Now is the time to recalibrate your expectations for 2024 NBA Draft. After a historically strong rookie crop in 2023, 2024 is much less promising. That’s not to say there aren’t quality prospects, or even a few potential stars, but the baseline is much lower and the best prospects carry much higher risk.
We were spoiled last season. There isn’t a top 5 from last June that wouldn’t become No. 1 overall in a few months.
Still, there’s a lot to like about the 2024 draft. It’s an open race, which means chaos is inevitable. Team context matters more than ever, while the lottery has never mattered less. Landing at No. 4 or No. 5 doesn’t prevent you from ultimately selecting the best player. The teams with the best scouting departments will win.
We’ve already been treated to several unconventional breakouts, from Kentucky’s small reserve backcourt of Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard, to Serbian point guard Nikola Topic, who has entered the No. 1 conversation in a big way.
Here’s a look at the NBA Draft landscape in mid-December.
We should not fundamentally trust the Charlotte Frelons to make the best decision. Last season was evidence of their front office’s bias toward the college star (Brandon Miller), rather than the less conventional star (Scoot Henderson). That said, the right pick at the moment is Nikola Topic, who has earned first-round consideration thanks to his performance in a top professional league.
Increasingly, NBA teams are realizing the value of prospects who dominate European professional leagues at a young age (see: Luka Doncic, Alperen Sengun). Topic is 18 years old, one of the youngest players on the board, and has been an absolute ace for Serbia’s Mega MIS, a longtime hotbed of prospects.
Topic doesn’t have the traditional athleticism and shooting profile of a No. 1 point guard, but he’s a prolific driver with excellent feel and craftsmanship around the rim. He operates at a breakneck pace, always choosing the right moment to hit the turbo button and explode down the lane. His 3-point shot looks fluid, even if the volume is lacking, and he could work as the perfect offensive complement to a top-tier connective guard like LaMelo Ball.
Alex Sarr continues to produce for the NBL’s Perth Wildcats, becoming one of the most intriguing athletes in the 2024 class. A true 7-footer with the mobility to guard in space, the fluidity to attack off the dribble and the explosiveness to live above the rim, Sarr has all the assets of a modern center.
The defense bursts. He’s a potentially elite rim protector, with positive instincts and the ability to cover the court. He can drop to the 3-point line, function as a weakside roamer, or anchor a defense in drop coverage. There are other questions on offense, but Sarr launches a 3-point shot with the ability to attack in a straight line, hit the occasional pull-up, or finish easy lobs inside.
He will occasionally lose the physical battle in the NBA, especially early on, but the Blazers could view Sarr as a much stronger star in the middle than Deandre Ayton.