NBA Mock Draft 2024: Predicting how the top 10 picks in the draft could go

Detroit Bad Boys

In an NBA draft that promises nothing except unpredictability, Detroit Bad Boys contributors Austen Flores and Max Sturm are back with predictions about how the board could fall in their annual mock draft.

This year’s draft has a clear lack of those type of top-3 star-level prospects, but it doesn’t hurt for high-level and even starter-level players on good teams. That means there is little consensus and draft boards are all over the place.

That makes this year’s draft one of the more interesting ones to watch in recent years, as there could be several surprises on draft night.

This year, Austen gets the first and every even pick, while Max follows with the odd selections. With that being said, here is our best guess as to how it all unfolds:

1. Atlanta Hawks – Alexandre Sarr

The Hawks are in a curious spot after making the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament and holding only a 3% chance of winning the lottery. There are other things on Atlanta’s to-do list this offseason, but deciding who to draft first overall isn’t a bad problem to have, assuming part of their organizational transformation doesn’t involve trading the pick.

For now, I have Alexandre Sarr coming off the board first. The French big man made a name for himself in the NBL this season, flashing a skill set of what teams look for in an elite modern big.

2024 NBA Combine

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The defense is what stands out first and foremost with Sarr. Although playing against questionable competition, his instincts protecting the rim should have no problem translating to the NBA, averaging 3.1 blocks per 36 minutes. At 224 pounds, he’ll need to fill out his frame to be able to rebound and have a high impact on that side of the floor. He has the body type that projects the ability to add significant muscle.

Sarr showed flashes this season on offense that I think really propelled him to his current top-5 status. For a 7-footer, he runs the floor well in transition, and he even led the fast break at times. He shot just 28% from three, and that will be what may ultimately determine his ceiling, but his defense alone provides a higher floor.

The backcourt in Atlanta may look different once next season begins, so bringing in someone like Sarr could help elevate that group. – Flores

2. Washington Wizards – Zaccharie Risacher

This is where the draft really starts in the eyes of most. The Wizards are in full rebuild mode and have needs across the board. A franchise point guard like Nikola Topic could make sense here, as could a defensive anchor such as Donavon Clingan. Ultimately, in a draft that lacks high-upside talent, I believe Washington goes with one of the safer prospects in Risacher.

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While Risacher may not have the highest ceiling of many lottery-bound prospects, he brings a lot of traits that are in sync with how the game is played in the modern NBA. His shooting, defense, cutting, and ability to functionally move the ball make him, at worst, a valuable role player. If he improves his handle and adds strength going to the rim, you are suddenly looking at a high-level starter who could flirt with All-Star appearances. Plus, as a low-maintenance player, he fits with virtually any lineup.

For a team that figures to be a lottery mainstay for the next few years, that matters as they continue to add young talent going forward. – Sturm

3. Houston Rockets – Reed Sheppard

The Rockets may be the most intriguing team in the top part of the draft. Their current roster is loaded with young talent who likely all have long-term roles in the league. The question is how they will all fit for a team that wants to win soon.

Reed Sheppard makes the most sense to me right now if Houston decides to keep the pick. Most teams’ minds are wondering if he projects to be more than just a specialist who warrants a top-five selection.

It starts with shooting for Reed. The Kentucky freshman shot a ridiculous 52% from three on high volume, and all signs point to his shot being transferable to a longer range in the NBA. He also has great vision and would fit nicely with a Rockets team full of above-the-rim athletes. Questions of him becoming someone who can score off the dribble consistently would be masked with the likes of Amen Thompson and Jalen Green coming into their own as creators.

Sheppard also led the SEC in steals and has the instinct to be pesky off the ball. His physical measurements were underwhelming, to say the least, so time will tell how he fares guarding someone bigger than him every night. But the Rockets have the defenders around him that could appease his struggles on bigger guards. Sensing a theme here? I love this fit. – Flores

4. San Antonio Spurs – Stephon Castle

With Stepon Castle, the Spurs get a player with a solid floor and good upside. The Georgia native helped UConn cap off one of the most dominant tournament runs in recent memory and has been steadily rising up big boards and mock drafts since. As arguably the best perimeter defender in the draft, he is elite at the point of attack, using his frame and strength to wall up and close gaps on driving lanes quickly. Additionally, he fit in well on a team that needed him to play a specific role, and, by all accounts, he did it with no qualms despite his stature as a highly touted recruit. In a league in which IQ and accepting roles at a young age is becoming more of a premium, that bodes well for him.

Purdue v Connecticut

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Castle told reporters his best fit is at point guard. While that may be debatable, there is a lot to like about a player with his size and athletic gifts who demonstrates high-level passing chops and processing.

The swing skills for him will be his three-point shooting and off-the-dribble creation. If one or both of those improve, he could project as high as a quality second or third option behind Victor Wembanyama. Without either, he still raises the team’s floor immediately as a guy willing and able to take on the toughest perimeter assignments on defense and serving as a connective piece capable of fitting in offensively.

The Spurs want to quickly turn a corner and capitalize on Wemby’s prime years. If they keep the pick, they could do alot worse than Castle here. – Sturm

5. Detroit Pistons – Matas Buzelis

The hiring of Trajan Langdon adds more questions than answers to how the Pistons will execute on draft day. Will they want to entertain swinging on another developmental player after falling to No. 5 for the third straight year? Maybe. But what we do know is that while Detroit has the most cap space in the league heading into the offseason, they’re depleted in overall assets. Moving off this pick in a weak draft could be an opportunity to add some more.

Since we aren’t doing any mock trades in this scenario, I have them taking Buzelis at 5. The 19-year-old forward came into the year as No. 1 on many boards but fell a bit after a somewhat up-and-down campaign for the G-League Ignite this year. I don’t put as much stock into his underwhelming advanced stats because he was one of the youngest players in the league on a bad Ignite team and still played very well in most games.

The Pistons desperately need someone to anchor a defense, and while Buzelis may not be an elite rim protector, he’s definitely a plus on that end of the floor. He averaged 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes and that’s impressive for someone with a wingspan that matches his height (6”10). He’s quick laterally and that should help him when being switched onto multiple positions at the next level.

G League Ignite v Windy City Bulls

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Buzelis’ ceiling, like with many prospects, will be determined by his shot. The mechanics are solid visually, but the percentages don’t mirror that (26% 3P). It might be noteworthy to add that he did have to transition from the high school three-point arc to the NBA, and the adjustment was evident. It may take a lot more time. But Pairing him with creators like Cunningham and Ivey would open up the floor for him to have more space, which he did not have much of for Ignite. He showed flashes of being able to score in isolation and had a nice Dirk-ish turnaround shot that he often used this year.

Detroit will have to once again attempt to rebuild their rebuild, so adding someone like Buzelis with tons of upside makes sense. – Flores

6. Charlotte Hornets – Ron Holland

For years, Charlotte has been one of the most meh teams in the league and has often missed picks in the lottery. Last year, they went against public opinion and took Brandon Miller over Scoot Henderson with the second pick. So far, that seems like a smart gamble. Miller proved to be one of the best rookies in the league, and alongside Lamelo Ball, the Hornets may be capable of showing some real signs of life for the first time in, well, ever.

The Ignite’s Ron Holland is an upside swing, but in what’s considered a weak class, I think it’s a swing worth taking, especially outside of the top five. I’d argue that Holland is maybe the lone player in this class, perhaps outside of Alex Sarr, who has a real all-star upside.

At his size, he’s shown a level of creativity off the highly intriguing bounce, and he gets to the free-throw line at a tremendous rate. He has a high motor and is a menace in transition. Furthermore, he is the one person in this draft who might have something to say when analysts anoint Castle as the best perimeter defender in the class. He simply gets after guys, and his energy and fiery demeanor could be a jolt of life to a roster that seems to lack an emotional leader. Three-point shooting, turnovers, and finishing at the rim are the main areas of concern when evaluating the former five-star recruit (although the finishing at the rim seems flukey to me when factoring in his size and athleticism).

Iowa Wolves v G League Ignite

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He was asked to do a lot on an Ignite team that was an absolute mess. Some of his struggles could be growing pains that benefit him as he transitions to the league in a more defined role, with greater talent around him.

I am a huge believer in his ceiling. If this pick hits, then Charlotte has two wings that have All-Star-level potential that also complement one another fairly well. That would be a great foundation to build around and you’d have arguably the toughest position to land elite talent taken care of for years to come. – Sturm

7. Portland Trail Blazers – Dalton Knecht

Portland has three dynamic players who can score with the ball, but they finished dead last in the league in 3-point shooting this season. Enter Knecht.

The Tennessee senior broke out this past year and steadily rose up draft boards after coming into the year with minimal hype. The shooting doesn’t tell the full story with him though, as Knecht is a dynamic athletic scoring threat that can get buckets at all three levels. He isn’t the quickest getting to the rim but has good size at 6-foot-6 and finishes strong in transition.

Knecht performed well in some of the combine quickness drills but questions surrounding his defense remain. Keeping up with wings in today’s game is tougher than ever, so we’ll see how he fares.

The fit with Knecht and Portlands’ other high-volume scorers would be interesting, but the attributes he brings to the table should overpower that. He comes into the league season at 23 years old and is probably pretty close to his ceiling as a player, but in this draft, it may be wise to take something you know is ready to play. – Flores

8. San Antonio Spurs – Nikola Topic

I suspect that San Antonio seriously looks to package one of (or both) of their picks for immediate help – but if they pick here, Topic makes a ton of sense.

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His injury concerns, coupled with his poor three-point shooting, make him a candidate to slide a bit. With all that aside, Topic is the best passer in this draft class; the processing and playmaking in the pick and roll is elite for his age. In a league dominated by the pick and roll, that alone brings a ton of value. Additionally, at 6’6, he can see over smaller defenders and make passes over the top of the defense when needed. Most importantly, his passing and ability to manipulate the defense while making the right reads will make the life of Victor Wembanyama much easier. That should be priority one, two and three for the Spurs.

The glaring hole in his game and likely the sole reason he is not a candidate to go number one overall is, as previously mentioned, his lack of three-point production. If you are a believer in free-throw percentage as a predictor of future success from deep, then that should quell the worries with him some. But I’m young enough to remember when the Pistons drafted a young point guard named Gulp Killian Hayes, who also had a low three-point percentage and a high free-throw percentage. Proceed with caution… – Sturm

9. Memphis Grizzlies – Donovan Clingan

When the Grizzlies were at their best in recent years, they had a true center to pair with Jaren Jackson Jr. It seems like they may want to get back to that mold by adding Donovan Clingan.

The two-time national champion may not fall this low given his high floor and defensive abilities, but we’ll see if teams take a swing on upside at the top of the draft. The Grizzlies have already been linked as a candidate to move up,

2024 NBA Combine

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Clingan was the engine that made the Huskies go this season when he came back from ankle and foot injuries early in the year. He used his massive frame to control the paint defensively and moved well laterally for his size. As he adjusts more to the speed of the next level, he should have no problem having a similar impact, especially being paired with a former defensive player of the year in Jackson Jr.

Teams won’t draft Clingan for his offensive ability, but most teams won’t need him to be anything more than what he showed at UConn. If he can develop anything more, it’s a plus, but he should fit nicely wherever he goes. – Flores

10. Utah Jazz – Cody Williams

To me, this pick screams Danny Ainge. If you remember his days as the Boston Celtics’ top decision-maker, you’d recall him taking swings on wings with specific athletic traits. Once upon a time, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were both slightly overlooked wings, which were long, athletic, and had fairly underwhelming freshman seasons after being high-level recruits. Cody Williams fits that mold.

He was an extremely efficient player at Colorado, albeit on low volume, but his play tailed off towards the end of the year as he battled multiple injuries. He was a relative non-factor during the Buffalos’ tournament run and, unfortunately for him, that is many people’s lasting image of him as a prospect. However, there is a fair amount to like. He has shown some wiggle with the ball in his hands, solid passing ability and has all the makings of a high level defender.

In this case, the eye test is ahead of the numbers, similar to how they once were for Tatum and Brown coming out. Utah has a bonafide star in Lauri Markkanen, some really interesting young pieces, and a billion draft picks over the next five or so years. Picking at ten in a weaker draft and taking a calculated risk with Williams is a logical move here, especially considering that the franchise has a high margin for error. Their roster is stocked full of interesting, cheap, and tradeable young pieces at a variety of positions that they can either develop or package in a trade for a star. Either way, Williams would have the opportunity to be brought along slowly and prioritize his individual development rather than be thrust into a larger role on a worse team with a bare roster. This seems like a great arrangement for both sides. – Sturm

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