2024 NBA Mock Draft: SB Nation writers project the first round

The 2024 NBA Draft isn’t seen as the strongest class in the league’s history, but between Alex Sarr, Zaccharie Risacher, Reed Sheppard, Nikola Topic, Ron Holland and the many other players who will be selected in the first round on Wednesday night, there will surely be a few more difference-makers than expected.

And in a continuation of an annual tradition, experts from around our NBA team communities and national writers tried to pick them out from the crowd by making a selection for their club in the first round of our annual SB Nation NBA mock draft.

Trades were not allowed.

For more draft coverage, check out the latest mock drafts from our own Ricky O’Donnell, who projected the entire first round and ranked the top 60 prospects here, and you can find complete draft coverage from our team communities at our NBA draft hub.

The Atlanta Hawks were on the clock first with the No. 1 pick, and made things interesting right off the bat.

1. Atlanta Hawks – Alex Sarr, C/F, Perth Wildcats

Wes Morton, Peachtree Hoops — With the first overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, I select for the Atlanta Hawks: Victor Wembanyama! …I’m not allowed to do that? Dang.

Well, this pick isn’t nearly as much of a surefire selection. Both Zaccharie Risacher and Donovan Clingan were heavily considered here, but Sarr’s defensive versatility, mobility skills, and (all too brief) offensive flashes just barely win out. With the way the NBA game is trending, banking on a bouncy, rangy, 7’1 marvel who can guard on the perimeter gives you a solid defensive floor.

There are some clear downsides to his game, more than most would like to admit: he’s slender, has inconsistent hands for catching passes, and can’t reliably set screens for a team that wants to pick-and-roll you to death with Trae Young. On top of that, his jumper and handle are much more theoretical than practical at this stage.

But the Hawks don’t have control of their next three first-round picks, so it may be wise to grab as much young talent as possible and hope for a spring forward in production by the third or fourth year. If he can commit to playing the 5 a good portion of time — given the presence of last year’s breakout star Jalen Johnson — it’s hard to pass up on Sarr here.

2. Washington Wizards – Zaccharie Risacher, F, JL Bourg

Gabe Ibrahim, Bullets Forever — Zaccharie Risacher’s high floor and positional value wins the day for the Wizards. His performance over 64 games for JL Bourg provides a good view of what he could do in the NBA. He put up 11 points and 4 rebounds while shooting 39% from three in 23 minutes a game. That’ll get the job done offensively for a 3-and-D player in the NBA, and he should be able to scale his production up as he grows.

Risacher also shines defensively with his length and feel for the game. He could turn into Mikal Bridges if everything goes perfectly, but, more importantly, he should be a good wing if everything goes just okay. Of course, there are risks. Richaser struggled to consistently hit threes as a junior and rode an early shooting hot streak to his stats this season. If his shooting isn’t real, he will struggle to do anything offensively due to his lack of shot creation. The Wizards take Risacher because he’s a solid bet to be solid and he can fit into whatever they build going forward.

The other players I considered for this pick — Stephon Castle, Donovan Clingan, and Reed Sheppard — simply didn’t have enough upside or versatility to pass on Risacher.

3. Houston Rockets – Reed Sheppard, G, Kentucky

Darren Yuvan, The Dream Shake — If I’m the Rockets, I trade this pick. Houston has a plethora of young talent all fighting for court time, and injecting another kid (he’s 19) might not be ideal. I’d prefer the Rockets move this pick either for a vet or, better yet, assets in a future draft.

But since we can’t trade for our purposes, Sheppard it is. He’s the best shooter in this draft, and Houston is short on them. Despite his size (6’3), he’s also an active defender and an adequate distributor, and could find playing time at backup point guard, with Amen Thompson sliding to forward. I’d also consider Donovan Clingan, Stephon Castle, and Matas Buzelis here, but Sheppard is the pick.

4. San Antonio Spurs – Stephon Castle, G, UConn

Jesus Gomez, Pounding the Rock — Castle’s rumored desire to be a point guard in the NBA could scare off a lot of teams, but probably not the one that trotted out Jeremy Sochan as initiator last season. The questionable shooting is a serious concern, but Castle’s defensive versatility and secondary playmaking should be useful no matter what position he ends up playing.

5. Detroit Pistons – Donovan Clingan, C, UConn

Sean Corp, Detroit Bad Boys — The Pistons need a lot of help, and they can’t really do better than having Clingan fall to them at 5. Not only does it allow them to draft a defensive anchor on a team desperately looking for consistency on that end of the floor, it opens up a world of trade down possibilities with teams looking to add the big man themselves.

Clingan also gives the team flexibility to consolidate some youth already on the roster like Jalen Duren into a multi-player package for a more established player to slot alongside Cade Cunningham. You keep him, it’s a win. You trade him to the highest bidder, it’s a win. Winning has been in short supply, so the Pistons would be thrilled to see the draft board shake out like this.

6. Charlotte Hornets – Matas Buzelis, F, G League Ignite

James Dator, SB Nation Writer and Hornets Fan — In a perfect world Charlotte would have access to someone like Donovan Clingan to strengthen their interior defense, or Stephon Castle to offer depth at the guard spot — but with both gone they pick the next-best option. The Hornets have myriad youth at multiple positions, but an athletic wing is something the team needs a future plan for.

It’s unclear whether Miles Bridges will remain with the Hornets long-term, so there’s a lot to like about imagining rotations with Buzelis alongside Brandon Miller. There’s work to be done for sure, as Buzelis’ 27% from three wont suffice in the NBA — but in a weak draft he’s the best long-term upside pick at this position.

7. Portland Trail Blazers – Cody Williams, F, Colorado

Steve Dewald, Blazer’s Edge — The Blazers’ Colorado brain trust lands one of their own by selecting Cody Williams. As a player, Williams is unproven with a small sample size of effective production, but he has frame made for the NBA. If Williams develops like his brother at the next level, he could be the steal of the draft. The stakes are low and this prospect pool leaves a lot to be desired. At least Williams is a high-ceiling player at a premium position. Williams will also take time to develop, which keeps the Blazers on track for the 2025 NBA Draft.

8. San Antonio Spurs – Tidjane Salaun, F, Cholet Basket

Jesus Gomez, Pounding the Rock — At this stage, Salaun seems too raw to contribute much as a rookie but his youth, size, motor and budding skillset make him a worthwhile project. If he reaches his ceiling, Salaun could be a do-it-all forward who offers shooting, passing and defense while also being able to play center for stretches on small lineups. The Spurs would need to be patient with him, but they could mold him into a uniquely valuable player.

9. Memphis Grizzlies – Ron Holland, F, G League Ignite

Clint Nielson, SLC Dunk Draft Expert — Ron Holland was once considered the top prospect for the 2024 draft, before the G-League Ignite’s abysmal season. His elite athleticism, measurements, defense both on the perimeter and in the paint, ability to get to the rim, and motor make him a great choice for the Grizzles. In a draft lacking star potential, Holland certainly has the potential to make multiple all-star games, though he needs to improve his 3-point percentage.

While some say the Grizzles need a starting center, Jaren Jackson Jr. could be a full-time starting center and Ron Holland could start at the power forward spot in today’s small-ball era. Morant and Holland on the fastbreak could be one of the most terrifying sights for opposing teams all season.

10. Utah Jazz – Nikola Topic, G, Red Stars

James Hansen, SLC Dunk: Danny Ainge in his postseason presser said that he’s not sure that Keyonte George is a point guard, and drafting Topic could potentially fill that need. Topic had some underwhelming recent measurements recently including a negative wingspan. He’s also recovering from a partial ACL tear. Those things combined are why it’s possible he’s there for the Jazz at 10.

But despite all that, he’s arguably the best point guard prospect in this draft, with good size and numbers while playing in a good league. Even if it takes time for Topic to come back from his injury, the Jazz aren’t under huge presssure to rush to any wins. With a fantastic 2025 draft coming, the Jazz can stand to give Topic plenty of time to recover and develop this season.

11. Chicago Bulls – Isaiah Collier, G, USC

Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation Draft Expert — I made this pick before the Bulls traded Alex Caruso for Josh Giddey, and admittedly it doesn’t make much sense now. Giddey has to play on the ball because of his lack of shooting, and that makes it unlikely the Bulls draft another on-ball player with a shaky jumper in Collier. Chicago’s loss will be someone else’s gain: the USC freshman is one of the best creation bets in this class as a speedy guard who can consistently pressure the rim, and brings plus passing vision. Providence’s Devin Carter makes a lot more sense now if he’s still on the board at No. 11.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder – Rob Dillingham, G, Kentucky

Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation Draft Expert — Dillingham is the best player available on the board, and the Thunder would have good reason to end his slide. Oklahoma City lost a little bit of shot creation in the Josh Giddey trade, and Dillingham would immediately fill that hole by adding shooting at the cost of size.

The Kentucky freshman is one of the best shooters in this class — whether he’s on or off the ball — with a quick trigger, deep range, and excellent relocation chops. He’s also one of the best ball handlers and passers in this class. Dillingham is just very small, but OKC has enough size and length to insulate him on the defensive end.

This would feel like something of a luxury pick for the Thunder, but they have cap space and so many potential draft picks to trade to fill bigger needs later this summer — starting with adding some more size and rebounding on the interior.

13. Sacramento Kings – Devin Carter, G, Providence

Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation Draft Expert — There’s so much to like about Carter’s game: he’s a monster athlete, a lockdown defender, a fantastic rebounder, and an improved shooter who proved he can get up three-pointers with volume this past year at Providence. Though he only measured just over 6’2 barefoot at the combine, Carter plays so much bigger than his size with long arms, a strong chest, and explosive leaping ability. He can play next to either De’Aaron Fox or Malik Monk in the Kings’ backcourt, and add a tenacious defender and another shooter.

14. Portland Trail Blazers – Dalton Knecht, F, Tennessee

Steve Dewald, Blazer’s Edge — Ideally, the Blazers avoid making two lottery selections this year. If Portland is unable to trade out of this slot, Dalton Knecht is a serviceable option. Knecht is a proven scorer and would boost the Blazers’ floor spacing immediately.

Knecht was a subpar defender in college and that weakness could serve as an advantage for Portland next year. In order to increase their lottery odds for the loaded 2025 class, the Blazers could feature Knecht early and often.

15. Miami Heat – Jared McCain, G, Duke

JP Acosta, SB Nation Writer and Heat fan — The Heat need some more spacing and shooting from their guards, and with Terry Rozier missing the last stretch of the season due to injury and Tyler Herro being a bit of a problem defensively, I could see the Heat going with a sweet-shooting guard like McCain here. He would open the floor up a bit more for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, while also having the upside of a second or third-option scorer.

16. Philadelphia 76ers – Ja’Kobe Walter, F, Baylor

Paul Hudrick, Liberty Ballers — If this scenario presents itself on draft night, expect Daryl Morey to trade back — maybe even out of the first round entirely to maximize cap space and collect more draft capital — but Walter is the pick here for me.

His floor is a high-level 3-and-D wing, something that is always coveted in the NBA. While the consensus seems to be that his ceiling isn’t that high, he’s only 19 years old. Some will suggest a plug-and-play prospect here, but Morey’s track record suggests he’ll take the best player available, regardless of age or position.

17. Los Angeles Lakers – Tristan da Silva, F, Colorado

Jacob Rude, Silver Screen and Roll — The Lakers have a handful of ways they could go in the draft, whether it be drafting a big or a wing. As has been their approach for quite some time, they’ll take the best player available, and that turned out to be da Silva in this draft.

He’s a wing that can step in and contribute from day one, whether through his 3-point shooting or his defense. And there is no such thing as too many 3-and-D wings, especially alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

18. Orlando Magic – Bub Carrington, G, Pitt

Sven Karabogovic, SLC Dunk draft expert — During their post-season run, the Orlando Magic displayed their most glaring needs: shot creation and playmaking. While the guard core of Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, and Cole Anthony offered a valiant conglomerate effort at addressing these issues, their sub-par shooting led to their offense lacking enough torque to cut through the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense.

Bub Carrington, while inefficiant at times, showed the ability to generate offense for the Pittsburgh Panthers through creative shot creation and solid court vision. With this pick, the Magic can hope that Carrington develops into a serviceable lead ball handler who decreases the pressure on Wagner and Banchero when the offense stalls.

19. Toronto Raptors – Kel’el Ware, C, Indiana

JD Quirante, Raptors HQ — The Toronto Raptors have been searching for the ideal center to pair with Siakam (failed), and now, not just with the soon-to-be-extended Scottie Barnes, but would also fit coach Darko Rajakovic’s offense.

Kel’el Ware’s a “modern big starter pack” with plenty of upside. He’s a lottery talent hidden outside of the lottery, as it would take the right team to bring out his upside into actuality. The Raptors have a solid developmental record, and given how they dropped the ball for the past two or three years, and how the NBA’s new salary cap rules are affecting roster construction, we have to believe that getting back into producing diamonds in the rough is something that was a mandate for President Masai Ujiri when he made a coaching change last year.

20. Cleveland Cavaliers – Johnny Furphy, F, Kansas

Jackson Flickinger, Fear the Sword — The Cavs lack of wing options was exposed in their series with the Celtics. They need wings that can stretch the floor and fit in alongside other high-usage players. Cleveland also needs team defenders who can guard opposing wings without being physically outmatched. Furphy isn’t the perfect solution, but he’s likely the best that can be found in the bottom third of the first round.

21. New Orleans Pelicans – Tyler Kolek, G, Marquette

Lake Hale, SLC Dunk Draft Expert — If Brandon Ingram leads your team in assists with just 5.7 a game, things could be better for you from a playmaking perspective. Tyler could be a true, pass-first point guard who can set up lobs with Zion Williamson, hit CJ McCollumn and Trey Murphy III coming off screens, and can shoot the ball well himself.

He might have some diet TJ McConnell in him, but his ability to push the pace and pass ahead feels more like Lonzo Ball to me.

22. Phoenix Suns – Yves Missi, C, Baylor

John Voita, Bright Side of the Sun — What do the Suns need (outside of an attitude adjustment)? Athleticism. Defense. Size. Yves Missi from Baylor gives Phoenix all three at the 22nd pick. While we had our eyes and hearts set on Tyler Kolek (we need a plug-and-play point guard, damn you Pelicans), drafting Missi gives Phoenix an upside play as Missi oozes with potential.

His affinity for offensive rebound — coupled with his rim-running ability — would be a welcome sight in the Valley of the Sun. He could replace Drew Eubanks by the end of training camp. Yay!

23. Milwaukee Bucks – Ryan Dunn, F, Virginia

Kyle Carr, Brew Hoop — The Bucks’ struggles for the entire season were on the defensive side, and their playoff series loss to the Indiana Pacers exposed how their lack of athleticism played a large role in that.

Ryan Dunn’s defensive ability has been highly praised by scouts, and he is someone who can come in and help Milwaukee immediately — especially if paired with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez. There are concerns about his offensive abilities, but the potential defensive impact is too good to pass up.

24. New York Knicks – Zach Edey, C, Purdue

Russell Richardson, Posting and Toasting — Zach Edey, the reigning two-time Naismith College Player of the Year, fits Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau’s preference for traditional big men. Offensively, Edey excels in the post, although he needs improvement in passing and ball security. Defensively, he’s a strong rim protector but lumbers a bit and may struggle with the NBA’s pace and spacing.

But despite his limitations, Edey’s work ethic, durability, and offensive rebounding could make him a valuable asset for the Knicks, especially with the looming possibility of losing Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency.

25. New York Knicks – Tyler Smith, F, G League Ignite

Russell Richardson, Posting and Toasting — With Precious Achiuwa possibly departing this offseason, the Knicks may need another power forward in their stable.

Meet 19-year-old Tyler Smith of G League Ignite. Ranked No. 12 among 2024 prospects by our own Ricky O’Donnell, Smith is a 6’10 forward who averaged 13.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, shooting 36% on 3-pointers. Plus: A seven-foot-one wingspan! Gimmie those offensive boards!

Smith aims to emulate players like Jabari Smith, Kyle Kuzma, and Michael Porter Jr. — which might be a stretch (pun sort of intended) — but he does have promise. At best, he starts out giving Julius Randle 10-15 minutes of rest per night; at worst, he chops it up with the Westchester Knicks for a season.

26. Washington Wizards – KJ Simpson, G, Colorado

Renzo Salao, Bullets Forever — Picking Colorado point guard KJ Simpson this early may be a reach. But given the state of the Wizards’ backcourt, Simpson is worth the additional stretch. The 21-year-old junior was the top scorer on a team with projected top-20 picks Cody Williams and Tristan Da Silva.

Simpson averaged 19.7 points on stellar efficiency: 47.5% from the field, 43.4% from three, and 87.6% from the line. Standing under 6’1 without shoes, Simpson will be limited defensively at the next level. But he does possess NBA range, can shoot off the bounce, and is adept off the ball. He was also a top-15 rebounder in the Pac-12 averaging 5.8 per game – the only player on the list under 6’6”. Adding Simpson to arguably the worst guard rotation in the NBA is an easy call.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves – Baylor Scheierman, G, Creighton

Thilo Widder, Canis Hoopus — I don’t think it is physically possible for this draft to have gone worse for the Wolves’ needs.

Mike Conley is older than the internet and Nickeil Alexander Walker is entering 2025 on an expiring contract. Unfortunately for everyone involved (me), it seems that the rest of the league is looking at point guards as well. While it was certainly ambitious to hope for a Rob Dillingham to fall, seeing as KJ Simpson was the last draftable point guard on my board, I was forced to pivot.

That brings us to Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman. Before any amount of basketball analysis, before a discussion of skillset and fit, we need to talk about the numbers. Not the statistics, but about Scheierman’s preference for number 55. That’s right folks, I drafted a player to have him play against Luka Garza for a jersey number.

But Baylor is an excellent shooter and off-ball mover and would add a movement shooter to buoy the offense that the Wolves have lacked ever since the departure of Malik Beasley. While Conley’s successor may have been the clear need, Scheierman provides a different approach to solving the offensive problems that a young point guard would have been asked to fix.

28. Denver Nuggets – DaRon Holmes II, F/C, Dayton

Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation Draft Expert — Holmes was one of the most productive players in the country as a junior for Dayton, packing the box score with blocks, rebounds, assists, free throw attempts, and consistent scoring all season long. At 6’8.75 barefoot with a 7’1 wingspan, Holmes knew he couldn’t bully opponents forever and needed to add more skill to his game.

He came back as a much improved 3-point shooter, ball handler, and passer. Holmes could play some minutes at the five backing up Nikola Jokic, and it’s possible he could also play with him at times if his shot continues to develop. Holmes has proven himself to be a very good basketball player, and those guys usually find a way to make it work.

29. Utah Jazz – Kyshawn George, F, Miami

James Hansen, SLC Dunk — The Utah Jazz need size and shooting and that’s what Kyshawn George brings. There’s some questions about his production, or at least the lack thereof, but he shot 40% from three and looks like he can likley get his shot off being 6’8, but he’s not explosive, and so there are some concerns about getting his own looks reliably.

That said, there are flashes of playmaking to his game as well as some high-IQ plays on the defensive end. If he’s crafty in the league, he could potentially be a secondary shooter/playmaker in the mold of former Jazzman Joe Ingles.

30. Boston Celtics – Kyle Filipowski, C, Duke

Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog — What do you get the team that has everything? Well, given how expensive this team is going to get, the answer is probably cap relief. So don’t be too surprised if the Celtics trade out of this spot in order to avoid locking into a guaranteed salary for someone that might not contribute next season.

However, if they keep the pick, they should look to add long-term, cost-controlled depth. There’s no Al Horford replacement in the draft (or in the whole world for that matter), but the Celtics could always use some more depth at the big man spot. Filipowski has the tools to be a stretch option with good offensive skills.

And he can swap Duke stories with Tatum on the bus, which might be as close to game action as he’ll get.

How close did we get to how this thing will actually shake out? Find out when the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft starts at 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 26 on ABC, ESPN and ESPN+.

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