In an NBA Draft class led by phenom Victor Wembanyama, there was -- for quite some time, if we're being honest -- very little debate about who would go No. 1 in the 2023 NBA Draft. But that doesn't appear to be the case as we peek ahead to the 2024 NBA Draft class.
As you might expect, there are consistently a few names that stand out as early contenders to be the No. 1 pick in next year's draft -- among them Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland. Still, even in a class that has had plenty of eyes on it over the years, there is far from a consensus about who the top names -- at least in terms of order in which they'll be drafted and who could be the top selection -- will be exactly when the draft rolls around this time next year.
That makes the never-too-early race for No. 1 all the more appealing. Realistically there are a half-dozen prospects, give or take, who could play their way into pole position to become the No. 1 prospect in next year's draft class. So with the 2023 draft behind us and a long runway between now and next year's draft, below we've handicapped the early race with a look at a few names in contention and some dark horses who could join them.
Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite
Buzelis isn't the consensus No. 1 — again, this class is pretty wide open — but he's No. 1 for me right now. He's a touch on the older side and will turn 20 as a rookie, but his 6-foot-10 frame and big wing profile fits the archetype of a promising prospect who could be a force playing the league's most important position.
Ron Holland, G League Ignite
Holland, like the aforementioned Buzelis, will spend next season with G League Ignite sharpening his skills and challenging for the No. 1 pick. The former five-star recruit finished as the top player in the 247Sports Class of 2023 recruiting rankings and brings a combo of power and athleticism with his 6-8 frame to boot.
Justin Edwards, Kentucky
What Edwards hasplaying in Canada shows that he could be the real deal. He finished as the No. 3 player in the 2023 class and the No. 1 prospect at his position, so it's not a stretch to consider him a threat to be No. 1, but if you're making the bull case with him it's that he has already shown a ton of ability as a downhill creator and scorer with room to grow into a potential star.
DJ Wagner, Kentucky
The son of former lottery pick Dajuan Wagner -- who is also set to play for John Calipari like his pops -- profiles as a potential top-five pick in next year's class. He's a combo guard who doesn't quite have elite positional size, so of the four prospects mentioned in this bunch, I think he's least likely to be the top pick. But his scoring and defensive toughness brings winning to the table, and players who can facilitate and score the way he can bring real value to the table.
Dark horses to watch
Zaccharie Risacher, JL Bourg
One of the most intriguing international players in next year's pool, interest in Risacher has tapered off a tad in recent months and likely put him (for now) more in the mid-to-late lottery range for me. It's hard to imagine he falls too far, though, given his youth, 6-9 frame and flashes of potential playing in the Pro A and in Euroleague.
Isaiah Collier, USC
The opportunities for Collier to showcase himself as a potential No. 1 pick in the coming year will not be an issue. The USC-bound combo guard will be a centerpiece of a Trojans team that will draw a ton of attention with LeBron James' son Bronny James, who is spending the upcoming season at USC. Collier was once ranked as the No. 1 player in his class and profiles as a true lead guard with some of the best passing vision and playmaking among draft-eligible players in the 2024 draft class.