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2024 NBA Draft preview: 7 prospects to watch ahead of first round

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The next crop of young NBA rookies will be selected at Barclays Center, as the 2024 NBA Draft kicks off on Wednesday night in Brooklyn, New York. 

The Atlanta Hawks, winners of the 2024 NBA Draft Lottery, are on the clock with the first overall pick. How they use that pick will set in motion a domino effect, as teams will be hoping their preferred pick lands at their slot. 

With that said, here are the most intriguing NBA prospects to watch heading into Wednesday’s first round, and perhaps, Thursday’s second round, depending on how teams turn in their selections. 

Alexandre Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher

The two Frenchmen have consistently been regarded as the two top prospects throughout this draft process. However, mock drafters do not have a consensus No. 1 and No. 2, as it appears the Hawks could go either way to kick off the draft. 

Starting with the 7-foot Alexandre Sarr, the 19-year-old center did well for the Perth Wildcats in 24 games during the 2023-24 campaign, averaging 9.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and shooting 52% from the field over 17.2 minutes per game off the bench. 

It is expected that Sarr’s defensive abilities will quickly adapt to the NBA game, while his offensive skills will need some improvement. However, his agility and pure athleticism will make for a great rim protector no matter where he goes. 

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As for Zaccharie Risacher, also 19 years old, he is a bit more seasoned on the international stage. Playing for Mincidelice JL Bourg in France’s Betclic Élite league, the 6 foot, 9 inch tall Risacher averaged 10.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and shot 43.9% from the field over 32 games. Risacher also played very well in the BKT EuroCup, dropping 13.1 points per game in 17 contests. 

NBA scouts love his ability to thrive on both ends of the floor, and his young age showcases tons of potential to get better. 

Where will the Hawks go? No matter the case, it is expected the Washington Wizards, the owners of the No. 2 overall pick, will choose whichever Frenchman Atlanta does not. 

Donovan Clingan reacts on court

Donovan Clingan

A two-time NCAA national champion with the Connecticut Huskies, Donovan Clingan’s dominance in the paint in his college days should have NBA teams licking their chops to add him to their roster. 

However, despite many scouts believing the 7 foot, 2 inch tall center is the third-best prospect behind Sarr and Risacher, there is no telling when he will be going in the draft. 

Why? Well, the Houston Rockets (No. 3), San Antonio Spurs (4), Detroit Pistons (5) and others at the top of the first round need guards. Could the Charlotte Hornets pull the trigger on Clingan, who took a big step of improvement as a starter in his second collegiate season, with 13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks averaged over 35 contests?  

Zach Edey

To the same degree as Clingan, which NBA team is going to turn in the card that has Zach Edey, the 7 foot, 4 inch tall Purdue Boilermaker who returned for his senior season in hopes of earning a national title after a very early exit against Fairleigh Dickinson University the year prior? 

Edey and Clingan went head-to-head in the title game, and despite Clingan showing his ability to defend his opponent, Edey dropped a game-high 37 points on 15-of-25 from the field, including 7-of-10 from the charity stripe, with 10 rebounds in the loss. 

Zach Edey makes a move

Edey not only wanted to win with his team, but he also wanted to improve his draft stock. Mock drafts appear to have him as the No. 19 pick of the Toronto Raptors or the No. 21 pick to join Zion Williamson with the New Orleans Pelicans.

However, could a team like, say, the Oklahoma City Thunder, bring in Edey to allow Chet Holmgren and that young, up-and-coming squad more freedom to roam on the court, while he mans the paint? 

Reed Sheppard and Robert Dillingham

The Kentucky freshmen were pivotal pieces in getting the Wildcats back to “The Dance,” but it ended quickly in a massive upset to Oakland University. 

NBA scouts definitely wanted to see what Reed Sheppard and Robert Dillingham could do in an extended tournament run, but they instead had to rely on previous tape and the draft process to figure out their projections in the pros. 

It appears Sheppard, the 6 foot, 3 inch tall guard, has the edge over the 6 foot, 2 inch tall Dillingham in mock drafts, though they are both projected to be Top 10 picks. 

Sheppard and Dillingham both came off the bench for now-former Kentucky coach John Calipari, but they averaged 12.5 and 15.2 points per game in their freshman seasons in the always-tough SEC. 

Rob Dillingham layup

Sheppard, though, has the NBA-ready shot, averaging 52.1% from beyond the arc last season on 4.4 three-point attempts per game. He has been one to benefit from the draft process, as teams have reportedly loved his ability to knock down open looks as well as create shots for himself with the ball in his hands. 

That said, Dillingham is what NBA.com called a “certified bucket,” and his tape shows that. While Sheppard led the team in three-point shooting, Dillingham still shot an impressive 44.4% from three and scored virtually everywhere on the court. 

The biggest knock on his draft stock, though, has been his size. NBA scouts wonder if he will be limited, especially on the defensive end, because of that. However, there have been bucket getters like Trae Young and Jalen Brunson who discredit those size claims with All-Star level play in the league. 

Bronny James

Finally, it is really hard not to preview the NBA Draft without wondering if there is a team willing to draft the son of all-time leading scorer LeBron James. 

James, standing at 6 foot, 4 inches tall, weighing 210 pounds, had a slow start to his freshman season at USC, as he was recovering from a cardiac arrest he suffered before the campaign began. Once he was cleared and finally got on the hardwood for the Trojans, he averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists over 19.3 minutes in 25 games (six starts). 

Now, James is not projected to be a first-round pick. There are just too many guards with a bigger sample size of college or international games, which trumps what he did with the Trojans. 

Bronny James shoots

However, there are some who believe James has massive potential to be a good two-way guard in the league given the right situation and coaching. Could the Los Angeles Lakers pull the trigger in the second round (No. 55) with the thought that perhaps his father returns for another season in purple and gold? That appears to be the consensus pick, if he gets drafted at all. 

He is an obvious name to watch as the NBA Draft begins.  

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