Analysis, fits for all 58 NBA Draft picks from John Hollinger and Sam Vecenie (2024)

Table of Contents
1. Atlanta Hawks 2. Washington Wizards 3. Houston Rockets 4. San Antonio Spurs 5. Detroit Pistons 6. Charlotte Hornets 7. Portland Trail Blazers 8. Minnesota Timberwolves (via trade with Spurs) 9. Memphis Grizzlies 10. Utah Jazz 11. Chicago Bulls 12. Oklahoma City Thunder 13. Sacramento Kings 14. Washington Wizards (via Blazers) 15. Miami Heat 16. Philadelphia 76ers 17. Los Angeles Lakers 18. Orlando Magic 19. Toronto Raptors 20. Cleveland Cavaliers 21. New Orleans Pelicans 22. Denver Nuggets (via trade with Suns) 23. Milwaukee Bucks 24. Washington Wizards (via trade with Knicks) 25. New York Knicks 26. Oklahoma City Thunder (via trade with Knicks) 27. Minnesota Timberwolves 28. Phoenix Suns 29. Utah Jazz 30. Boston Celtics Second Round 31. Toronto Raptors 32. Utah Jazz 33. Milwaukee Bucks 34. New York Knicks (via POR) 35. Indiana Pacers (via SAS) 36. San Antonio Spurs (via IND) 37. Detroit Pistons (via MIN) 38. Oklahoma City Thunder (via NY) 39. Memphis Grizzlies 40. Phoenix Suns (via NY via OKC via POR) 41. Philadelphia 76ers 42. Charlotte Hornets 43. Atlanta Hawks (via MIA) 44. Miami Heat (via ATL) 45. Toronto Raptors (via SAC) 46. LA Clippers 47. New Orleans Pelicans (via ORL) 48. San Antonio Spurs 49. Indiana Pacers 50. Indiana Pacers 51. Dallas Mavericks (via NY) 52. Golden State Warriors 53. Memphis Grizzlies (via MIN via DET) 54. Boston Celtics 55. Los Angeles Lakers 56. New York Knicks (via PHX) 57. Toronto Raptors (via MEM) 58. New York Knicks (via DAL)

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Read Sam Vecenie’s winners and losers of NBA Draft Round 1.

The 2024 NBA Draft is underway — taking place over two days — and The Athletic’sdraft experts Sam Vecenie and John Hollinger are analyzing each pick as it happens. Here you will find their take on all 58 picks, from Zaccharie Risacher going No. 1 to the Hawks to the last guy off the board.

1. Atlanta Hawks

Zaccharie Risacher | 6-foot-9 wing/forward | 19 years old | JL Bourg

Vecenie’s ranking: 5

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I was not a fan of Zaccharie Risacher entering this season, but he clearly improved his jumper over the summer, which helped open up his game. Risacher was streaky this year, starting out very hot before making just 22.8 percent of his 3s from Jan. 31 to the end of April. Then, he closed the season incredibly well in the playoffs. If he’s not a knockdown shooter, his offensive role becomes more difficult to project. However, he’s shown enough touch with the way the ball comes out of his hand to continue developing his consistency there in spot-up situations, if not off movement or in pull-up situations. If, at a minimum, he can hit open-up spot 3s, cut off the ball and defend, then he’d become a difference-making starter if any of his on-ball skill improves as he grows into his frame. Teams that believe he can add functional strength and a bit more athletic juice have reason to take him in the top five. Those who are less sure of his long-term shooting development may think the floor is too low to risk such a high pick. Still, Risacher is seen as one of the safest players in the draft because of his intersection of size, defense and shooting. Look across the playoffs, and you can see why these players are so valuable.

GO DEEPERNBA Draft: Hawks take Zaccharie Risacher at No. 1

Hollinger’s analysis: I wasn’t nearly as high on Risacher as some others — I had him 13th on my board — but I will say the fit here makes sense. Saddiq Bey is a free agent and tore his ACL, and De’Andre Hunter is stretched as a starter and has become perennial trade bait. Pairing Risacher and Jalen Johnson at the two forward spots is a decade-long solution if Risacher hits.

It’s a pretty big statement on the quality of this draft, however, to consider that, if Atlanta gets around to trading either Trae Young or Dejounte Murray, it will likely dwarf this draft selection in terms of the reverberations on the franchise.

  • Scouts talk Zaccharie Risacher and other forward prospects

2. Washington Wizards

Alexandre Sarr | 7-0 forward/center | 19 years old | Perth Wildcats

Vecenie’s ranking: 1

Alexandre Sarr is the highest-upside player in the 2024 NBA Draft class. He has enormous positional size, even at center. He is an elite defender who impacts games at the rim, midrange and 3-point line with his athletic fluidity. With his strong instincts and fundamentals on that end, he has the potential to be a perennial All-Defense level player if things break right. Offensively, there are serious concerns about the level his game can reach. His jumper needs to continue making strides, and his finishing through contact must keep improving. Ultimately, the key will be Sarr’s strength and growth. If he grows into his frame more and becomes more physical, Sarr is the best bet in the class to become a future All-Star. His skill set is tantalizing; it’s harder than ever to find bigs who can be elite defenders while also thriving as perimeter-oriented offensive players in an NBA that cares more about floor-spacing than ever before. Sarr’s archetype is valuable, as seen by the successes of Chet Holmgren, Victor Wembanyama and even, to a lesser extent, players such as Myles Turner in Indiana. He is not quite at the level of prospect that Wembanyama or Holmgren were, but he’s still an excellent prospect worth investing in. The downside for Sarr is something in the ballpark of Nic Claxton, while his upside is an All-Star-caliber big. To me, he offers the best range of outcomes in this down 2024 class.

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Hollinger’s analysis: No surprise here as Sarr goes to the Wizards, and yet it’s the next draft that might already be the focus. Washington already made a huge move in dealing away Deni Avdija today, and Kyle Kuzma might be next in the Sag for Flagg movement.

As with Risacher above, you can’t argue with the fit – the Wizards had no viable rotation centers, and Sarr’s defensive ceiling could make up for some of the wholesale shortcomings across the rest of the roster. The question will be whether he provides enough offensive juice to justify his lofty selection.

3. Houston Rockets

Reed Sheppard | 6-2 guard | 20 years old | Kentucky

Vecenie’s ranking: 2

By the numbers, Reed Sheppard was one of the most important players in college basketball this season. His individual statistics tell you a lot, but no number that says more than this one: 29.5. Kentucky was that many points per 100 possessions better when Sheppard was on the court versus when he was not. The Wildcats had a 129.9 offensive rating with him on the court versus a 113.6 rating with him off it. They had a 108.5 defensive rating with him on the court versus a 121.7 rating without him. Those numbers were not propped up by overlapping minutes with others: Sheppard’s 29.5 on/off net rating for Kentucky was nearly 20 points better than anyone else on the team. He drove positive, winning play for them. I bet he will in the NBA, too. Players who think the game and shoot like Sheppard have reliably proven to outperform their athletic tools and measurements in the modern NBA. They have too many ways to become good players even if parts of their games don’t translate. Even if Sheppard cannot play point guard full-time, his team could put him next to an elite wing on-ball playmaker and take advantage of the floor-spacing and shooting he’ll provide. Even if Sheppard isn’t always able to collapse defenders, he’ll make early hit-ahead and extra kickout passes to keep defenses in rotation. He’s too far ahead of what his opponent presents him. He shares some similarities to Lonzo Ball coming out of UCLA or Tyrese Haliburton coming out of Iowa State. Ball’s size made him project as a better defender, but his presence on the court, once he figured out how to shoot, was immensely positive. Haliburton has struggled on defense, but his gravity and passing ability allows him to dominate games. It’s difficult for basketball savants who are also elite shooters to fail. Sheppard’s measurements may put that theory to the test, but I’m betting on him being the kind of guy who helps teams win, be it as a star if everything goes right or as a role player if it doesn’t.

Hollinger’s analysis: This pick had been rumored to be available for trade, but it appears Houston couldn’t find the offer it wanted and zoomed in on Sheppard. He’s a great fit for a team that struggled with shooting last season and a player I had rated very highly regardless of destination. I could easily see him outperforming the first two picks.

  • Reed Sheppard has won Kentucky fans’ hearts. ‘The whole state is connected to him’

4. San Antonio Spurs

Stephon Castle | 6-6 wing | 19 years old | Connecticut

Vecenie’s ranking: 3

Stephon Castle is polarizing this year because of his jumper. If you believe the touch he’s shown from the free-throw line and around the rim will translate and you think his mechanics are workable, you will probably be higher on him. If you think he doesn’t have enough of a baseline level as a shooter, you probably rank him in the later portion of the lottery. Castle is my No. 3 player this year because I buy his jumper improving in time, and if it does, he has as much upside as any player in this class. He’s a potential big initiator who can already pass and is comfortable in ball screens. He’s elite on defense and has already showed that he can play a high level role on a winning team. His floor is as a contributor who helps you win important games, even in the NBA, due to his defensive prowess and on-ball ability. If his jumper ever develops, he’s one of the few players in this class with a realistic All-Star ceiling. He’s an uncertain bet, but there are no sure things in this class. Castle is a player who could pay off most if things turn out well, but he also has a higher-end floor if it doesn’t.

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Hollinger’s analysis: I guess the idea of pairing Donovan Clingan with Victor Wembanyama was a smoke screen. I had Castle second on my board and really like the fit in San Antonio, where the Spurs need to upgrade their perimeter talent on both sides of the ball. Castle also will likely get plenty of chances to play on the ball given the Spurs’ dearth of point guard talent, which is notable given his stated preference of playing the point. His shooting is a question, but his ability to guard immediately and his high long-term ceiling make this a great pick. The Spurs have another selection at No. 8, by the way, so stay tuned.

5. Detroit Pistons

Ron Holland | 6-7 wing | 18 years old | G League Ignite

Vecenie’s ranking: 10

I’ve changed my evaluation of Ron Holland more than any other player in this class. I often struggle to project players like Holland who haven’t demonstrated consistent feel for the game. His shooting is an issue; he’s willing to take them, but he made just 24 percent and must clean up his mechanics. However, he possesses a ton of basketball character, and it shows in how he attacks the game. He’s the ultimate loose-ball guy. His energy is infectious. He plays incredibly hard and competes all the time. On top of that, he’s a remarkable athlete with functional burst on the ground and foundational strength to avoid getting dislodged. Even if his shooting and feel don’t come around and he doesn’t turn into a star, could he play a similar role as Aaron Gordon, doing all of the dirty work around the court to help teams win? Holland’s G League season made people forget that he has won every single place he’d been prior to that. He’s willing to do the stuff other players don’t want to do. In the end, there are a lot of outs for wings with his mix of production, effort competitiveness, so I kept him in my top 10.

Hollinger’s analysis: Yes! I love it! Holland was the No. 1 guy on my board, and I was absolutely perplexed that he was falling so far in mock draft world when his output at G League Ignite was superior to that of several other recent lottery picks. Holland may struggle out of the gate as he works on his shooting and half-court reads, but the Pistons shouldn’t be in win-now mode and badly need a second wing creator to help Cade Cunningham. This is a great pick to start off the Trajan Langdon era in Detroit.

6. Charlotte Hornets

Tidjane Salaun | 6-9 forward | 18 years old | Cholet

Vecenie’s ranking: 11

Tidjane Salaun is the wild card of this year’s draft class. His movement fluidity at 6-9 is remarkable. While he’s not overly explosive, his ability to maintain his balance at that size as a teenager is impressive. He also flashes some serious skills that make one wonder how high his upside lies. On top of that, he plays hard. There’s a confidence to his actions on the court. It’s easy to buy into him becoming a good player at some point because he seems to care and is always engaged on the court. Yet it’s also clear Salaun is not ready to play effectively in the NBA at this stage. He struggled at times to be a positive player in a French league for the first two thirds of the season. His jumper has potential, but it’s not there yet. His handle is loose. The passing flashes are there, but they’re just flashes. Defensively, he’s active and energetic, but it’s a mixed bag at this moment even with the in-season improvement. Teams must parse through a lot here, so Salaun won’t be for everyone. Teams with strong developmental track records who are willing to put in multiple years of effort could come away with a terrific player down the road. Just don’t expect immediate results in his rookie season.

Hollinger’s analysis: This has been rumored in the days leading up to the draft. I like Salaun’s upside but see it as more speculative — I had him 16th on my board, so taking him at No. 6 without trading down feels like a reach. Meanwhile, I get that Donovan Clingan would have overlapped with incumbent Mark Williams, but that’s a pretty bold move to pass up Clingan.

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The other question this pick brings up — is this a sign the Hornets don’t think they’ll keep Miles Bridges in free agency?

7. Portland Trail Blazers

Donovan Clingan | 7-2 center | 20 years old | Connecticut

Vecenie’s ranking: 4

It’s hard not to see Donovan Clingan turning into at least an average starting center in the NBA when he’s on the court. He has All-Defense-caliber upside. He’s utterly enormous and is elite at executing drop pick-and-roll coverage. He takes up an immense amount of space in the lane and his sheer presence should give his team strong defensive minutes around the rim. I also think there’s more to Clingan offensively than meets the eye. He’s a sharp passer and playmaker away from the rim, sees the court well and is a strong screener. His presence on the court will help everyone else on the team in subtle ways. I don’t expect him to display the scoring or playmaking upside of someone like Domantas Sabonis, so it’s hard to project All-Star outcomes for Clingan. Even Gobert is a stretch, as he’s more mobile than Clingan ever will be on defense. But I think Clingan can settle in just below that tier and maybe sniff an All-Star Game if things break right, like Jarrett Allen did back in 2022. The keys for Clingan are staying healthy and maintaining his conditioning — two things that have gone together for him over the last two years. If he’s able to stay on the court, he’ll have a valuable NBA career that has a good chance to return top-five value in this class.

Hollinger’s analysis: Put in your offers for Deandre Ayton, everyone! Hello … hello? Anyone there? With or without an incumbent center under contract, Clingan was pretty clearly the best prospect left on the board, and there was no way Portland could pass up this kind of value proposition. And hey, Ayton only has two years left on his deal.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (via trade with Spurs)

Robert Dillingham | 6-1 guard | 19 years old | Kentucky

Vecenie’s ranking: 15

How one evaluates Robert Dillingham depends on how much one values scoring touch and the ability to separate from defenders. I know evaluators who work for NBA teams who value his scoring upside so much that they have Dillingham as a top-five prospect. That potential, mixed with his passing improvements, have Dillingham believers thinking he could be the best overall offensive player in this class. They have a point — his offensive tools are special. However, the difference between Dillingham and someone like Tyrese Maxey — another speed/touch-based Kentucky guard — is 35 pounds. Maxey is so much more physical than Dillingham; even at Kentucky, the 76ers’ All-Star guard weighed nearly 200 pounds and took bumps well. That ability to play through contact — which Maxey had and Dillingham does not — is critical to NBA success. Trae Young and Ja Morant are the only sub-175-pound, non-lengthy prospects who have become starter-level playmakers in the NBA in the last decade. I don’t think that Dillingham has the one-of-one athleticism of Morant or the passing ability of Young. Dejounte Murray was 170 pounds when he entered the NBA but is 6-5. Dennis Schröder was 6-1 and about 170 pounds, but he had a 6-8 wingspan. Mike Conley was 5-11 without shoes but has a 6-6 wingspan. To succeed, then, Dillingham will have to be an outlier. He has the skills to do it, which is why I still have a top-15 grade on him. I trust he will get buckets. But given his defensive issues, it was hard for me to put him higher than the back-third of the lottery. His size and defensive deficiencies might resign him to being more of a great sixth man. If that’s the role he ends up filling, I’d bet on him winning a Sixth Man of the Year award at some point.

Hollinger’s analysis: I had Dillingham eighth on my board, so this isn’t exactly a surprise, but if he’s headed to Minnesota as rumored, that is quite a development. Dillingham is an offensive creator who, if he hits, solves one of Minnesota’s biggest existential problems: The succession at point guard beyond 36-year-old Mike Conley. But the Wolves are also a win-now team; how much can he immediately help?

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9. Memphis Grizzlies

Zach Edey | 7-4 center | 22 years old | Purdue

Vecenie’s ranking: 17

Zach Edey has continually proved everyone wrong at every level. He was stuck behind everyone at IMG. He was outside of the top-300 as a recruit. His ability to transition to the NBA has been doubted. Yet here we are, two National Player of the Year seasons later, and Edey keeps getting better. He’s in unbelievable shape for a player his size in a way that allows him to take full advantage of his gifts. He has skills that will work in the NBA. He’s going to be a killer rebounder, monster screener and will consistently establish his position even against some of the stronger NBA players. I’m not saying he’ll seal off Joel Embiid every time down the court, but most big 7-foot or shorter will have issues dealing with his length and strength. His pro success comes down to continuing to improve his movement ability and continuing to maximize his ability to get up and down the court on defense. He needs to not let ball handlers turn the corner on him in drop coverage and maintain extremely tight angles.

I’m done doubting Edey, even as an NBA player. He’s exceptionally tough, and intel suggest his worth ethic is excellent. He’s an unbelievable competitor who desperately wants to win. He plays with an edge that allows him to overcome a lot of the perceived deficiencies of his game. I can’t quite shake the questions I have on his ability to significantly impact the playoffs, so I couldn’t quite get him into the lottery. But I think he carves out an NBA role and sticks around for a while.

Hollinger’s analysis: Zach Kleiman didn’t trade up! Should we have a ceremony to mark this occasion? It’s also a bit of a surprise that the Grizzlies reached for Edey with the ninth pick; certainly filling the center position was a need for Memphis, but the Grizzlies also had holes on the perimeter that could have been filled by the likes of Devin Carter or Matas Buzelis. It will be interesting to see how Edey’s plodding style fits in with a Memphis team that likes to push the pedal to the metal.

  • Toronto tall tales of Zach Edey: On the ice, the diamond … and ‘What’s a Purdue?’

10. Utah Jazz

Cody Williams | 6-7 wing | 19 years old | Colorado

Vecenie’s ranking: 6

It’s disappointing that Cody Williams picked up his ankle injury right as he started to come into his own during a 10-game stretch in January and February. Typically, freshmen improve over the course of the season, but NBA teams never got the chance to see that with Williams, even after he returned to the court for the stretch run. It’s easy to buy into his upside as a developmental wing with length, functional athleticism and foundational stretch that should continue to improve as he ages. He’s an excellent driver with potential to be the type of dangerous dribble/pass/shoot wing teams desperately want to acquire. However, it’s also easy to view him as a significant project if his jumper isn’t as far along as his college percentages indicate. It’s going to take time for him to grow into his frame and add more strength. How long will that take? Can he continue to develop as a shooter to the point he becomes a genuine pull-up threat? If those two questions end with positive answers, he will be one of the best players in this class. If not, he becomes a riskier late-lottery pick.

Hollinger’s ranking: We’re getting very much into the speculative part of the board in a weak draft class. Williams has the length and athleticism to play the wing in the NBA and showed flashes of skill in his one season at Colorado, but realistically, he’s a developmental player who needs to fill out his body, work on his pull-up game and hone the rest of his craft to make an NBA-level impact.

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11. Chicago Bulls

Matas Buzelis | 6-9 forward | 19 years old | G League Ignite

Vecenie’s ranking: 12

Like a lot of the players above him, Matas Buzelis’ success will come down to two swing areas. The first one is the frame, which has a long way to go before it fills out. I don’t think he’ll end up playing many NBA minutes next season because of that. He has a lot of long-term upside to fill a much-needed player archetype if he fills out, but front offices are mixed on whether that will happen. Nobody doubts Buzelis’ work ethic, though; he’s a competitor who demonstrates a desire to be great. The second swing skill for Buzelis is his jumper. His shot isn’t broken, but he’s only had one distinctly positive shooting stretch (his season at Sunrise Christian). Is that an aberration, or is it a signal that he has room to grow? It’s difficult to tell with teenagers. I don’t see him regularly shooting off movement, but I think there’s a good chance he will learn to be a proficient spot-up 3-point shooter, especially with his work ethic. If he shoots well and his frame fills out, he has a chance of becoming a terrific pro. His defensive instincts off the ball are uncommon, and his work in the open floor shows his playmaking potential. But if his frame and shooting don’t come around, his floor is quite low. I ended up with him in my top tier and moved him around my rankings more than any other player. Still, I couldn’t place him outside of my top-seven because I just believe in his work ethic mixed with his tools.

Hollinger’s analysis: Chicago’s Lithuanian GM selects a Chicago-born and bred player of Lithuanian heritage. Buzelis was slated by most to go higher than this, and his game should fit what the Bulls need in terms of versatile, floor-spacing wings quite nicely. Don’t worry about those 3-point percentages last year — his shot is much better than that, trust me. The next question in Chicago might be how high the Bulls are now willing to go to keep restricted free agent Patrick Williams, a previous Bulls’ first-rounder who offers a similar theoretical skill set.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

Nikola Topić | 6-6 guard | 18 years old | Crvena Zvezda

Vecenie’s ranking: 13

Nikola Topić has a lot of upside, especially if you really believe in the work he did on the ball in his 13 games to start the year for Mega. But using a top-five pick on a 13-game sample, especially when his games with Red Star were much more pedestrian, is a huge bet for any lead decision-maker in a front office. That person would need to trust that what they saw was reality and not the construct of a Mega offense that also allowed Nikola Djurišić to get loose as a scorer following Topić’s transfer back to Red Star. If his ability to separate against NBA-level athletes doesn’t come through and his jumper off the catch doesn’t get there, what is he then? Is he even a starter? As an enormous ballhandler with serious touch and incredible vision as a passer, Topić is clearly an NBA player, even if it doesn’t all translate. But his floor is lower than all the other top guys in this class because his sample of strong play is so small — even if that resume includes him winning MVP of the Under18 European championships last summer. In a class with precious little upside to find, I would understand having Topic in the top five, even. But between the small sample of great play and the knee injury he suffered late in the year, I ended up with a late-lottery grade.

Hollinger’s analysis: Man, the Thunder are nothing if not patient. Topić will likely miss most or all of the season with a knee injury, but Oklahoma City decided it can afford to wait. I would loosely describe the scouting report on him as “Vasa Micić except he’s good”; Topić will need to improve his shooting and defense, but he is a big guard who can get downhill and make plays and at worst should be able to commandeer the second unit behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

  • Nikola Topić’s unique journey to basketball

13. Sacramento Kings

Devin Carter | 6-2 guard | 22 years old | Providence

Vecenie’s ranking: 7

Devin Carter is one of my favorites in this draft class. His basketball character is off the charts. He’s an unbelievable competitor and possesses an insatiable work ethic that enabled his year-over-year improvements going back to high school. He’s an awesome defender who will be switchable and aggressive at the point of attack across the perimeter; those traits should be even more valuable if the NBA and its officials continue to allow as much physicality as they have since February. He reads the game very well, drastically improved as a shooter and has enough touch to believe he will continue to make long-range attempts even if his motion looks funky. He’s an elite athlete, too, who does all the little things one could ask of a player. I have a lottery grade on him and think he turns into the kind of guy every coach demands their front office pick up in the offseason.

Hollinger’s analysis: I can hardly imagine a better outcome for Sacramento in terms of fit, need and ability. I had Carter 10th on my board, and the Kings desperately needed backcourt depth. Additionally, he’s further along developmentally than most of the other players in this range, fitting in with a Kings timeline that is definitely focused on the now. The draft board fell very kindly for them tonight.

14. Washington Wizards (via Blazers)

Carlton “Bub” Carrington | 6-4 guard | 18 years old | Pittsburgh

Vecenie’s ranking: 8

Bub Carrington does a lot of things that NBA guards are asked to do at an extremely high level. He is a real dribble-pass-shoot threat with awesome ballscreen instincts as one of the youngest players in the class. He is a tremendous shot-maker as a pull-up scorer already. As a passer and playmaker, he sees the court well and clearly knows how to read the defense. I’m a buyer on him as a shooter off the ball long-term, too. It’s hard to be this good of a shooter in college as an 18year-old pull-up threat and not become a real spot-up guy. I don’t think he’s quite as quick as someone like Coby White, but there are a lot of similarities with their games coming out of college. I also think there are similarities with White with what should be expected of Carrington in terms of timeline. I don’t think he’ll be all that successful in the NBA in his first year. He will likely be inefficient if he’s asked to play serious minutes. He’s still growing into his frame and struggles to generate easy shots for himself. But if he’s given time and a runway for the first two years, continues to make strides on defense and keeps working on his shot prep off the ball, I think he’s going to be an incredibly successful pro. It took White until the end of his fourth year to be able to efficiently and effectively attack NBA defenses. Then this season, his fifth, he was a 21-point-per-game scorer in his final 60 games. Carrington needs some time to develop, but I would feel good betting on his starter upside.

Hollinger’s analysis: The Wizards got this pick from Portland in the Deni Avdija trade. I like Carrington to a point — he’s really young and has a solid skill level — but this high feels like a reach. There was just nothing easy in his game tape – layups, steals, etc. — even that the college level, and I’m worried that will only magnify in the pros. Will he ever be able to touch the paint? If not, he’s leaning pretty heavily on becoming a lights-out shooter to function at the NBA level.

15. Miami Heat

Kel’el Ware | 7-0 center | 20 years old | Indiana

Vecenie’s ranking: 26

Kel’el Ware isn’t an easy evaluation because he has all the tools you look for in a modern-day big. He’s 7-foot with an enormous wingspan that allows him to be a rim protector and tremendous finisher on the interior. It’s hard to find bigs who can genuinely space the floor, and Ware certainly has potential to do that. But, man, it’s just hard for me to get past the feel-for-the-game issues on both ends. His engagement and motor, despite improvement this year, are still worries. I buy his talent, but I worry that he ends up in the Christian Wood zone — an incredibly talented player who doesn’t consistently help NBA teams win games. I wouldn’t want Wood on my team, and I felt a lot of similar vibes watching Ware. The good news for Ware? There’s still time. He’s only 20 and he can grow beyond what his tape showed this season. Ware has all the tools to become a starting NBA center. Plus, he’s on a positive trajectory in terms of being more engaged than he was at Oregon, and people around him do genuinely like him as a person. I ended up with a late-first-round grade. His upside is that of a lottery player, but the floor is lower than I’d like to see for that kind of pick.

Hollinger’s analysis: Ware’s occasional on-court lethargy doesn’t exactly scream #HeatCulture, but he fills a need for a backup five who can score … one Miami fairly unsuccessfully attempted to fill last offseason with Thomas Bryant and Orlando Robinson. Stylistically, Ware’s ability to play on the perimeter also lets the Heat play more of a five-out style, and he could share the court with Bam Adebayo at times because of it.

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16. Philadelphia 76ers

Jared McCain | 6-2 guard | 19 years old | Duke

Vecenie’s ranking: 14

The guys who have tended to exceed their draft position offensively in recent years have tended to either be elite in terms of creativity or be great shooters who can play through contact. Jared McCain is absolutely the latter, and his production at his age is not something to be ignored. He has a strong 200-pound frame, and the intel on McCain isn’t just good; it’s elite. He ticks every single box from a character perspective and is known to be excellent in terms of work ethic — both in the gym and in the weight room. There’s every reason to buy into him continuing to grow from this already strong starting point. At the very least, you’re getting a great shooter whom you know will come in and make 3s. He also has more scoring ability beyond that, too. He’s a sneaky bet to average 20 points per game in the NBA at some point. He has more juice than someone like Seth Curry, to whom he is often compared. I also like his defensive tape more than many of the smaller guards in this class. I have McCain as a lottery pick, and I’d imagine that I’ll be higher on him than most in this class.

Hollinger’s analysis: McCain doesn’t scream upside but definitely fills a role in Philadelphia with his perimeter shooting; the hope is that he can develop enough playmaking that he can be a full-time point guard and not an undersized 2. The more interesting part of this pick, obviously, is who Philadelphia didn’t take – the win-now Sixers valued McCain higher than Tennessee sharpshooter Dalton Knecht, who has slipped further than many expected.

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17. Los Angeles Lakers

Dalton Knecht | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Tennessee

Vecenie’s ranking: 9

Dalton Knecht is this draft’s most ready-made NBA scorer. He’ll be able to step in immediately and space the floor for his teammates and knock down shots. On top of that, he’s a good athlete who can attack closeouts. He’s also a professional cutter who runs well out of actions. Having said that, where you think Knecht’s upside sits focuses on two areas. First, what level do you think his athleticism will allow him to reach on defense? Can he become a non-liability? Can he be an average player? He plays on that end as if he cares, so that is promising. There’s upside given his quickness and athleticism. But early on, it might be rough. Second, where do you think he can get to as an on-ball playmaker? Can he blend passing with his scoring better? Can he keep developing his craft in ball screens and handoffs?

The more I watched him, the more I thought that the scheme he lands in will be important to accessing that on-ball upside. Knecht can help anyone in the NBA immediately as a shooter. But to get the most out of him, the key is to put him in an offense that runs a ton of sets, allows him to play off movement and uses the threat of his jumper in the way Tennessee did this year. Utah at No. 10 stands out as a great spot with Will Hardy running a lot of different actions to get shooters free. He would excel in Miami’s scheme under Erik Spoelstra, whose offense would allow him to flow into the types of ball screen and handoff actions where he found success this year with Tennessee. No matter what, I see Knecht as a successful rotation player because of the shooting. But the upside is a bit more situationally based if you’re looking at him as a top-10 pick. Realistically, where I’d rank him if I was working for a team would be extremely dependent on the kind of offense I planned to run. There are teams I’d have him ranked in the top-five for in this class.

Hollinger’s analysis: The Lakers get a JJ Redick clone! In all seriousness, if they weren’t trading the pick, then Knecht was a pretty obvious pick for a team that is both desperate for shooting help and on a win-now timeline. The Lakers have to feel pretty good he fell this far and didn’t leave them making a more speculative choice. Knecht’s theoretical upside is more limited than some other players in this range, but the Lakers can’t wait.

  • How Dalton Knecht went from unknown to first-round pick

18. Orlando Magic

Tristan da Silva | 6-8 wing | 23 years old | Colorado

Vecenie’s ranking: 18

I understand the worries about Tristan da Silva’s lack of explosiveness or strength, but he’s still one of my favorite players in the draft and someone I rate higher than consensus. I had him as a first-rounder all season, even prior to his NCAA Tournament breakout. He impacts the game in so many ways that have potential to impact winning basketball positively. He is a 6-8 wing/forward hybrid with legitimate positional size and fluidity, traits every NBA team is seeking. He knocks down nearly 40 percent of his 3s. He can handle the ball and make good passing decisions. He processes the game well and plays it at a high tempo even if he lacks great athletic tools himself. He isn’t an elite defender, but he’s smart, can guard his position and is a sharp team defender. Given the skills NBA teams value now, da Silva ticks a lot of boxes for a solid rotation player. He’s not likely to be a star, but his well-rounded game can make him effective as a fourth or fifth option next to other stars.

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Hollinger’s analysis: Is this Jett Howard 2.0? Da Silva can shoot, but I’m not sure he can play, which is why I had da Silva 51st on my board. I realize some other folks had him higher, so maybe I’m just way off here, but the other issue is that he has no realistic pathway to ever starting based on the composition of Orlando’s roster. I would have looked at Johnny Furphy first for the same positional skill set or grabbed a guard like Ja’Kobe Walter.

19. Toronto Raptors

Ja’Kobe Walter | 6-4 wing | 19 years old | Baylor

Vecenie’s ranking: 23

I want to like Ja’Kobe Walter more than I do because I’m a big fan of prospects with legitimate size, length and shooting ability. Walter is the kind of physical archetype a team can sell itself on physically playing off the ball next to a primary shot creator, then potentially cross-match to annoy the opponent’s best on-ball players on the other end of the floor. However, he’s not there as an on-ball defender yet. Maybe he can improve — we’ve seen guys with this body type make that kind of leap before — but he has a long way to go. That deficit is on top of him not being a monster athlete, high-level passer or effective driver. I have a first-round grade on Walter because I believe in him becoming an excellent shotmaker given his adeptness off movement. But to be a difference-maker rather than just an NBA rotation player, he must make a defensive leap.

Hollinger’s analysis: Walter was arguably the best player available in raw terms and also fills a potential roster void at shooting guard if Gary Trent Jr. leaves in free agency and Bruce Brown, as many expect, ends up being traded. Toronto’s road not taken here was Isaiah Collier, whose lack of shooting would have been harder to fit in with Scottie Barnes and RJ Barrett but perhaps offered more long-term upside.

20. Cleveland Cavaliers

Jaylon Tyson | 6-6 wing | 21 years old | California

Vecenie’s ranking: 28

Jaylon Tyson is one of those prospects whom I wanted to love, but I just couldn’t quite get there. I think he has a lot of athletic traits that are traditionally underrated, and I loved his game off the bounce. He’s creative as a ballhandler and has an innate sense of how to navigate bodies. I think he’ll improve some of the issues he has overdriving with time, and I buy him becoming a solid enough shooter off the catch to make shots there. It felt like he was just on the right side of a lot of skills in a way that is concerning. He was just good enough as a decision-maker. He was just good enough as a shooter. He was just good enough as a finisher. The shot creation is there. I buy his ability as a driver and playmaker with the ball in his hands. But if any of those skills fall off, he might end up having some serious issues — especially when accounting for how rough his defense was this past season. Still, I think his upside as a shot creator is good enough that I ended up with a first-round grade on him in this class.

Hollinger’s analysis: This is higher than expected, but Tyson fits Cleveland’s needs pretty well, as a wing who can offered secondary ballhandling and knock down open shots. You’d wish both his feet and his release were a little faster, but this is pick No. 20, and this is what you get most of the time.

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21. New Orleans Pelicans

Yves Missi | 6-11 center | 20 years old | Baylor

Vecenie’s ranking: 20

Yves Missi’s athletic tools are superb. While his 9-1 1/2 standing reach didn’t stand out for a player of this skill set at the combine, it’s more than enough when accounting for how vertically he plays. In many ways, he’s one of the safer picks in the draft in terms of projecting rotation players. Players this big, athletic and hardworking rarely fail. Given his attitude, it’s hard to imagine him not at least becoming a backup center. Beyond that, he must clean up some of the technical flaws within his game and continue to grow more comfortable with the ball in his hands when the defense takes away his first option. I believe he’ll be a starter eventually, but he has limitations. HIs upside is in the ballpark of Clint Capela, a player picked 25th overall who returned lottery value to Houston in 2014 before being traded to Atlanta. However, Capela significantly improved his game over the course of his first season-and-a-half in the NBA, and Missi must follow a similar trajectory to reach that level.

Hollinger’s analysis: New Orleans has an obvious issue at center and in particular needs a rim protector to play next to Zion Williamson. Missi is still fairly raw and his offensive development in particular might be a few years away, but with Jonas Valančiūnas likely departing in free agency and Larry Nance Jr. the only other viable center on the roster, the Pels’ need in the middle stood out.

22. Denver Nuggets (via trade with Suns)

DaRon Holmes II | 6-9 center | 21 years | Dayton

Vecenie’s ranking: 24

DaRon Holmes has several of the skills teams love to see in a modern big. Many are looking for bigs who can dribble, pass and shoot to help space the court and make decisions for their guards and perimeter stars, and Holmes can certainly do all those things. However, at his size, he faces questions about whether he can adequately perform the “big” parts of being an NBA big man. Can he rebound consistently and end possessions? What is his exact defensive role? He might not be for everyone, but if he finds the right spot, he could have every chance to be an awesome NBA big. I consider him as a souped-up version of Oklahoma City’s Jaylin Williams. He has a tad more athletic juice and scoring skill than J-Will, but his size limitations may make it hard to consider him a full-time starter. He’ll need to be a deadly shooter and get the absolute most out of his body and movement skills to get there. Still, I think he carves out a long-time NBA role on good teams.

Hollinger’s analysis: The Nuggets traded up to secure their guy, after rumors persisted for weeks that Denver had promised the Dayton big man. The Nuggets don’t have much draft capital lying around but decided he wasn’t going to make it to 28 and thus sent the 56th pick and two future seconds to the Suns to move up six spots.

Holmes fills a clear need for the Nuggets for a backup five who can stretch the floor and contribute offensively, while also shining a glaring light on the decision to give Zeke Nnaji a four-year, $32 million extension a year ago. Hemmed in by the tax apron, Denver was highly unlikely to fill this slot in free agency.

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23. Milwaukee Bucks

A.J. Johnson | 6-4 guard | 19 years old | Ilawarra Hawks

Vecenie’s ranking: 32

A.J. Johnson will be the ultimate test of stats and film versus projection this season. If you have an undraftable grade on Johnson, I understand it. The stats are rough. He played in a league that he wasn’t ready for. The tape isn’t great, although I think there is something positive to take away on his defensive growth throughout the season. Offensively, he struggled. He wasn’t efficient and looked extremely sped up throughout the year. But much like with G.G. Jackson last season, should you rely on the tape when it’s abundantly clear Johnson moved up levels too quickly and wasn’t ready to play in a physical league when he was under 170 pounds? Athletically, there are flashes of upside in terms of his ability to generate paint touches and his ability to separate backwards that are serious. In this draft, where everyone is looking for any remote chance of upside, I wonder if Johnson represents a marginal inefficiency in the same way Jackson did last season. Or, maybe I’m overcompensating for being low on Jackson last season by ranking Johnson highly as my upside bet in this class. I’d take a flier on him in the top 40 at this point if I had a strong, developmentally conscious organization that I believed would be able to get his frame up to speed within the next two years. There is a legitimate high-upside offensive starter here with defensive tools. But it’s going to take time and a lot of work by whatever organization ends up with him.

Hollinger’s analysis: The Bucks have been big fans of taking reaches like this in their recent draft history even though the hit rate has been … actually have they hit on any of these guys since Giannis? It’s always tougher when you’re making late picks, and obviously, Giannis was a pretty massive hit. Johnson has some athletic pop but is rail thin and can’t shoot and is very much a developmental player who is highly unlikely to contribute this year. The Bucks are in need of more immediate help, so I’m a little surprised they didn’t either trade down or trade out if this was the top player on their board.

24. Washington Wizards (via trade with Knicks)

Kyshawn George | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Miami (Fla.)

Vecenie’s ranking: 35

I wanted to like Kyshawn George, but I couldn’t get there given his athletic profile. I worry about him being unable to create separation off the dribble. I buy his shooting and I like that he can pass, but I don’t know if the threat of his shot is enough to unlock the rest of his offensive game. He was a solid defender in college, but he’s not long enough by NBA standards to compensate with his length in the way someone like Kyle Anderson has. It’s worth noting that Miami lost 13 of its last 14 games when it gave George significantly more on-ball chances over the back half of the season. Even as a 20-year-old, he wasn’t impacting winning in college when operating regularly on the ball. On top of that, he averaged under three points per game playing in the French second division last season. It’s just not anywhere near the production profile of a first-round selection given that he turns 21 in December. I see his upside and I’d be willing to draft him, but I view him as more of a second-round flyer than a first-round prospect.

Hollinger’s analysis: Wizards are wheeling and dealing left and right! Washington surrendered the 51st pick to move up two spots from 26 and take my Swiss brother George. I had him rated a bit lower even though he’s been getting consistent first-round buzz; he has size and can shoot it but is slow-footed and didn’t make a big impact on an awful Miami team this year. He likely has a ceiling as a role player, although if he hits it, his positional value is enough to justify this selection.

25. New York Knicks

Pacôme Dadiet | 6-8 wing | 18 years old | Ratiopharm Ulm

Vecenie’s ranking: 34

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Pacôme Dadiet has fans around the NBA, and his stock is a bit higher than it seems publicly before this draft. There are evaluators who loved the fact that he is an 18-year-old who didn’t hit a wall as a European player. In fact, he seemed to get better every month, which typically indicates a capacity for a positive long-term trajectory. Tobias Harris is a name that has come up a couple of times in my conversation with NBA personnel who are fans of Dadiet. However, I thought Harris was way ahead of Dadiet in his lone season in college, showing much more well-rounded shot-creation skills and a better floor game. I buy Dadiet as a scorer; he’ll shoot it at a good clip, and I love his off-ball movement. He understands how to create offense. The problem for me is that he doesn’t do anything else right now. One could excuse that by noting he’s a teenager, which is viable. But typically, the prospects like Dadiet who develop into successful all-around players tend to show many more flashes in those areas than Dadiet has. His lack of rebounding given his frame is concerning. Even playing in an overmatched second division last year, he averaged under four defensive rebounds per game, which ranked outside the top 60 in a league where the imports are not particularly strong compared to other second divisions worldwide. Throw in his below-average passing and poor defensive tape, and I’m lower on Dadiet than many members of NBA teams I talk to. Still, his legitimate off-ball scoring ability at this age makes him a worthwhile second-round pick.

Hollinger’s analysis: Four Frenchmen in the first round! I love the Dadiet pick for the Knicks. I think he’s been one of the more underrated players in this cycle. He gives New York another player in the 6-8 forward mold who can make an open shot, with the youth and ability to maybe be more long-term. At this point in the draft he becomes an inexpensive depth piece for a team that will desperately need a few of them, given the other commitments it recently made.

26. Oklahoma City Thunder (via trade with Knicks)

Dillon Jones | W | Weber State | 6-5 | 235 LBS

Vecenie’s ranking: 65

Dillon Jones’ draft status comes down to a philosophical question: Should teams believe in his clear levels of anticipation and feel for the game — along with his immense production at a lower level — or should they believe that his physical tools will hold him back? Last year, I was lower on Brandin Podziemski, another hyperproductive player from a smaller school. He won first-team All-Rookie honors with the Golden State Warriors. However, compared to Jones, Podziemski’s shooting was a clear differentiator. He needed to be guarded at almost all times off the ball. In Jones’ case, I worry that without the threat of that shot, his offensive utility is limited. Players like Jones are the kind I’m comfortable missing on. Even if Jones turns into a player who can play on the ball because the shot comes through, I worry enough about his defense to the point that I can’t envision what he becomes. He’s still worth a two-way flyer because his production was that substantial.

Hollinger’s analysis: I think this is a little high for Jones, but the Thunder can also afford to fire second-round picks into the sun if they want to make a move to get their guy. They sent five of them to New York to jump in and select Jones here, locking in another perimeter player on a cost-controlled contract.

The fact they went this far for Jones is perhaps a little odd, given that they already employ Cason Wallace and Lu Dort, just traded for Alex Caruso and just drafted Nikola Topic. Jones has a bully-ball body in the same mold as Dort and is an insane rebounder for his size, but played more as a point guard in college and needs to improve his shooting. On pure value it’s a defensible pick, but I do wonder about the fit here.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves

Terrence Shannon Jr. | 6-6 wing | 23 years old | Illinois

Vecenie’s ranking: 39

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While Terrence Shannon was remarkably productive this season on the court, I’m not sure his style of play was conducive to NBA success. He was all gas and no brakes, and while he had a nice array of straight-line moves to get separation with his footwork after his ball pickup, he also often recklessly crashed into the paint to draw fouls. Shannon is an elite athlete, but the NBA game requires more nuance, especially if he continues to be an inconsistent shooter. During his final season at Illinois, he posted a 1.14 assist-to-turnover ratio. Since 2008, there have only been 11 seniors selected with an assist rate of 1.2 or worse, per Bart Torvik’s database: Buddy Hield, Jimmer Fredette, Chris Duarte, Ochai Agbaji, Matisse Thybulle, Marshon Brooks, Quincy Pondexter, Lazar Hayward, Davon Reed, Carrick Felix and Orlando Johnson. Hield and Thybulle are the only two hits in that group, and both had an elite skill to fall back on (Hield’s shooting and Thybulle’s defensive playmaking). By NBA standards, I don’t know if Shannon has one of those elite skills to break the mold and continue to thrive despite questionable decision-making. Throw in that Shannon is among the oldest members of that group at the time of their draft class, and I have a second-round grade on him.

Hollinger’s analysis: The Wolves go for immediate help in the form of Shannon, who is already 23 and doesn’t have starter upside but could grab some bench minutes right away with his defense and transition scoring. He will need to prove he can space the floor consistently, however. A this point, I remain floored that teams are grabbing these other wings over Kansas’ Johnny Furphy.

28. Phoenix Suns

Ryan Dunn | 6-6 wing | 21 years old | Virginia

Vecenie’s ranking: 29

Ryan Dunn is one of the best defensive prospects I’ve evaluated. He’s that good. He’s also one of the worst offensive prospects that may be taken in the first round that I’ve seen in the last 10 years. Any team that takes him in the top 30 must believe in his shooting ability. The difference between him and a player like Herb Jones — a player who is different stylistically than Dunn on defense but makes a similar impact — is that Jones was comfortable with the ball and had at least shown flashes in his final season with his jumper. Jones made 35 percent from distance as a senior on limited attempts and ran the Alabama offense for stretches, averaging 3.3 assists and 11.2 points. Of course, Jones also shot 27 percent from 3 in his first two seasons at Alabama, which could give you some reason for optimism with Dunn. However, it took Jones two years of college and a year-and-a-half in the NBA to turn into a real shooter. Even if you buy into Dunn’s shot long-term, it’s a significant project that likely won’t be ready for multiple years. It will take a significant Investment from an NBA team to get Dunn to a passable level on offense that allows them to get the most out of his defensive play. His pathway may resemble Derrick Jones Jr.’s rather than Herb Jones’. It took years for Jones Jr. to turn into a passable offensive player to get his athleticism and defense on the court in a meaningful way. Finally, in his age-26/27 season, he became an impactful player for the Mavericks who helped them win playoff games. The issue for Dunn, though, is it took Jones four teams before Dallas to get there. Even if you look at Jones’ years in Miami as a success, the Heat weren’t his first team. I ended up with a top-30 grade on Dunn, but he might be one of those players that is better on his second team than his first one.

Hollinger’s analysis: Phoenix opts to select the best-educated player in the draft in Ryan Dunn, a Virginia product who profiles as a defensive specialist (Editor’s note: Hollinger is a Virginia grad). He lost all confidence in his shooting this past season, and his jumper is a down-to-the-studs teardown that would give Chip and Joanna Gaines pause, but he is a defensive terror who can guard all five positions.

29. Utah Jazz

Isaiah Collier | 6-3 guard | 19 years old | USC

Vecenie’s ranking: 19

The best flashes of Isaiah Collier make one think he could be an All-Star. The bad moments make one think he’s more likely to be a backup point guard. There’s a wide range of opinions league-wide on his ultimate future. He lifted USC’s play with his presence: The Trojans went 14-13 with him in the lineup and 1-5 without him. In conference games, Collier had the second-best on/off rating on the team. His ability to generate paint touches to score or pass was a serious positive for the Trojans this season. But there are a lot of holes in his game that don’t translate well to the NBA, which is based much more on speed, skill and intelligence than ever before. He’s an inconsistent shooter, has turnover issues and his defense wasn’t good enough. It’s hard to see an NBA coach feeling great about handing him minutes until those parts of his game improve. If he gets better in those aspects, it’s easy to see Collier as having one of the highest upsides in this draft class. Perhaps he can show the promise so many projected of him in college. It’s on Collier to decide how much he wants it. He has the tools to at least be a starting NBA point guard and he has improved some of his weaknesses in the past. But Collier’s floor is quite low for a potential lottery pick.

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Hollinger’s analysis: I love the value here for Utah in Collier. I had a lottery grade on him and think his ability to defend on the ball has been underappreciated in this draft cycle. He will have to improve his outside shot and refine his decision-making, but he can get to the cup and will be able to take better advantage of his burst in the NBA’s open floor. One note here: Collier’s addition would seemingly make it less likely that the Jazz bring back Kris Dunn.

30. Boston Celtics

Baylor Scheierman | 6-6 wing | 23 years old | Creighton

Vecenie’s ranking: 22

Baylor Scheierman is an intriguing bet as a role player in the NBA with his shooting and comfort as a decision-maker. You get a real floor spacer who can run off movement and knock down shots. He can also attack closeouts and make quick reads. Scheierman is not going to be for everyone, but I bet that teams with schemes that involve a lot of motion and movement will love him. He processes the game very well at speed, even with his athletic deficiencies, and knows how to play within structure and scheme. He’ll make extra passes and will help on the glass, lead fast breaks and then in the half court will help your primary playmakers by being a shooter whom defenders must guard tightly. His defense is the big question. Can he consistently chase and play in help? Can he defend on the ball? It’ll all be about maximizing his frame and body and getting the absolute most out of his quickness. I have a clear first-round grade on him, though, given the importance of shooting at size in today’s NBA.

Hollinger’s analysis: The Celtics double down on the 3-point bonanza of a year ago by selecting a guy who took 13.3 3-point attempts per 100 possessions a year ago and made 38.1 percent of them. Scheierman is the oldest legit top-40 prospect in this draft, but he was also the best player on the court at the Hoop Summit (many top prospects didn’t play, however), and he fits Boston’s system like a glove.

Second Round

31. Toronto Raptors

Jonathan Mogbo | 6-6 forward/center | 22 years old | San Francisco

Vecenie’s ranking: 43

I wanted to come away liking Jonathan Mogbo because of the easy translation of his offensive game. It’s easy to envision him as the safety valve for a team that has a ballhandler who gets blitzed with two defenders regularly, using his passing and finishing ability to hammer four-on-three situations. Ultimately, I came away too worried about his size mixed with his unique blend of athleticism that isn’t negative, but not clearly positive, either. I have too many questions about his defense, as well as the drop-off in play against good teams.

Hollinger’s analysis: My super sleeper! I’m a big fan of Mogbo, who played as an undersized center in college and has to convert to a perimeter player as a pro. He is an elite rebounder and can play in transition and has a plus handle for his size because he played guard until a late growth spurt. The Raptors will have to work with him on his shooting, but if he becomes even halfway decent from 3, he has starter upside.

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32. Utah Jazz

Kyle Filipowski | 6-11 forward/center | 20 years old | Duke

Vecenie’s ranking: 16

I’m higher on Kyle Filipowski than many evaluators. Look at the best offenses in the NBA. Most of them have floor-spacing bigs at the center position: Kristaps Porziņģis in Boston, Myles Turner in Indiana, Chet Holmgren in Oklahoma City, Nikola Jokić in Denver, Brook Lopez in Milwaukee and more. Those were five of the six best offensive teams in the NBA this season. In the modern professional game, it’s critical for teams to have a big man who can stretch the floor, act as a playmaker and create more space for attacking wings and guards. It’s difficult to find big men who can dribble, pass and shoot — there aren’t many of those players hanging around, and certainly not enough for every team in the league to have one. Filipowski is close to being able to fill that role and will if his jumper continues to improve like it has for most prospects who show a minimum level of touch at this age. I’m also higher on his defense than many seem to be. I have him as a clear top-20 guy in the draft.

Hollinger’s analysis: Filipowski is a tremendous pick for Utah. I had him ninth on my board and am very surprised he slipped to the second round in such a weak draft. He has to improve as a floor spacer to claim a definitive offensive role, but he has inside/outside potential because of his ability to drive and make plays at his size. Defensively, he’s not a true rim protector, but I saw Duke in person several times and thought he was extremely underrated laterally and as a help defender.

33. Milwaukee Bucks

Tyler Smith | 6-9 forward/center | 19 years old | G League Ignite

Vecenie’s ranking: 25

Tyler Smith is a serious project whom I can understand a team falling in love with developmentally. His jumper is a significant weapon for his size. He’ll knock down shots throughout his career, and that’s meaningful at the fou — or potentially at the five if he can get much stronger. However, his measurements and game make him too much of a tweener between the four and five spots right now. He’s not strong or physical enough to play the five, but also doesn’t possess enough all-around skill to play the four yet. That’s where the leap needs to come for Smith. He needs to become more capable of putting the ball on the ground, making positive reads, processing the game and making an impact on the perimeter beyond shooting. That’s where he should fit best in the modern league. On top of that, he’ll need to make significant defensive strides, because this year was a struggle on that end. That’s OK; he was a teenager playing professional basketball for the first time. But it also makes him a significant project. He seems like a player who likely will play in the NBA for a while but might end up working out better for the second team that gets him as opposed to the first.

Hollinger’s analysis: I like this pick for the Bucks much better than the last one. In fact, let’s just pretend they took Smith at No. 23 and AJ Johnson at No. 33, then their draft almost seems normal. Smith is an offensively talented combo big in the mold of Christian Wood or Bobby Portis. The challenge for him will be showing he can defend either the four or the five capably enough to stay on the floor.

34. New York Knicks (via POR)

Tyler Kolek | 6-1 guard | 23 years old | Marquette

Vecenie’s ranking: 21

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Tyler Kolek had a phenomenal collegiate career, especially over the last two years. Few players across the country improved as much as he did. He struggled during his first year at Marquette and vaulted past that level by improving as a shooter and forcing teams to respect the threat of his offensive game. I love his vision as a passer and unselfish demeanor. I love his footwork and finishing ability. I love his strength and ability to playing through contact. But Kolek needs to prove that he can consistently make shots behind screens. Otherwise, NBA teams will dare him to fire from the perimeter. I think he’ll reach a solid level in that area because he’s such a good shooter off the catch; it’s hard to believe he couldn’t grow into one off the bounce, too. There will be some defensive worries with his lack of size, length and speed. However, I buy him at least carving out a role in the NBA as a backup point guard. If his shooting comes around off the dribble and his finishing translates, he could be far better than that. His strength, footwork, touch and deceleration are traits he shares with many of the breakout lead guards of the past five years. I feel confident projecting him to be an awesome backup with potential for more.

Hollinger’s analysis: This is a solid move for a win-now team, getting a reliable ballhandler for its bench when one of the real weaknesses of the Knicks’ roster was the lack of playmaking behind Jalen Brunson. Kolek profiles as a backup, at best, but the other angle here is that the Knicks will likely have him on a rookie minimum deal, helping them further their quest to limbo below the tax apron while completing their trade for Mikal Bridges.

35. Indiana Pacers (via SAS)

Johnny Furphy | 6-8 wing | 19 years old | Kansas

Vecenie’s ranking: 27

Johnny Furphy is an NBA project who must improve his jumper and ballhandling. Defensively, Furphy will have to work on his mechanics and become more instinctive. However, physically and athletically, he’s the kind of big wing every team is desperate to find. He’s been productive in college basketball and he’s still a teenager. I’m lower on Furphy than the consensus because I’d be less inclined to be the first team that must put in the time to develop him, but he’s well-regarded as a competitor and worker. It’s believable that Furphy will be the impact wing in a role that NBA teams covet by the time he turns 24. I just think it will take some time and a developmentally minded organization willing to put in the effort.

Hollinger’s analysis: I had a lottery grade on Furphy. He’s a big wing who can shoot and has some athletic pop, and he got progressively better during his one year at Kansas as he adjusted to the competition. Obviously I’m a fan of this pick, and I’m a little bewildered San Antonio didn’t just keep it given the Spurs’ own need for big wings in the pipeline. Instead, he’ll go to an Indiana squad that has done a great job drafting and developing.

36. San Antonio Spurs (via IND)

Juan Núñez | 6-4 guard | 20 years old | Ratiopharm Ulm

Vecenie’s ranking: 47

Juan Núñez’s tape may be the most enjoyable to watch in this draft class. He’s an aesthetically pleasing player with his passing ability. He’s as good at keeping his team’s offense in rhythm as any 20-year-old playing high-level European hoops in a while. His pedestrian stats understate his value on the court. At the same time, it’s hard to be a small, non-scoring guard in today’s NBA. Even successful ones like Monte Morris are capable shooters— Morris was a midrange assassin at Iowa State and has made 38 percent of his 3s in his NBA career. Núñez’s archetype is something in the T.J. McConnell mode, but McConnell is faster. Maybe Núñez grows into his body and adds some quickness to take the fullest advantage of his game. Alternatively, maybe he develops into a more proficient outside shooter. Those possibilities make him an attractive option for teams without roster spots available and thus in need of someone they can stash in Europe for a season. I wonder if Núñez’s fate will be like that of Sergio Rodriguez, the player to whom he’s often compared. Rodriguez is having an all-time career in Spain and has been a Spanish national team stalwart for nearly two decades. While Rodriguez was good enough to play in the NBA, he was much more valuable overseas as a professional.

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Hollinger’s analysis: I’m pretty sure this is the first draft in NBA history with multiple players selected from Ratiopharm Ulm. The Spurs trade down one spot and take a long-term stash in Núñez, who already has a deal to play in Spain next season. The Spurs have always loved their stash guys, and Núñez has some long-term potential because of his size at the point and flashy passing skills. His athleticism and lack of shooting, however, are concerns that pushed him down to the second round.

37. Detroit Pistons (via MIN)

Bobi Klintman | 6-9 forward | 21 years old | Cairns Taipans

Vecenie’s ranking: 36

Bobi Klintman is a fascinating bet for a team that buys into his tools and talent. He is the type of player NBA teams search the globe to acquire. He’s a big wing creator who can knock down shots from distance at a high level and has potential as a ballhandler and playmaker given his tape at lower levels. He can handle the ball and make passing reads, both in transition and out of ball screens. These qualities are exceedingly difficult to find in players this big; that alone will draw him a ton of interest. He has some athletic deficiencies, however, that could hinder him from reaching his ceiling. He’s not overly explosive or powerful, which means it will be tough for him to get into the paint and create enough pressure on his defender to allow his skills to flourish. He needs to get bigger and stronger while maxing out his limited quickness. If he does that, Klintman will play in the NBA for a while, because the league is always looking for players his size who can dribble, pass, shoot and rebound.

Hollinger’s analysis: Klintman will end up in Detroit as a result of a previous trade between the Wolves and Pistons. I wasn’t a big fan of his, but we’re at a point in the draft where everyone is throwing darts. If he hits, he at least projects as something the Pistons desperately need, a stretch four.

38. Oklahoma City Thunder (via NY)

Ajay Mitchell | 6-3 guard | 22 years old | UC Santa Barbara

Vecenie’s ranking: 30

Ajay Mitchell is one of my favorite upside swings in the draft. His ability to decelerate and play through contact as a shot creator is somewhat rare across the NBA. I buy his footwork translating to the NBA, where he’ll have even wider driving lanes. I also think he’s an underrated passer, and the NBA setting — where he’ll be surrounded by better players — will show those gifts even more. This grade is a bet on him as a shooter. He must improve significantly there from average to well above-average as he scales down his usage. Because of that, I didn’t quite have what I’d consider to be a normal “first round” grade on Mitchell. His floor is not an NBA player if the jumper doesn’t improve, but his ceiling is higher than what meets the eye if his jumper takes a sizable leap — which could very well happen given his touch and the shot’s mechanics.

Hollinger’s analysis: Ajay Mitchell was without a doubt the highest-ranked left-handed Belgian on my board. More importantly, perhaps, he joins what is suddenly a very crowded backcourt in Oklahoma City after the Thunder dealt themselves back into the second round to grab him. As with the Thunder’s first-rounder, Nikola Topić, tightening up his shooting stroke off the dribble will be key.

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39. Memphis Grizzlies

Jaylen Wells | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Washington State

Vecenie’s ranking: 50

Jaylen Wells is the kind of player a lot of teams see as an undervalued asset. With a COVID-19 season breakout in high school, combined with a late growth spurt, Wells was off the radar for so long that he didn’t get noticed until this season. He wasn’t even starting on his junior varsity high school team as a sophom*ore. That means he’s early in his developmental process, and it shows on tape. He’s still learning a large portion of his game, from defense to passing to overall movement and footwork on offense. Wells has one thing that you cannot teach: He can fire the ball up from 3. His mechanics and touch are pristine. On top of that, the intel is he’s a high-character person who works hard at his game. I think he’s worth a bet in the top 50. The rest of his game outside of his shot is so far away that it would be hard for me to give him a guaranteed contract, but I see him as one of my priority two-way bets in the class because of his jumper. If you can knock down shots from distance at this level, you have a real chance to make an impact in the NBA.

Hollinger’s analysis: Wells is the exact player archetype the Grizzlies need, a 6-7 shooter who nailed 41.7 percent of his 3s for Washington State last season. The question is whether the rest of his game holds up well enough to eventually become a rotation player. Having him on a rookie minimum deal should help Memphis manage the luxury tax dance this year too.

40. Phoenix Suns (via NY via OKC via POR)

Oso Ighodaro | 6-10 center | 21 years old | Marquette

Vecenie’s ranking: 42

Oso Ighodaro was one of my favorite players to watch in college basketball over the last two years. His blend of ingenious playmaking and pristine synergy with Tyler Kolek in ball screens was a sight to behold. He was constantly communicating with his teammates and helping them get into the right spots. He’s an incredible passer from all areas of the court, and I’m not sure I saw someone as dynamic in screens, re-screens, handoffs and all the little ways big men help their guards get loose on the perimeter. He also moves his feet well and was useful on defense. Yet, I just couldn’t quite get there for his NBA projection because of his lack of size and strength. Bigs in the NBA are physical. They move big players around like it’s nothing. Additionally, the players in Ighodaro’s archetype — interior scorer and passer — that tend to work (think Jokić, Sabonis, even Nikola Vučević) tend to be of the much more physical, strong types as opposed to the finesse types. I ended up with a second-round grade and see him on the borderline of being worth a guaranteed contract or a two-way contract.

Hollinger’s analysis: Ighodaro was one of my favorite sleepers in this draft, and he’s an Arizona native who gets to come home and join the Suns. With his ability to pass from the elbows and switch onto the perimeter defensively, I think he is capable of playing backup five minutes immediately, although he doesn’t do some of the “traditional” big things (rebound, block shots) at a super high level.

41. Philadelphia 76ers

Adem Bona | 6-8 center | 21 years old | UCLA

Vecenie’s ranking: 41

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Adem Bona is limited, but he’s good at the things NBA teams ask their bigs to be good at. He’s a good rim protector, and he’s an active, aggressive defender who has versatility on the perimeter. He’s athletic and consistently plays with a high-end motor. He’s a true energy-giver to his team in the way he’s able get second-chance opportunities and momentum-shifting recovery blocks. Still, Bona needs to improve in specific areas of his skill to reach even just the bare minimum level required for an NBA rotation big. He needs to operate in dribble-handoffs comfortably and to feel more comfortable on the perimeter with the ball in his hands. He needs to finish more efficiently inside if someone takes away a dunking opportunity. And he needs to read the floor better as a passer and playmaker. I think these are reachable goals, and Bona projects as a solid backup NBA center long-term with potential starter upside if he can clean up all those factors. He’ll have limited usage, but the strengths dovetail nicely with what teams want from the center position.

Hollinger’s analysis: Bona is a rim-running, shot-blocking five who is only 6-8 but pops off the floor. He probably maxes out as a backup given his lack of offensive skill, but the starting center position in Philly is pretty well set. The question now for the Sixers is whether this move presages them releasing Paul Reed’s non-guaranteed contract to open up even more cap space.

42. Charlotte Hornets

K.J. Simpson | 6-0 guard | 21 years old | Colorado

Vecenie’s ranking: 53

If K.J. Simpson were 6-3, he’d be a clear first-round pick. His improvements this season were drastic as a shooter, and it opened the rest of his game. On top of that, you could project more confidently that the positive work he did on the ball defensively would translate. Unfortunately, Simpson is 6-foot, which leads to questions about how his game will translate to the NBA. Simpson’s feel isn’t poor, but I didn’t get the impression from his tape that he has the same preternatural instincts as someone like Reed Sheppard. Players at or below 6-feet tall tend to make it one of two ways: By being outliers in some shape or form, or by being physically strong. Simpson isn’t either of those things. Still, there is a pathway for Simpson to become a backup point guard. He’s tough, plays hard and has drastically improved over the course of his college career. If his shooting maintains, he’ll probably end up sticking. He’s won at every level.

Hollinger’s analysis: K.J. Simpson was the third Colorado player taken in this draft even though he was far and away the best player on the team. His size scared some teams off at 6-0 and probably means he tops out as a backup, but he is a high-energy player who was incredibly productive last season. I like this selection quite a bit for the new Charlotte front office.

43. Atlanta Hawks (via MIA)

Nikola Djurišić | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Mega

Vecenie’s ranking: 37

I thought Nikola Djurišić improved a lot on the ball this season. He was much more efficient and decisive than he was a season ago, when it would have been a mistake for him to enter the draft. Now, he could easily play and perhaps thrive in the G League, even though there are still some items to clean up. He must improve his handle and become a better decision-maker; those turnover numbers are crippling. More importantly, he must learn how to play without the ball and impact games when he’s not the driving offensive force. Role versatility is huge in today’s NBA, and not just defensively. Right now, Djurišić cannot scale his game down effectively. Over the next two years, he needs to show that he can shoot off the catch. I love his confidence and aggressiveness; those traits, along with his on-ball talent, make me willing to give him a guaranteed contract as a second-round pick (or, better yet, stash him overseas for another year). But I can’t grade him as a first rounder because I worry he’ll be unable to play off the ball while not being good enough to play on it in the best league in the world.

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Hollinger’s analysis: Atlanta traded lottery pick AJ Griffin to the Rockets for the 44th pick and then sent cash to Miami to move up one spot and select Djurišić. The combination of moves doesn’t quite get Altanta all the way out of the luxury tax, but the Hawks can see the finish line. Djurišić was seen by most as a stash pick but could end up on the Hawks’ roster if their tax situation compels them to keep somebody on a rookie minimum deal to occupy the 14th roster spot. The Hawks likely can wait and see how a potential trade of either Trae Young or Dejounte Murray turns out before needing to make that determination.

44. Miami Heat (via ATL)

Pelle Larsson | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Arizona

Vecenie’s ranking: 49

Pelle Larsson’s game should translate well to the NBA. He’s a shooter who is strong and has some explosiveness as a power athlete. He also reads the court well as a passer and is much more effective as a driver than one would think. However, he wasn’t all that impactful by NBA standards in his first three seasons in college and got by with a lot of power elements as a 23-year-old. When those advantages disappear in the NBA, is he going to be well-rounded enough? Can he up his shot volume? The shooting is ultimately the key: He must be able to fire from distance with a quicker release. He’s strong and physical on the ball on defense but needs to lock in more and not make as many strange help decisions as he did this season. There are a lot of attractive elements to his game, but I had enough worries to place a two-way grade on him. He could clear his issues up and become a solid rotation player in the NBA. If he doesn’t, he might become an excellent Euroleague-level player.

Hollinger’s analysis: Historically, Miami has done much better with undrafted guys than with the late picks it actually selected on draft night. However, Larsson is a plus skill guy loosely in the mold of Duncan Robinson, a good shooter who splashes perfect parabolas in pregame warm-ups and a slick passer to boot. He probably slots into a two-way, but he could likely play some minutes if needed because of his floor spacing.

45. Toronto Raptors (via SAC)

Jamal Shead | 6-0 guard | 21 years old | Houston

Vecenie’s ranking: 31

Jamal Shead is one of my favorite players in the class, and I am higher on him than consensus. The last time a smaller guard made an NBA All-Defense team was in 2020, when both Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Beverley did so. I think Shead has their kind of upside on that end of the court if he can figure out an offensive role by improving as a shooter. He is among the most instinctive, high-IQ defensive players I’ve ever evaluated and possesses arguably the best motor I’ve seen on defense. I have zero question that Shead will be an impactful player on that end of the floor. He needs enough offense to consistently stay on the court. He’s still young even though he’s a four-year player, as he won’t turn 22 until after Summer League. At a minimum, I’d be stunned if he doesn’t carve out a role as a backup point guard in the NBA. If his shooting comes along, there’s even a chance he becomes a high-impact role player. His defense is that good.

Hollinger’s analysis: Shead was the closest thing college basketball had to a Kyle Lowry clone this past season, so it’s fitting he ends up with the Raptors. His ball pressure, energy and intensity will have to make up for his small stature and iffy shooting.

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46. LA Clippers

Cam Christie | 6-5 wing | 18 years old | Minnesota

Vecenie’s ranking: 33

If we were projecting the kind of player Cam Christie will look like at 25, I would have a clear first-round grade on him because of his shooting. But we’re not projecting for that when it comes to the draft. We’re projecting the return-on-investment for the team that selects him. I’m worried that Christie is so far away physically and, as a result, will not be a good enough defender in time for the team that drafts him. Nickeil Alexander-Walker has turned into an incredible defender and player. However, Alexander-Walker was so far away physically when he entered the league that he had three poor seasons before he was a throw-in in multiple trades involving star players. He’s worked his way into being a useful player, but the Pelicans did not get to reap those benefits after taking him at No. 17 in 2019. Even Cam’s brother, Max, provides an example of this possibility. He turned pro after one year, provided the Lakers with two negatively valued seasons and now is hitting free agency. That route is a possibility for Cam Christie as well. I think he should have returned to school, made an enormous bag of name, image and likeness money and developed for one more year. His potential value is high enough that I would take him in the second round and give him a guaranteed deal in the hope that he develops more quickly than expected. Shooters are exceptionally useful, and second-rounders work out occasionally enough that it’s worth a bet on his upside.

Hollinger’s analysis: The Clippers are thinking long-term with the Christie pick, a developmental player who is unlikely to help them this season while he fills out physically and fine tunes his ballhandling and defense. He is young, and he can shoot it, though, and he’ll likely spend this year on a two-way watching and learning. Best of all, this pick means he potentially can save on living expenses by sharing an apartment with his brother Max, a restricted free agent with the Lakers.

47. New Orleans Pelicans (via ORL)

Antonio Reeves | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Kentucky

Vecenie’s ranking: 40

People will want to look at Antonio Reeves as a potential 3-and-D guy, but I don’t think he has the defense to back that up. It’s possible he could be better if he gets stronger, but I’m skeptical about his instincts on that end. He wasn’t a significant negative defensively for Kentucky, but I’d be surprised if he got to neutral in the NBA just due to his intersection of strength, skill and athleticism. However, I also think he’s more than just a floor spacer on offense in spot-up situations and potentially as an off-ball scorer. Reeves displays terrific feel for how to come off screens and has speed while constantly moving. He is a capable driver and has the counters that teams seek. NBA teams are excellent at taking away what you do best. Reeves has multiple answers to the test, and that should help him. If he were a ready-made catch-and-fire guy from 3 directly off screening actions, I would grade him higher. But because that part of his game is still developing, I would feel a bit better with Reeves on a two-way deal to start his career. He’d be among my first two-way players to target, and he is a draftable player.

Hollinger’s analysis: Shoutout to my podcast partner Nate Duncan for pointing this out: Orlando’s pick at No. 47 was the only second-round pick in this draft that hadn’t been either traded or forfeited — UNTIL NOW. It goes to the Pelicans, who select Reeves. That’s an odd guy for them to trade in for, as he seems almost entirely duplicative of last year’s lottery pick Jordan Hawkins.

48. San Antonio Spurs

Harrison Ingram | 6-5 wing | 21 years old | North Carolina

Vecenie’s ranking: 54

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Harrison Ingram made the exact improvements this season that NBA scouts have wanted to see since he got to Stanford. Those gains are deserving of praise and alone make him a serious prospect in this year’s class. But I couldn’t get above a two-way grade on him because I have too many concerns about his athleticism at that size at the NBA level. The players who have tended to overcome these athletic traits shortcomings tend to be long and big. Ingram is long, but at just 6-5 1/4 without shoes, that standing reach number will hurt him for the role he must play. I love how Ingram communicates and processes the game on defense. I really like his passes. But the ticket for Ingram to become a legitimate NBA rotation player is his shot. He must make the open ones and must take advantage of others he gets by speeding up his release. Sometimes, prospects can do that. Sometimes, they can’t.

Hollinger’s analysis: I thought Ingram was a bit underrated in this process as a bigger wing who can handle the ball and make an open shot. He can be a little heavy-footed, and he probably has to shoot a bit more consistently to crack a rotation, but I think the Spurs did well to get a decent prospect at the most valuable position this late.

49. Indiana Pacers

Tristen Newton | 6-3 guard | 23 years old | Connecticut

Vecenie’s ranking: 46

What exactly does Tristen Newton do that is above average at an NBA level? That’s the question. He’s not an above-average shooter, separator or defender. He became an above-average passer within Connecticut’s scheme, but many of his passes came within the structure of their sets. Will that same vision hold when he’s processing the game on the fly? On the other hand, specialists aren’t as valuable in today’s NBA as they once were. Even players like Duncan Robinson, one of the five best shooters in the world, have had to expand their games to stay on the court. Having counters for what the defense presents you is crucial. While Newton does not have that singular skill you know will work in the NBA, he’s versatile in terms of his role and has counters for much of what defenders will present him. He’s solid at almost everything. Having real dribble-pass-shoot ability and having a multi-layered skill set — while also being able to hang on defense — is valuable in today’s NBA. As we saw within Connecticut’s offense this year, it’s the whole of his game that is interesting, not any one component part. Newton’s going to have to shoot the ball more consistently than he has throughout the course of his career. At 23, he needs to make that leap within the next two years. That weakness is what makes Newton a two-way grade for me. But if I had a plan for how to fix his shot, he’d certainly be one of my priority two-ways.

Hollinger’s analysis: Back-to-back second-round picks for the Pacers here, and they use the first one on Newton. The Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four for national champion UConn will have to improve his outside shooting to stick as a pro, but he’s a smart guard who rebounds and can get an offense organized.

50. Indiana Pacers

Enrique Freeman | 6-7 forward | 23 years old | Akron

Vecenie’s ranking: 60

If Enrique Freeman will make it, it’s going to be as an outlier. He’s one of those players whose tape in college doesn’t tell the whole story of everything that he’s capable of despite his immense production. Betting on outliers coming through is generally a bad idea. Still, I think he has potential to be one. Paul Millsap’s statistical profile at Louisiana Tech was a bit better given his age, but he was a similarly incredible rebounder who started to show a touch more perimeter skill as his career went on in college. He was drafted in the second round based almost entirely off being one of the most productive players in college hoops. Freeman’s measurements are similar to Millsap’s, as Millsap came in at about 6-6 1/4 with a 7-1 1/2 wingspan, compared to Freeman being an inch taller and having arms that were a half-inch longer. Having said that, there are a lot of players who have tried to be that next Millsap and come up short. Freeman’s continued improvement and year-over-year development — along with his four-time All-Defense status in the MAC — make him an intriguing candidate. But it’s going to take a lot of work over the next few years to keep developing his perimeter game. Freeman is an awesome two-way bet, but I probably would want him as a drafted two-way as opposed to a guy on a guaranteed contract from day one, given the role uncertainty to start his career.

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Hollinger’s analysis: Enrique Freeman might be the best story in the draft, a smart, engaging young man who went to Akron on an academic scholarship, picked up his MBA while he did a fifth year with the basketball team and now is headed to the NBA. An energy forward with a developing outside shot, he’ll likely start out on a two-way.

51. Dallas Mavericks (via NY)

Melvin Ajinça | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Saint-Quentin

Vecenie’s ranking: 57

Mevin Ajinça is not my kind of player. I understand the idea of what he can be as a movement shooter with athleticism and strength. I also love the activity he shows. Considering where he already is as a shooter at 19, I buy that he’ll be able to knock down shots at a consistent enough level, even if his percentages aren’t incredible now. His shot diet is difficult for a professional teenager. However, there are too many holes in his game outside of that for me to fall in love with his upside. He’s not a great rebounder or a particularly impactful defender now, although I think he has the potential to become those things. Offensively, I didn’t like his game outside of the movement shooting, as I worry about his passing, decision-making and overall feel. The closest comparable player to Ajinça is Gary Trent Jr., but he became a good offensive NBA player by improving drastically off the bounce and becoming more capable of creating shots on the interior. I also think Trent was ahead of Ajinça as a shooter at their ages. Ajinça is far enough away from his level that I have him as more of a draft-and-stash as opposed to a priority two-way.

Hollinger’s analysis: Ajinca is the fifth French player selected in this year’s draft and is likely a stash pick for a win-now Mavs team that doesn’t need to clog its roster with developmental players. Ajinca is a big wing who can shoot but might not have the handle or athleticism to succeed at the NBA level.

52. Golden State Warriors

Quinten Post | 7-0 center | 24 years | Boston College

Vecenie’s ranking: 48

If there’s one thing many NBA teams are seeking, it’s legitimate 7-footers who can dribble, pass and shoot. Quinten Post is a lethal shooter from distance who can get to his shot from a variety of ways. His presence should boost an offense, as I think the opposition must guard him out there. He’s too good of a shooter to leave on pick-and-pops. On top of that, he put the ball on the deck when necessary and then pass it on the move. I’m not sure Post will meet the minimum requirement defensively for him to stick in the NBA, which is why I see him as a second-round pick. I’d select him at that point to find out, because offenses around the league get supercharged when they have big men who can rebound, play in drop coverage and knock shots down from the perimeter, allowing their star perimeter players to attack the lane.

Hollinger’s analysis: First player who I’m legitimately surprised to see drafted, as I thought Post would be a summer league guy. He is big and skilled and had to carry the offense for a poor Boston College team, but he’s already 24, and his lack of athleticism and rim protection is a glaring weakness in the modern NBA. Note that his Dutch passport could also make him a stash pick.

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53. Memphis Grizzlies (via MIN via DET)

Cam Spencer | 6-3 guard | 24 years old | Connecticut

Vecenie’s ranking: 38

I believe in Cam Spencer. I get his limitations, but I tend to buy into guys who have elite character, competitiveness and approach to the game. Spencer doesn’t just get nice reviews from the Connecticut coaching staff on the intentional, strategic way he goes about his development and game; he gets raves. He was a professional playing college basketball this season, and that allowed him to get the most out of his potential while helping his team to a national title. On top of that, he’s an all-situations shooter who I believe will knock down shots from any angle at anytime from anywhere on the court. That’s a serious skill to bring to the table in the spacing-conscious NBA. For me, he’s on the border of deserving a guaranteed deal or a two-way contract. If some of my other targets were gone and I had roster space, I’d be more than happy to give Spencer a couple of guaranteed years to figure it out and see what happens.

Hollinger’s analysis: Cam Spencer is tough and can shoot, but he’s another very old player and is badly undersized for an NBA wing. The Grizzlies need to add shooting, especially if they decline Luke Kennard’s team option, and Spencer likely can give it to them cheaply on a two-way.

54. Boston Celtics

Anton Watson | 6-8 wing | 23 years old | Gonzaga

Vecenie’s ranking: 64

Anton Watson is one of my sneaky favorites in this class, and I have a two-way grade on him. I think he can defend within an NBA scheme right away and has potential to add a lot of value on that end of the court if his offense improves enough to keep him on the floor. He’s switchable and long, plus has great strength and good hip flexibility to stay on-balance in space. His help defense is sharp, and he is a good scramble defender. Offensively, I don’t love his skill package, even if he maintains his ability to cut and finish around the rim. Shooting is the key for me. There are some signs of Watson becoming a capable shooter, as he made 41 percent on limited attempts this year. But it’s hard to buy into his jumper becoming a consistent NBA weapon given that he turns 24 this year and has always been a lowvolume attempter. If he can improve his shooting to the point where he consistently hits corner 3s, his defense may be valuable enough to stick in the NBA. That will take some time for his jumper to come around. Still, I’d be willing to bet a two-way deal on expediting that process, because if it does, Watson has some value in the NBA.

Hollinger’s analysis: I didn’t expect Watson to get drafted, but this is a defensible late pick because he’s a good defender who can play the four. Watson could potentially soak up some of the minutes filled by Oshae Brissett this season, as the latter opted out of his deal for the coming season to become a free agent.

55. Los Angeles Lakers

Bronny James | 6-2 guard | 19 years old | USC

Vecenie’s ranking: 72

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We need to be upfront about this: We would not be talking about Bronny James as an NBA prospect if not for his father. He is nowhere near ready for the NBA. He’s at least two years away if every single thing goes right with his development in the next couple of seasons. For him to get the development he needs on the ball and to iron out his consistency as a shooter, he must spend the next two years in the G League. To me, that’s not a worthwhile investment given that his upside is something in the ballpark of a rotational 3-and-D guard. That upside is littered with potential landmines. I couldn’t rank him outside of the top 75 on my board because he’s young, athletic and clearly has excellent basketball IQ in addition to a great motor on the defensive end at 19. If this goes right, you can see an outcome that is similar to Devin Carter. Still, he is outside of the range of players whom I have two-way grades on in this class. I have an Exhibit 10 grade on Bronny and think he would have been much better served heading back to school to get the reps he needs offensively.

Hollinger’s analysis: Shocker of shockers! Bronny James is going to the Lakers! Who could have foreseen such a thing? LeBron James gets to be on the same team as his son, which would be the first time in NBA history this has happened, and the Lakers presumably eliminate any residual risk of James walking as a free agent his summer.

56. New York Knicks (via PHX)

Kevin McCullar Jr. | 6-5 wing | 21 years old | Kansas

Vecenie’s ranking: 55

It comes down to the shot. If defenders must play Kevin McCullar honestly from distance, the rest of his game as a smart drive-and-kick player and intelligent cutter opens up enough to play a complementary role on offense. If the shot isn’t there, it’s hard to imagine his drives being impactful, as teams sagged off him as he spaced behind the 3-point line. That would also impact his high-IQ cutting ability if someone is there waiting for him instead of honoring the threat of his jumper. McCullar will defend in any scheme. He’s an impact guy who can play physical, switchable defense and be available to scramble around. He also makes winning plays and is willing to get on the ground for loose balls to create extra possessions. It’s simple: If you think the jumper will improve and McCullar will stay healthy, it’s reasonable to have a first-round grade on him. Unfortunately, he’s done neither of those things throughout a significant sample of his collegiate career, so I couldn’t get to that level.

Hollinger’s analysis: I wasn’t sure McCullar would get drafted because of all the concerns about his myriad injuries, on top of the fact that he’s a poor shooter and one of the oldest players in the draft. His basketball IQ and defense at least make him interesting on a two-way, although it’s possible that New York’s ongoing tax apron dance pushes him into a roster contract for the rookie minimum.

57. Toronto Raptors (via MEM)

Ulrich Chomche | 6-10 center | 18 years old | NBA Academy Africa

Vecenie’s ranking: Not Ranked

Hollinger’s analysis: Toronto jumps into the 57th pick to select Ulrich Chomche, a serious developmental prospect straight out of the NBA Academy in Africa. I don’t want to say “two years away from being two years away,” but Chomche is almost certain to be a multi-year two-way while he refines his game in the G League.

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58. New York Knicks (via DAL)

Ariel Hukporti | 6-11 center | 22 years old | Melbourne United

Vecenie’s ranking: 59

Ariel Hukporti is not going to be for everyone, but I can see certain organizations being interested. It all depends on how you value bigs who perform the nonnegotiable aspects of being a big at a high level versus how you value upside to do more. Hukporti is in the former camp. He’s an awesome rebounder and good rim protector, and I think he can play in drop coverage in the NBA. He plays incredibly hard, and he’s willing to be physical. There’s no ego to his game. But I don’t see a ton of value beyond that. Offense must be simple for him with transition play, screening, rim-running, offensive rebounding and dunking. I don’t see much potential to shoot or score outside of 10 feet. He gets far too sped up in terms of processing on offense to be a high-level passer. However, I do like Hukporti more than recent international second-round center picks Tristan Vukčević (42nd to Washington in 2023), Khalifa Diop (39th to Cleveland in 2022), Karlo Matković (52nd in 2022) and Marko Simonovic (44th in 2020). Hukporti is a potential backup center if he can just improve his processing ability, overall precision and general skill level a tad on offense.

Hollinger’s analysis: The final pick is a pure stash, as the Knicks traded all the way down to the last pick in the draft and then selected German big man Hukporti.

(Top photo: Luke Hales / Getty Images)

Analysis, fits for all 58 NBA Draft picks from John Hollinger and Sam Vecenie (2024)
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