Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

The first round of the 2024 NBA draft is off and running.

Follow along here throughout the evening for real-time reactions and live-grade analysis of all 30 selections.

Who’s getting it right? Who’s getting it way wrong? Who’s either sneakily genius or overthinking it? We’ll have all those answers and more during the latest iteration of the NBA draft.

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While consensus opinion held that there was no consensus top prospect in this class, the majority of mock-drafters had the Hawks adding Zaccharie Risacher in this spot. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good pick, but on a night that could be full of surprises, Atlanta kept things uneventful.

Risacher possesses one of the draft’s better blends of polish and potential. It’s easy to picture him thriving in a three-and-D role early in his NBA career, but his flashes of handling and vision let the imagination run wild with thoughts of him one day functioning as a high-end creator.

If he doesn’t max out his potential, he’ll be a helpful support player and probably a rock-solid starter who defends multiple positions, splashes open shots and makes smart, simple reads on offense. If he does approach his ultimate ceiling, he could one day emerge as a do-it-all big wing, which is tricky for teams to find outside of the draft.

The star potential isn’t what you’d normally want from a No. 1 overall pick, but that would’ve been true regardless of whom Atlanta selected here.

Grade: B

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Because the Wizards waited so long to abandon the Bradley Beal era, they are woefully short on building blocks. They needed to take a big swing, and they did exactly that with Alex Sarr, who might have the most potential in this class.

Sarr could be the latest agile, athletic 7-footer who succeeds in the modern NBA with do-everything defense and an offensive arsenal that’s only starting to take shape. Comparisons to the likes of Evan Mobley and Jaren Jackson Jr. point to Sarr’s defensive impact as both a paint protector and a capable switcher on the perimeter while also leaving the door ajar for perhaps significant offensive growth.

He’ll mostly operate as a finisher early in his career, though he should also orchestrate some grab-and-go attacks off the defensive glass that showcase his comfort handling the ball. Sarr’s jumper needs plenty of work, but if he ever finds perimeter touch, that could open everything up. He could prove impossible for opponents to handle if they have to respect his jumper.

Sarr’s offensive development will determine the return on this investment, but this was the right move for Washington to make.

Grade: A

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Guards who played under former head coach John Calipari at Kentucky have often unveiled new layers to their game upon their arrival in the NBA. Reed Sheppard could be the next to pull that off. He didn’t get a ton of chances to create with the Wildcats, but when he did, he showed hints of off-the-dribble burst and plenty of creativity.

He is an all-caps SHOOTER first and foremost, having gone an absurd 75-of-144 (52.1 percent) from range in college. But he’s too good to be labeled as a specialist. Beyond those three-point lasers, he’ll provide secondary (or, if everything breaks right, primary) playmaking, high IQ and soft touch around the basket.

His lack of size (6’2″, 182 lbs) is a worry defensively, but he at least won’t lose defensive battles due to a lack of effort or bad instincts.

The Rockets were prime trade candidates in this spot, but there is plenty to like about Sheppard’s fit in Space City. His shooting should be an ideal long-term fit with Amen Thompson, whose defensive versatility and creation can help cover some of Sheppard’s limitations.

Grade: B+

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The Spurs needed to come out of this draft with a playmaker, and in Stephon Castle, they just snagged someone who makes high-level plays on both ends of the court.

If Castle had a reliable jumper, he could’ve gone first overall in this draft. That’s how strong the rest of his arsenal is.

Castle can handle and create at 6’6″ and 210 pounds, and he is an absolute menace on defense. If his shot comes around, he has legitimate All-Star upside. You can’t say that about many prospects in this draft.

The jumper is a worry, though. In fact, it’s one of the biggest swing skills in this entire draft. If he can’t shoot any better than he did at UConn (26.7 percent on low volume), he could be tough to play in major postseason moments.

Those could be coming to the Alamo City soon with the Victor Wembanyama era in full swing.

Grade: A-

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Someone cue up that old Bill Simmons’ “Whoa!” soundbite. This might be the closest this round has to a true stunner.

Granted, Holland once sat atop this draft class, so he could prove to be a relative bargain in this spot. The Ignite didn’t give him a ton of support and perhaps put him in an unfavorable spot due to his supersized responsibilities, but he also didn’t help himself with turnover troubles and streaky shooting.

With all of that said, the upside that had him so prominently placed on early prospect rankings hasn’t disappeared. He is an athletic, attacking wing who plays hard, offers defensive versatility and flashes some interesting off-the-dribble attributes.

Holland needs polish, but he’s also 18 years old and toolsy as heck, so high-end outcomes remain on the table.

The Pistons need to expand their talent base, and this new front office just took one of the more intriguing fliers in this class. Having said that, you wonder if Detroit could’ve moved down and still landed Holland. You also wonder whether he’ll do anything to fix the Pistons’ crushing issues with spacing on offense.

It’s an interesting pick, but there are a lot of ways this could go wrong.

Grade: C

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The upside train is off and running, folks. This feels higher than Tidjane Salaun showed up on virtually any mock draft, but the new brass in Charlotte clearly see something in the French swingman.

Salaun might be the biggest wild card in this draft. On a related note, he still has a month-plus to enjoy being 18 years old.

Time is on Salaun’s side. While that doesn’t guarantee anything, that does give him a lengthy runway from which he could eventually take off as a shooter, finisher and open-court creator. And the Hornets have no obvious reason to feel rushed.

Salaun’s game could use a good buffing and several coats of polish, too. But you get what the Hornets are thinking here. The draft is largely about taking fliers, and Salaun’s best-case scenarios are among the best in the class.

This feels early, but it has a chance to look better with time.

Grade: C

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The Blazers must be thrilled to get Donovan Clingan here. For much of mock-draft season, it felt like the only way they were getting him would be by trading up, yet the defensive anchor fell right in their lap.

If Clingan impacts the NBA game like he did at UConn, he might be a top-10 defense on his own. And Portland could use some paint protection behind young guards Scoot Henderson, Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe.

Clingan is massive (7’2″, 282 lbs) and impossibly long (7’7″ wingspan), and he uses his physical tools to control the interior and the glass. Perimeter switching figures to be a challenge for him, but he might be mobile enough to not get played off the floor.

Clingan’s offensive range doesn’t reach beyond the restricted area–he was a 55.8 percent free-throw shooter across two seasons with the Huskies–but it doesn’t need to when he controls the paint and cleans the glass on both ends.

Portland will have some ensuing moves to make with a pair of starting-caliber centers already on its roster (Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams III). But if the Blazers are sold on Clingan’s talent, they were smart to add him at No. 7 and worry about the rest later.

Grade: B

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The Timberwolves crashed into the top 10 to add Rob Dillingham. This could be a stroke of genius. They have a short-term need for shooting and shot-creation off the bench and a long-term need for a post-Mike Conley plan at point guard. Dillingham can check both boxes.

If Dillingham had a bit more heft to his rail-thin 164-pound frame, he might not have made it out of the top five. Few prospects in this class (if any) are slippier off the dribble, and when he creates an advantage, he’ll exploit it with pull-ups, runners, floaters or timely drive-and-kick deliveries.

He competes hard on defense as well, although NBA teams will still target him on that end of the floor due to his lack of size. If any club is capable of covering for him, though, it’s one anchored by Rudy Gobert and featuring both Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels on the wing.

Minnesota paid a steep price—an unprotected 2031 first-round pick and a top-1-protected 2030 pick swap, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski—but the fit looks phenomenal.

Grade: B

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Many have wondered whether Zach Edey’s throwback interior game would fit in the modern NBA. The Grizzlies, who had a Steven Adams-sized hole to cover at the 5, apparently didn’t share that concern.

A two-time men’s college basketball National Player of the Year, Edey brings both incredible size (7’4″, 299 lbs) and incredible stats (23.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks over the past two seasons) to the NBA. Does he have enough modern enhancements to survive at this level, though?

He is a good mover for his size, but his movements are heavy by NBA standards. Can he defend in space? Can he make enough jumpers to not be left alone away from the basket? If he adds enough value on the perimeter to not be schemed off the floor, he could be an asset given his interior activity, post skill and sheer size.

Memphis might have just come out of a draft that no one seemed to love with a new starting center, but it also may have spent a top-10 pick on someone who gets schemed off the floor in the playoffs. Stay tuned.

Grade: C-

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Cody Williams, the younger brother of Oklahoma City Thunder swingman Jalen Williams, almost aces the eye test. His 178-pound frame needs filling out, but if you’re looking for an all-purpose combo forward, you want them in this mold: 6’7″ with a 7’1″ wingspan and the fluidity and athleticism needed to maximize his physical tools.

Once he bulks up, he could offer five-position versatility on defense, or something close to it. His three-point stroke is easy to buy, even if there are some worrying numbers on his stat sheet (like his 71.4 free-throw percentage or the fact he only attempted 1.7 triples per outing during his lone season in college).

If he’s a shooter, though, he offers the dribble-shoot-pass skill set normally seen in only high-end wings.

This is great value at No. 10, and it hopefully indicates that the Jazz will be patient with their growing, intriguing young core.

Grade: A

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Many mock drafts had Matas Buzelis’ wait ending a lot earlier than this. That doesn’t solely determine the value of this pick, but it does show how highly a lot of smart people think of the young swingman.

Buzelis has one of the higher ceilings in this draft. He’ll need to bulk up his 197-pound frame (a tiny number for a 6’9″ wing) and fine-tune his outside jumper to realize that potential, but you can see star-level potential.

He is athletic, competitive and versatile at both ends. So long as that jumper levels up, he should be an easy fit with virtually anyone. Buzelis moves well without the ball and makes quick reads when he’s on it, and he plays smart, high-energy team defense with plenty of disruption.

Between the recent Josh Giddey trade and the Buzelis pick, Chicago is quickly stockpiling sizable playmakers. Let’s just hope either one finds a consistent outside shot or the Bulls’ spacing could get cramped in a hurry.

Grade: B+

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A partially torn ACL caused Nikola Topić to slide, as he sometimes landed in the top five during earlier portions of mock-draft season. It’s unclear how much time the injury will force him to miss, but while his absence is less than ideal, this is a long-term investment.

The Thunder, who just won 57 games and cracked the Western Conference Semifinals, are not in dire need of an immediate contributor. Assuming Topić fully recovers from his injury, Hoops historians could one day view this selection as the night’s biggest steal.

Topić is a 6’6″ playmaker who has the kind of herky-jerky flow that always puts opposing defenders on their heels. He gets into the paint with ease and can either finish there or find cracks in the defense to feed shooters or cutters around him. Trying to contain both him and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander off the dribble already sounds like a nightmare.

Oklahoma City just turned Josh Giddey into Alex Caruso, then found a replacement (if not an upgrade) over Giddey in Topić.

Grade: A-

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