We are only a few weeks removed from the 2023 NBA Draft, but if I can read the room right -- and if you're reading this article, my guess is that I am -- then I know it's never too soon to peek ahead to next year's draft in what could be an exciting 2024 class.
First things first, though, let's set the table for 2024. Scouts I've talked to believe the class in general pales in comparison to the star power produced in the 2023 class, which saw Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson -- in that order -- go off at the top of the draft in late June. We'll see if that holds true in the next 12 months, but the view from the NBA side is that the prize for winning the lottery won't be near as big as it was in 2023. (Literally and figuratively.)
Still, there is equal parts excitement and unknown with next year's class, with a healthy blend of college talent, G League Ignite products and international zest sure to add intrigue in the class. And because there is (at least so far) no clear No. 1 like last cycle in Wembanyama, there are a handful of promising prospects with big opportunities to seize the attention of NBA teams in the next 12 months.
So let's get to the projections. The first round for every pick is below. Draft order for the mock was produced using SportsLine projections.
|Matas Buzelis | SF | G League Ignite -- In a class short on projected star power, Buzelis presents arguably the highest ceiling case of anyone with a frame nearly 7-foot tall to pack inside a small forward's body. He's what you'd want if you built a modern-day wing in a lab, and his inside-out game is polished beyond his years.
|Ron Holland | SF | G League Ignite -- G League Ignite products go 1-2 in this mock as Holland, the No. 1 player in the 247Sports recruiting rankings and a former Texas commit, comes off the board to the Wizards here. The 6-8 combo forward brings a blend of power and explosiveness to the table and has a real chance to be the No. 1 pick next summer.
|Isaiah Collier | PG | USC -- With Orlando's frontcourt all but solidified, it looks to pair top-10 guard pick Anthony Black next to another facilitator here with Collier. Collier was briefly the No. 1 player in the 2023 class before finishing at No. 2. He's set to be the star attraction for a talent-laden Trojans team in 2023.
|Zaccharie Risacher | SF | JL Bourg -- Risacher's development seems to have tapered off a bit and his steam to be the No. 1 pick in 2024 has as a result cooled. But the French product has the physical tools and skill set to still push to be a top-five pick given the flashes he has shown as a defender and shooter.
|DJ Wagner | SG | Kentucky (pick acquired via trade with Houston) -- The son of Dajuan Wagner, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2002 draft, Wagner has a chance to be an even higher-picked player in the 2024 draft as he heads into a potential one-and-done season at Kentucky. DJ is a combo guard who profiles more as a scorer than facilitator, but his always-attacking mentality makes him an easy projection to the NBA.
|Tyrese Proctor | PG | Duke (pick acquired via trade with Brooklyn) -- Proctor profiles as a potential second-year breakout candidate at Duke, where in 2022-23 he was one of the younger players in college basketball after reclassifying. He has a big frame and good playmaking abilities, which should be on full display in 2023-24 as he takes over as the primary facilitator for the Blue Devils.
|Stephon Castle | PG | UConn -- After drafting Victor Wembanyama No. 1 overall, the Spurs in this cycle look to pair him with a promising guard prospect in Castle, someone who I think will emerge as a potential top-10 talent by this time next year. He's more of a combo guard than a true lead guard, but his do-it-all ability with his 6-6 frame could be a nice building block next to Wemby in San Antonio.
|Donovan Clingan | C | UConn -- Clingan's decision to not enter the draft process in 2023 was among the more surprising developments of the cycle, as some in the scouting community saw him as a mid-to-late first-round pick. In a weaker 2024 draft, though, Clingan could parlay what is expected to be a breakout sophomore season into a top-10 selection in the draft. He's an elite center prospect who should see a big role with Adama Sanogo moving on from UConn.
|Cody Williams | SF | Colorado (pick acquired via trade with Toronto) -- The younger brother of OKC star Jalen Williams, Cody Williams is similar to his brother in that he's a long wing with good defensive upside and playmaking ability. Williams emerged as a borderline top-25 player in his class to a top-five ranked player, and his trajectory suggests he should be in the mix in the lottery.
|Justin Edwards | SF | Kentucky -- OKC goes back-to-back with making Kentucky products lottery picks, this time selecting Edwards after grabbing DJ Wagner earlier. Edwards is a big wing scorer who is a tenacious defender with big upside.
|Thierry Darlan | SG | G League Ignite -- Yes, that's right, another G League Ignite product coming off the board in this lottery. Darlan is an NBA Academy product who had major offers from colleges but ultimately chose G League Ignite to kickstart his pro career.
|Aaron Bradshaw | C | Kentucky (pick acquired via trade with Utah) -- You want to get weird, OKC? Let's get weird and pair one 7-footer in Chet Holmgren next to another 7-footer in Kentucky product Aaron Bradshaw. For those keeping track at home: that's three UK players taken by OKC in this mock exercise.
|Bronny James | SG | USC (pick acquired via trade with Dallas) -- There are few more polarizing players in the 2024 class than James, the son of LeBron James, but his feel for the game, and selfless style of play helps contribute to winning basketball. He'll be one of the most fascinating prospects to watch on a USC team that also features another five-star lottery talent in Isaiah Collier.
|Ja'Kobe Walter | SG | Baylor -- Baylor has made a habit of producing NBA talent of late under Scott Drew, and Walter figures to be next in line for the Bears. A top-10 talent in the 2023 recruiting class, he's a power wing who can create and score, though his outside shot still needs some improvement.
|Kyle Filipowski | PF | Duke -- Filipowski is a former five-star recruit who surprisingly came back to school for a sophomore season to build off a spectacular freshman campaign. After leading Duke in points and rebounds he could be in line to play his way into the back half of the lottery in 2024.
|Mackenzie Mgbako | PF | Indiana -- Few prospects in this class possess the size, scoring, and physical maturity combo Mgbako brings to the table. He should be a big producer right away in Indiana as he looks to help backfill production lost by Trayce Jackson-Davis in the frontcourt.
|Ugonna Onyenso | PF | Kentucky (pick acquired via trade with Los Angeles Clippers) -- OKC fully leans into the bit in this mock draft, taking a fourth UK player in its fourth pick. Onyenso is a bit of a projection in this mock -- he played just 6.9 minutes per game as a freshman at Kentucky -- but behind the scenes there is optimism that he could be in line for a big season with the Wildcats in an expanded role. He has ideal length and defensive instincts for a modern day big. There's be a clog in the frontcourt here in OKC, but this front office has always prioritized best player over best fit.
|Omaha Biliew | PF | Iowa State -- Biliew is a toolsy talent who has long been on the draft radar because of his physical stature and defensive tools. He'll be at Iowa State next season, where the Cyclones could feature him as an on-and-off ball threat who can score and attack as a combo forward.
|Trey Alexander | PG | Creighton -- Alexander tested the NBA Draft waters and showed well at the combine before returning to Creighton. With Ryan Nembhard off to Gonzaga, he could be in line to see an expanded role on the ball showcasing his do-it-all skill set.
|Adem Bona | C | UCLA -- Bona suffered a should injury late in the season for UCLA that likely hurt his draft prospects in 2023, but at full strength, the big man could play his way into the Round 1 picture. He was terrific as a freshman, where his defense immediately translated, leading him to finish top-20 nationally in block rate.
|Dillon Mitchell | SF | Texas (pick acquired via trade with Sacramento) -- On a veteran Texas team last season, Mitchell played mostly a part-time rotation role and didn't make the impact some expected as a former five-star recruit. That could change this season. He tweaked his shot in the offseason and projects as a key piece for a Texas team in 2023-24 that could challenge for the Big 12 crown.
|Bobi Klintman | PF | NBL -- Klintman was thought to be in the first-round mix this past draft cycle after a promising season at Wake Forest before pulling out and committing to play in the Australian NBL. He'll be 21 by the time of the next draft, but his tools as a combo forward and 3-point shooter are likely to impress teams, even if his counting stats don't pop off the page.
|Kel'el Ware | C | Indiana -- A one-season stint at Oregon didn't pan out for Ware after the McDonald's All-American and former five-star failed to live up to one-and-done expectations. A fresh start at Indiana could help him rebuild his prospects as he plays next to Mackenzie Mgbako and likely slots in as a starter right away.
|Baba Miller | PF | Florida State -- The draft community fell head over heels for Miller last offseason because of his 6-11 frame and combo forward skills, only for him to mostly flail as a freshman in averaging just 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game at Florida State. I'm not ready to give up on him yet, though. If he improves his feel and develops as a shooter there's a chance he regains interest across the league.
|Ryan Kalkbrenner | C | Creighton -- Kalkbrenner is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year winner who can defend at a high level and step out to hit shots from beyond the arc. He was one of the most impactful bigs in college last season and could be in line for an All-American season with Creighton in 2023-24.
|Elmarko Jackson | PG | Kansas (pick acquired via trade with Golden State) -- Freshman guards rarely get major run at Kansas under Bill Self, but given the talent and roster construction for this upcoming season, Jackson could be an exception. Next to Dajuan Harris and Arterio Morris he could be in line to play a huge share of minutes on a KU team that could (and should) contend for the Big 12 title again.
|Alex Karaban | PF | UConn -- After a redshirt season at UConn, Karaban was an unheralded, underrated -- but nonetheless, important -- piece of UConn's title team. The Huskies will be rebooting their roster after a magical run through March, and Karaban figures to be a big piece of that puzzle.
|Dillon Jones | SF | Weber State -- Jones averaged a double-double at Weber State last season and translated that into meaningful production at the NBA Draft Combine. He could be a sneaky All-American candidate next season in college hoops, where his always-hot motor could make him a first-round pick candidate in 2024.
|Judah Mintz | PG | Syracuse -- Mintz flashed big-time scoring ability as a freshman at Syracuse, where he averaged 16.3 points to lead all freshmen in the ACC. He's not a flashy athlete but he's a smooth operator who can playmake and score from all three levels.
|Zach Edey | C | Purdue -- After Purdue bowed out early in the NCAA Tournament, the narrative -- somewhat unfairly -- surrounding Edey cast a negative light on his NBA prospects. But he drew a lot of interest from NBA teams during the draft process before ultimately deciding to come back to school. He'll be the favorite to repeat as national player of the year next season and could make his way into Round 1 by this time next year.