashing skills they didn’t consistently display in their pre-draft seasons. Perhaps that will happen with Buzelis, too, after a G League Ignite season in which he averaged 14.1 points per game, but only shot 45.5 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from 3. (He upped those numbers to 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 blocks over his last 13 games).

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6. Charlotte Hornets

Stephon Castle | 6-6 wing | 19 years old | Connecticut

The Hornets’ pick is seen as another inflection point, as teams around the league are unclear on the direction new head of basketball operations Jeff Peterson will take. Peterson was an assistant GM in Brooklyn and Atlanta, and his teams made varied picks during his time there.

Instead, I have the Hornets drafting Castle to be a strong fit between LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller. My latest intel indicates Castle is likely to come off of the board somewhere between the No. 4 and No. 8 picks. He’s a tremendous defender with size and attributes that help teams win games. He got publicity at the NBA combine for saying he views himself as a point guard, but NBA teams largely classify him as a secondary playmaker who could grow into more on-ball reps in time.

Sources connected to the Connecticut program rave about Castle’s character and competitiveness; many loved his willingness to do whatever it took for the Huskies. He took on the defensive stopper role at times on players such as Alabama’s Mark Sears at the Final Four or Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman during the season. He shared responsibilities for initiating the offense, showcasing passing skill and an ability to get to the rim. He moved the ball well across the perimeter and was a high-impact player on both ends despite making only 27 percent of his 3s. He stepped up in almost all of their big games, including a 21-point Final Four performance and a 15-point national title game showing.

Cody Williams | 6-7 wing | 19 years old | Colorado

The younger brother of blossoming Thunder wing Jalen Williams, Cody profiles as the kind of prized high-end prospect who can pressure the rim, pass, make plays and potentially defend multiple positions. Standing 6-7 with a 7-1 wingspan, Williams showed the ability to play some point guard this past season in addition to attacking in transition and slashing from the wing in a straight line. He struggled to finish after an ankle injury sapped some of his explosiveness, but in his 14 games before the injury, he averaged 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 60.6 percent from the field.

The Blazers should take another bite at filling their bigger wing role, and evaluators largely see Williams’ upside as quite high. However, Portland is another team league sources are connecting with a lot of players following massive groups of workouts. The consensus is they have interest in Clingan, but this iteration of the mock does not shake out in a way that has them move up and get him.

8. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors)

Dalton Knecht | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Tennessee

The Spurs’ No. 8 selection is the one to which league sources have connected the widest range of players. Devin Carter had a tremendous workout in San Antonio. Tidjane Salaun is still seen as an option. Throughout the year, the Spurs were connected with Nikola Topić as a potential long-term answer at lead guard, though Topić’s partially torn ACL has thrown that impression for a loop. Matas Buzelis has been raised as an option if he were to fall to No. 8, as has Cody Williams. This also appears to be Stephon Castle’s floor if he falls on draft night. Whenever a team is connected with this many players, it indicates to league sources (and me) that the Spurs have done a tremendous job of setting smoke screens. It’s difficult to gauge their plans.

Knecht is the other name league sources have recently connected to San Antonio, and the Tennesse product makes  sense considering the Spurs were among the worst 3-point shooting teams in the NBA last season. Knecht scored at a dizzying pace in college, averaging 25.5 points in 18 SEC games while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from 3. Overall, he averaged 21.7 points per game on 46 percent from the field, but those stats are dragged down by a stretch where he played at less than 100 percent following an ankle injury.

His offense should translate to NBA settings. Not only is he a terrific shooter, especially off movement, but he’s also a higher-end athlete than most shooters. He can sky in transition and finish inside with hang time.

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9. Memphis Grizzlies

Devin Carter | 6-2 guard | 22 years old | Providence

No potential lottery selection has helped themselves more throughout the pre-draft process than Carter. He’s taken an “anywhere, anytime” approach to workouts, feeling confident he can measure up to the best players in the class. Like Jaime Jaquez last season, Carter is an older prospect who has shown up in front of teams and given anyone he’s faced difficulty with his athleticism, elite defense and work rate. Team sources have also touted him as leaving one of the strongest impressions in pre-draft interviews.

Carter was one of the best players in college basketball this past season. The son of former NBA point guard Anthony Carter, Devin improved in each of his last five seasons. However, Carter’s biggest jump this past campaign came on offense. After years of being a questionable shooter, Carter hit 37.7 percent of his nearly seven 3-point attempts per game. His shot is something of a moon ball that arcs high in the air, but it went in consistently this season. Several teams in the No. 9 to 15 range are excited by Carter, and he might hear his name called higher than this.

Carter’s father is an assistant coach on the Grizzlies’ staff, so they have all of the possible intel on him. However, the Grizzlies are seen league-wide as a potential threat to trade their selection. President of basketball operations Zach Kleiman has a history of aggressively moving up the board to acquire the player he wants: Recent first-round picks Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke, Jake LaRavia, Santi Aldama and Ziaire Williams were each acquired in trade-up moves. Memphis is more than willing to move around the board in either direction.

Tidjane Salaun | 6-9 wing/forward | 18 years old | Cholet

The Jazz continue to prioritize positional size and length, and Salaun ticks those boxes. He is a big forward with some perimeter skill who has been productive for his age in the French League and Basketball Champions League this season, averaging 9.5 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 32 percent from behind the 3-point line. He has a smooth stroke and also shows some upside handling the ball in transition.

More importantly, Salaun simply plays hard and has terrific basketball character. He is aggressive and willing to play physically in the paint despite a still-developing frame. He’d fill several different holes for Utah.

It wouldn’t be a large surprise to see the Jazz try to move up or down the board, as there are several players above them they like, including Carter and Williams, league sources tell The Athletic.

11. Chicago Bulls

Nikola Topić | 6-6 lead guard | 18 years old | Crvena zvezda

Topić’s draft range is one of the biggest talking points around the league now. There seems to be uncertainty about when he’s picked. That has a lot to do with his knee injury, which was diagnosed as a partially torn ACL earlier this month.

It also has to do with teams’ attempts to get a handle on his game. In 13 Adriatic League games for Mega Basket before his transfer to Crvena zvezda, Topić averaged 18.6 points and 6.9 assists while shooting 52.4 percent from the field. He’s a dynamic ball-screen distributor and consistently lived in the paint in the Adriatic League, which consists of the top teams from the six countries that once made up Yugoslavia. He can execute nearly every pass in the book once he gets a downhill advantage and hits teammates with flair and creativity. Topić also scores proficiently at the rim, using inventive touch to finish high off the glass and around rim protectors.

However, after moving over to Crvena zvezda (also known as Red Star) for the second half of the season, he wasn’t quite as impactful, even before getting hurt.

The Bulls are a difficult team to peg and have brought in a wide range of prospects for visits. Additionally, league sources are still unsure of the team’s plans with DeMar DeRozan (an unrestricted free agent), Alex Caruso and Zach LaVine this summer.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Rockets)

Bub Carrington | 6-4 guard | 18 years old | Pittsburgh

The Thunder have a loaded core with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren, as well as a ton of effective role players. But they also need another backcourt scorer and ballhandler, especially if they look to move Josh Giddey this summer before having to decide on giving him a rookie-contract extension. Cason Wallace, last year’s first-round pick, had a terrific rookie season and could develop into that kind of player. In today’s game, though, you can’t have enough players with real dribble/pass/shoot attributes.

Carrington was the talk of the scouting community after NCAA conference championship week, when he put together several monster games as Pittsburgh made a late bid for the NCAA Tournament. He’s also had a strong start to his pre-draft process, with several teams noting his impressive pro day. There is an expectation he will be selected somewhere within the first 20 picks.

Carrington is a monster pull-up shooter and sharp passer, and became an improved defender throughout the season. He was productive in averaging 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, though he shot 41.2 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from 3. He’s also the youngest high-level college player in the class, not turning 19 until July. Despite that youth, he processes the game exceptionally well.

Rob Dillingham | 6-1 guard | 19 years old | Kentucky

League sources believe the Kings want to accentuate their readymade core with other players they feel can help them win now. They only fell to 46 wins this season after winning 48 and establishing themselves as a team to reckon with in 2022-23. However, the Western Conference got better around them, and the Kings don’t want to stay in the Play-in position they found themselves in following that breakout season. That thought process could result in this pick being available for the right veteran.

Dillingham averaged 15.2 points and 3.9 assists per game this past season while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3. He maintains control well despite playing at a fast pace, using a bevy of crossovers and well-timed hesitation moves to maximize his speed. Evaluators are confident he’ll be able to separate from his man in the NBA.

If the Kings end up keeping the pick, Dillingham would be an intriguing potential replacement for Malik Monk, another Kentucky guard who may depart in free agency with Sacramento limited in what it can offer him due to Early Bird rights.

14. Portland Trail Blazers (via Warriors)

Zach Edey | 7-4 center | 22 years old | Purdue

Edey was the best player in college basketball, averaging 25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and more than two blocks per game on his way to back-to-back National Player of the Year awards. He establishes position anywhere and everywhere on the court because of his size and strength, yet possesses remarkable touch around the rim. One could make the case he was the best screen-setter in the country with the way he crushed guards trying to get through and rolled to the rim for deep post-ups or easy buckets. Edey improved defensively over his time in college, becoming an impactful drop-coverage pick-and-roll defender who took up enough space to dissuade guards from driving and finishing around the basket.

The issue with his fit in the NBA is obvious: He’s 7-4 and doesn’t move particularly well laterally. Can he stop ballhandlers from turning the corner on him? Can he get back in transition in the up-and-down NBA?

Despite those concerns, Edey appears to be rising right now. It would be a surprise to see him get outside of the top-22 or so picks. I have Portland selecting him with the final pick of the lottery, as the Blazers are exploring frontcourt options. In particular, Edey’s screening would be a godsend for guards like Scoot Henderson and Anfernee Simons after last season’s Portland group struggled to gain any sort of separation.

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Ron Holland | 6-7 wing | 18 years old | G League Ignite

Holland was the Ignite’s most productive player last season, averaging 19.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while being one of the team’s few offensive creators. Most of those points, however, came in transition or inefficiently in half-court settings. He had a below-average true shooting percentage and more turnovers than assists as he struggled with his decision-making. Those issues are somewhat to be expected from an 18-year-old playing professionally for the first time, but they also have made it tricky for evaluators to slot him. He also missed the end of the G League season with a thumb injury that occurred as he was beginning to improve.

Holland’s motor excites NBA teams the most. He constantly plays hard, getting the most out of his athleticism. His energy can sometimes cause him to be overaggressive and overly physical on defense, but amid the Ignite’s poor season, Holland showed a capacity for growth that impressed many scouts.

His range is seen as quite wide right now. He hasn’t had a strong pre-draft process; he struggled to impress teams during visits and at his pro day, according to league sources. However, Holland isn’t the type of player who typically impresses in those situations, so teams would be wise not to over-index on that portion of the process.

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Many league sources believe the 76ers could move their first-round pick to get immediate help. Philadelphia has cleared significant cap space to go star-hunting, so, if the right deal becomes available, this pick could be used to further that goal. Even if the Sixers believe they could potentially sign a star in free agency, filling out the roster with ready-made veterans around Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey will be critical.

McCain was seen as a potential one-and-done lottery prospect entering the season before a slow start made evaluators pause. However, over the last two-thirds of the season, McCain was one of the best freshman scorers in high-major college basketball. Starting with Duke’s Dec. 9 game against Charlotte, McCain averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists over his last 28 games. He made 41.6 percent of his 6.4 3-point attempts per game during that span and consistently got into the lane in transition or when driving closeouts. I also thought he improved drastically on defense over his final 15 or so games.

His fit with Tyrese Maxey is not ideal because of their size, but I don’t expect Daryl Morey to draft based on fit when the 76ers have so few players under contract next season.

The New Orleans Pelicans had an option to take the Lakers’ No. 17 pick this year or defer the pick to 2025. They decided to do the latter, which allowed the Lakers to retain this selection. This is another pick many believe is ripe to be moved as the Lakers scour the trade market for immediate upgrades around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

If they keep it, da Silva is an oft-mentioned option. Other scouts have finally come around following his strong finish to the year and play in the NCAA Tournament. Over his final 14 games, da Silva averaged 17.1 points while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from 3. He grabbed 4.6 rebounds, dished out 2.2 assists and grabbed 1.3 steals. He’s made nearly 40 percent from 3 over the last two seasons.

Da Silva moves well without the ball but can also handle it himself and make good passing decisions. He processes the game quickly and plays at a high speed, even if he doesn’t have great athletic tools. He isn’t an elite defender, but he’s smart, adequate against other forwards and sharp off the ball. He ticks a lot of boxes that make him profile well as a solid rotation player in today’s NBA.

Furphy decided to stay in the draft after flirting with a return to Kansas, and will likely be rewarded with a pick within the top-20 selections. It’s easy to see why scouts are excited about his game. He has many of the attributes NBA teams seek when identifying projects worth a long-term investment. It’s hard to find wings with Furphy’s physical profile.

He’s come a long way in 18 months to get to this point. While his athleticism and shooting ability always made him an intriguing upside swing, he didn’t seem to know how to impact the game when he played at the Center of Excellence in Australia. He was up and down this past season at Kansas, but earned Bill Self’s trust, which is not easy for freshmen to do. He averaged nine points and five rebounds while finishing well at the rim and shooting 35 percent from 3.

He ticks a lot of the boxes Orlando president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman tends to seek, namely positional size, a strong work ethic and character. His ability to shoot at his size would also be a nice wrinkle, and maybe the Magic can bring back fellow Australian Joe Ingles (who has a $11 million team option) to help ease Furphy’s rookie transition.

19. Toronto Raptors (via Pacers)

Ja’Kobe Walter | 6-4 wing | 19 years old | Baylor

Walter had an up-and-down season, averaging 14.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He was an inconsistent shooter, although teams have few concerns about his long-term upside because his motion looks clean and he can make shots from a variety of situations. Teams, however, worry about everything else. Walter isn’t a lead guard because he doesn’t see the floor well as a passer. Defensively, Walter struggled at times to stay in front of players.

Scouts are split on Walter’s upside. Most don’t see him as a star, but they disagree on whether he’s a long-term NBA starter or merely a rotation player. Those who believe he will be a high-level shooter despite making 34.1 percent from 3 last season tend to be believers, but his range is quite wide. Some teams near the end of the lottery are considering him, while others feel he could drop into the 20s.

The Raptors are a difficult team to gauge. Their No. 31 pick is seen as a valuable one league-wide, as the addition of a second night of the draft enables Toronto to have an overnight bidding war for the selection. They could consider moving this No. 19 pick and sliding down the board to get multiple bites at the apple, depending on who is available.

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20. Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyshawn George | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Miami (Fla.)

I’m not this high on George, but he was invited to the NBA Draft Green Room and is seen as a potential option to be selected in the top 20 somewhere, with even a couple of lottery teams doing due diligence to learn more about him. He’s a big wing who can shoot, dribble for his size and pass. However, he’s not particularly explosive athletically and has never been productive at any stage of his journey to this point. He scored less than three points per game in the French second division last season, and averaged fewer than double-figures for a Miami team that was one of the worst high-major teams in the country by the end of the season.

Still, George is a late bloomer who grew up to his current 6-7 size over the last 18 months. He is seen as an upside swing who could be worthwhile for teams who like wings with size and shooting ability.  The Cavaliers are doing their work right now on many of the bigger wings in this draft class, as well as a few of the guards.

21. New Orleans Pelicans (via MIL)

Missi is a project, but with elite tools that project to a clear NBA role. As a 7-footer with a 7-5 wingspan, Missi might have the best frame of any low-usage center prospect in the class. He’s a terrific athlete who moves his feet fluidly in space given his size. He can sky for impressive lob finishes in transition and from the dunker spot. He blocks shots well and has potential to stick with guards for multiple slides on defense. He made the Big 12 All-Defense team as a freshman while averaging 10.7 points per game on 61 percent from the field.

He profiles as a Clint Capela-style big man once he picks up the nuances of ball-screen coverage. He needs to put on weight and get stronger through his base, as he often gets moved on the block and can struggle on the defensive glass. But he has the look of a competent defensive starting center if he can reach his ceiling.

Tyler Kolek | 6-1 guard | 23 years old | Marquette

Kolek exploded onto the scene before suffering an oblique injury that held him out of the Big East tournament. From Jan. 15 to Feb. 25, Marquette went 10-1 as Kolek averaged 16.9 points and 9.6 assists per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3. He won All-American honors on his way to season averages of 15.3 points and 7.7 assists per game.

Kolek is a crafty guard. I’m not convinced he can even dunk, but he knows how to play off two feet and is an elite distributor in ball screens. He made a big leap as a shooter this season, drilling 38.8 percent from 3 while looking more confident pulling up when opportunities arose. Kolek must prove he has the foot speed to hold up on defense in the NBA, and he’ll need to prove he can create separation with the ball in his hands against better defenders. But any team looking for a backup guard could plug Kolek in early.

Kel’el Ware | 20 years old |  7-0 big | Indiana

The Bucks need depth across the board, especially in younger players who can fit specific long-term needs around Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. Brook Lopez only has one year left on his contract before hitting free agency again, and it’s hard to find players like him for a bargain in free agency, which is the pool the Bucks will need to swim in given their contractual obligations to Antetokounmpo, Lillard and Khris Middleton.

Ware ticks the box of a drop-coverage big they could develop under Lopez’s tutelage for a year before hopefully giving him more playing time to become an effective NBA player. He needs to work on bringing the same defensive intensity on every possession, but his tools are elite at 7-foot with a near 7-5 wingspan. If he hit under Doc Rivers, it would be an enormous win for the organization to solve a potential problem down the road at the center spot.

Kyle Filipowski | 6-11 big | 20 years old| Duke

As a big man who can shoot, Filipowski could pair well with a starting center or serve as a third big. The Duke product averaged 16.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting about 50 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3 this season. He carried the Blue Devils through long stretches of games with his ability to catch the ball on the block and score, but pro scouts are more intrigued by his well-rounded perimeter game. Filipowski can shoot from 3, attack heavy closeouts and bring the ball up the court in grab-and-go situations. His passing took a leap this past season, and he was more comfortable reading the court.

Filipowski’s defense is better than its reputation. Duke had a top-16 defense this past season, and he usually positions himself well, contests enough shots and can slide his feet a couple of times on an island to stay with wings and even some guards. It’s difficult to find 7-footers who can dribble, pass and shoot. Filipowski can do all three.

The Knicks could use a player to allow them to flash a five-out look. Filipowski would unlock that option while bringing the kind of rebounding and intensity to the court Tom Thibodeau would connect with more than other coaches.

25. New York Knicks

Dunn is one of the best defensive players I’ve ever evaluated. He is a genuine All-Defense candidate long-term if his offense becomes sufficient to stay on the court. Along with Houston’s Jamal Shead, Dunn was one of the two most disruptive defenders in the country this season. He averaged 1.3 steals and 2.3 blocks per game while playing for a slow-paced Virginia team. He covers an exceptional amount of ground defensively and is a monster help-side defender. On top of that, he’s incredibly switchable. 

Offense is the big question. Dunn did not play confidently on that end of the court by the end of the season and seemed to get rid of the ball quickly. He also struggled to shoot, making 23.5 percent of his 3s while attempting less than one per game. However, Dunn has performed well in workouts with multiple teams, according to league sources, and might go even higher.

The Knicks are another team that could trade at least one of their three picks in the top 40. In the past, the Knicks have tried to add future draft picks to create more potential avenues to complete trades. Don’t be surprised to see them try to extend these assets further out into the future again.

26. Washington Wizards (via Clippers)

This would represent a long slide for Collier, but league sources are having trouble finding his floor right now. Even as he started the season on fire and looked like a candidate to be the No. 1 pick, scouts worried about his style of play. He then tailed off as USC’s season fell apart, struggling with turnovers and defense, and missed time after hurting his hand. Once he returned in February, he took the Pac-12 by storm, averaging 18.7 points and 4.3 assists over his final seven games while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from 3. He was the bruising, powerful driver we saw early in college and throughout his high school career, generating seven free-throw attempts per night. Collier is an impressive downhill threat who lives in the paint and has the wherewithal to hit kickout passes and dump-offs.

However, Collier did not test or measure well at the combine, and evaluators wonder if his finishing and power-based game will translate to the NBA. At just under 6-3 without shoes and lacking elite length or a consistent jumper, can he consistently be the downhill, power-based player we saw at lower levels? The Wizards would be thrilled with this result, as they could use a high-upside option at the lead guard spot.

DaRon Holmes | 6-9 big | 21 years old | Dayton

Holmes had an outstanding season at Dayton, winning All-American honors by averaging 20.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.1 blocks while hitting 54.4 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from 3. He’s a versatile big who has a lot of answers for opponents’ ball-screen coverages. He can pick-and-pop, short roll to pass, short roll to finish himself or dive to the rim to catch a lob. Defensively, he’s a good shot blocker and has shown the potential to stay with guards for a couple of slides on the perimeter.

Another big might not seem like a need for the Wolves, but this team is about to get expensive. Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns take up a ton of cap space, and Naz Reid can potentially hit free agency again in 2025. If the team wants to continue its two-big alignment, Holmes is seen as a potential 4 or 5 option by some teams.

Jaylon Tyson | 6-6 wing | 21 years old | California

Tyson has gone on a real journey. After entering college as a top-40 player in his recruiting class, Tyson went from Texas to Texas Tech to Cal in three years before finally emerging as an NBA prospect this past season. At 6-7 with long arms, he has great measurements for the NBA. He’s not an explosive player, but he’s powerful and isn’t bothered by contact, allowing him to get the most out of his length and athleticism. He averaged 19.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3.

The Nuggets tend to draft older players under general manager Calvin Booth, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they viewed Tyson as the kind of player who could potentially create shots in their second unit — especially if they lose Reggie Jackson and promote Christian Braun to the starting lineup if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope departs in free agency.

29. Utah Jazz (via Thunder)

Baylor Scheierman | 6-6 wing | 23 years old | Creighton

I’ve maintained a first-round grade on Scheierman since the end of the college basketball season. He averaged 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists while drilling several 3s off significant movement. He’s one of the best shooters in the class, with a versatile motion that allows him to fire from distance off any kind of footwork. He’s a quick ball-mover and passer, and his defense is better than most believe. Go back and watch the team’s Sweet 16 game against Tennessee, where he held Knecht to 6-of-17 shooting from the field as the primary defender.

Scheierman is also having one of the better pre-draft processes of any prospect. He was the best player in the 5-on-5 portion of the draft combine, impressing teams with his ability to fill multiple roles. I think he hears his name called in the first round at this point, as NBA teams generally see him as a player who can help sooner rather than later.

Tyler Smith | 6-9 big | 19 years old | G League Ignite

Smith averaged 13.7 points and 5.1 rebounds this season while drilling 36 percent from 3, and measured at 6-9 without shoes to pair with a 7-1 wingspan. He was effective within a limited role where he pick-and-popped, cut to the rim and dove to the hoop out of ball screens. His jumper is silky smooth; it looks like he could become one of the better shooters in the league at this size.

Defensively, there are some worries. It will take him time to keep developing on that end, and I wouldn’t be confident putting him on an NBA floor from day one. But Boston could bring him along slowly, and his shot would be valuable to their style of play as a frontcourt player.

Second Round

31. Toronto Raptors (via Pistons): Bobi Klintman | 6-9 wing/forward | 20 years old | Cairns Taipans

32. Utah Jazz (via Wizards): Cam Christie | 6-5 wing | 18 years old | Minnesota

33. Milwaukee Bucks (via Trail Blazers): A.J. Johnson | 6-4 guard | 19 years old | Illawarra

34. Portland Trail Blazers (via Hornets)Pacôme Dadiet | 6-8 wing | 18 years old | Ratiopharm Ulm

35. San Antonio Spurs: Nikola Djurišić | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Mega

36. Indiana Pacers (via Raptors): Ajay Mitchell | 6-3 guard | 22 years old | UC Santa Barbara

37. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Grizzlies): Terrence Shannon Jr. | 6-6 wing | 23 years old | Illinois

38. New York Knicks (via Jazz): Jamal Shead | 6-0 guard | 21 years old | Houston

39. Memphis Grizzlies (via Nets): Adem Bona | 6-8 big | 21 years old | UCLA

40. Portland Trail Blazers (via Hawks): Pelle Larsson | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Arizona

41. Philadelphia 76ers (via Bulls): Enrique Freeman | 6-7 forward | 23 years old | Akron

42. Charlotte Hornets (via Rockets): Jaylen Wells | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Washington State

43. Miami Heat: Cam Spencer | 6-3 guard | 24 years old | Connecticut

44. Houston Rockets (via Warriors): Jonathan Mogbo | 6-6 big | 22 years old | San Francisco

45. Sacramento Kings: Tristen Newton | 6-3 guard | 23 years old | Connecticut

46. LA Clippers (via Pacers): Oso Ighodaro | 6-10 big | 21 years old | Marquette

47. Orlando Magic: Harrison Ingram | 6-5 wing | 21 years old | North Carolina

48. San Antonio Spurs (via Lakers): Melvin Ajinca | 6-6 wing | 20 years old | Saint-Quentin

49. Indiana Pacers (via Cavaliers): Trey Alexander | 6-3 guard | 21 years old | Creighton

50. Indiana Pacers (via Pelicans): P.J. Hall | 6-8 big | 22 years old | Clemson

51. Washington Wizards (via Suns): Juan Núñez | 6-3 guard | 20 years old Ratiopharm Ulm

52. Golden State Warriors (via Bucks): Kevin McCullar | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Kansas

53. Detroit Pistons (via Knicks): Antonio Reeves | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Kentucky

54. Boston Celtics (via Mavericks): Jalen Bridges | 6-7 wing | 23 years old | Baylor

55. Los Angeles Lakers (via Clippers): Bronny James | 6-1 guard | 19 years old | USC

56. Denver Nuggets (via Timberwolves): Justin Edwards | 6-6 wing | 20 years old Kentucky

57. Memphis Grizzlies (via Thunder): Ariel Hukporti | 6-11 big | 22 years old | Melbourne United

58. Dallas Mavericks (via Celtics): K.J. Simpson | 6-0 guard | 21 years old | Colorado

(Top photo: Eric Canha / USA Today)



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