Sat. Jul 13th, 2024


A pair of Frenchmen went No. 1 and No. 2 in the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft on Wednesday night — and a third was taken No. 6 overall — as international prospects and non-college talent made their mark near the top of the lottery. The first college player off the board was former Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard, who went No. 3 overall to the Houston Rockets.

When the Atlanta Hawks selected Zaccharie Risacher with the No. 1 overall pick, it marked two years in a row that a French prospect has been taken with the top selection after the San Antonio Spurs chose 7-foot-4 phenom Victor Wembanyama last year. Risacher’s countryman, Alex Sarr, went No. 2 to Washington making the pair the first international prospects to be selected back-to-back with the draft’s top two picks in NBA history.

The Spurs ultimately chose UConn guard Stephon Castle at No. 4 to pair with Wembanyama before the Detroit Pistons rounded out the top-five by taking Ron Holland from the G League Ignite.

Opinions and evaluations of the 2024 NBA Draft class will vary widely; the lack of a consensus view on the top prospects created plenty of intrigue Wednesday night. Holland going fifth overall was among the top surprises as his rise corresponded with Donovan Clingan’s fall to No. 7. A star of UConn’s title run, Cllingan was regarded as a potential top-five pick before falling into the lap of the the Portland Trailblazers. Two-time national college player of the year Zach Edey came off the board two picks later at No. 9 to the Memphis Grizzlies after a an incredible run leading Purdue.

It was a wild night full of twists and turns, and the draft isn’t done yet. The action will continue with second-round selections on Thursday afternoon. For now, here are some takeaways from the first round along with the entire set of picks from 1-30 below.

More 2024 NBA Draft: NBA Draft coverage | NBA Draft gradesNBA Draft tracker | NBA Draft trades 

L.A. get a steal

Most draft evaluators put a top-10 grade on Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht after he won SEC Player of the Year and carried the Volunteers to their second-ever Elite Eight performance. However, the sharpshooting wing slipped all the way to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 17. General manager Rob Pelinka said the franchise “never would have imagined” Knecht would be available there, but he was, and the Lakers capitalized by snagging a potential immediate contributor who ranked much higher on the team’s draft board. With Los Angeles in win-now mode given the states of stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the roster, Knecht may provide some early assistance. As a 23-year-old player with a refined offensive skillset, Knecht is the type of player who can get buckets in the league from Day 1.

Cal’s final Kentucky class goes big

John Calipari’s last season at Kentucky ended in disappointment as the Wildcats suffered a stunning loss to No. 14 seed Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Calipari left for the Arkansas job after the season, but Wednesday brought two final bullet points to his Kentucky resume. One-and-done guards Sheppard (No. 3 to the Rockets) and Robert Dillingham (No. 8 to the Minnesota Timberwolves via the Spurs) added two final lottery picks to Calipari’s haul during a 15-year run at UK. Both players are undersized and came off the bench for the Wildcats but proved their mettle as high-octane offensive options and were rewarded on Wednesday night.

Edey gets his chance

Edey’s potential as an NBA player has long been a source of debate. Though he dominated college basketball at a level rarely seen in modern times, big men of his ilk are a rare breed in the NBA. The Grizzlies are betting the 7-foot-4 center’s size and skill will translate. Though he was ranked 23rd in the CBS Sports NBA Draft Prospect Rankings, Memphis took a swing on Edey at No. 9. it has a glaring need at center, and Edey should have a chance to contribute immediately as the franchise seeks to return to the playoffs behind its talented core of Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. Edey won’t be asked to be a star, but he will be needed to provide toughness and physicality. Without a 3-point shot in his arsenal — and with limited defensive versatility — Edey’s margin for error will be thin. But going to Memphis ensures that he will get a fair opportunity to prove he belongs.  




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