Five-star Class of 2023 prospect Matas Buzelis, the No. 7 overall player according to 247Sports and a potential No. 1 pick contender in the 2024 NBA Draft, announced Wednesday that he has signed with G League Ignite. Buzelis had more than a dozen offers, including ones from Kentucky and Arizona, but chose the professional route where he will likely be a one-and-done in the fast-growing developmental league tailored specifically for blue-chip recruits.
G League Ignite has grown in a short time as a viable option for top-end recruits to develop in advance of the NBA with Jalen Green, the No. 2 pick in the draft in 2021, being the best example. In two draft cycles, the league has produced three top-10 picks -- Green, Jonathan Kuminga and Dyson Daniels -- and is expected to produce another in the coming weeks in potential top-three pick Scoot Henderson.
Buzelis is a 6-foot-9, 190-pound combination forward from Chicago who played most recently for Sunrise Christian in Kansas. He brings a rare skill set to the table that made his services in high demand, with a combination of size and playmaking that makes him one of the most exciting long-term prospects among draft-eligible players in 2024. Here's what 247Sports' Adam Finkelstein wrote of him after scouting him last summer:
There is no other player in the class who can match his combination of size and playmaking ability, but he tends to hunt highlight plays off the dribble with a high-risk high-reward style that isn't always efficient and can be turnover prone. Buzelis is very creative with the ball, especially in the open floor, albeit a little upright. He's a solid vertical athlete who is also capable of utilizing his touch around the rim to make tough finishes with both hands. He converts at a very high-level inside the lane (63% on 2pt field goals per Synergy), but is much less reliable from behind the arc (27% on 3pt field goals per Synergy). Mechanically, his jumper also has an extended load up into a low release, although he's made strides in his ability to get it off. Physically, he needs to keep building up his body and developing a willingness to play through contact. The biggest area of emphasis is on the defensive end of the floor though. He has tools to be a playmaker with good agility for his size and decent shot-blocking instincts off the ball, but his competitiveness and just sheer effort leave a lot to be desired right now. Overall, it's all about consistent reliability and efficiency, on both ends of the floor, but there's no denying his massive tools and talent.
Buzelis will join the 2023-24 G League Ignite roster later this summer after he finishes training in Chicago. It's a roster that includes No. 1 prospect Ron Holland, who also signed with the program on Wednesday, as well as top-30 prospect Dink Pate, giving the program a chance to produce three top-10 picks in the same draft class for the first time.
G League Ignite has steadily built a solid developmental reputation in NBA circles after grooming Green and Kuminga, both former five-stars, into top-10 picks in 2021. That track record has continued in recent years with Isaiah Todd being selected with the first pick of Round 2 in 2021, Dyson Daniels being selected with pick No. 8 last year, and both MarJon Beauchamp and Jaden Hardy being selected with top-40 picks as well in 2022.
Buzelis has a chance to be perhaps the league's highest-drafted prospect of the bunch, and in a 2024 class viewed as weaker than the 2023 class, he could unseat Green as the highest-drafted player from the program since its inception in 2020.