2024 NBA Draft Editor's Notes: Volume One
A review of five prospects who deserve a bit more time in the No Ceilings spotlight: Zaccharie Risacher, Tyler Smith, Kyle Filipowski, DaRon Holmes II, and Reece Beekman.
With the calendar turning over to 2024 and with most NBA and college teams at or near the halfway mark, the spotlight of the 2024 NBA Draft is shining more brightly by the day. NBA fans of teams mired at the bottom of the standings are already running Tankathon sims, and even fans of the upper-echelon teams might be starting to wonder about whether or not they can find the missing piece for their roster in the upcoming draft.
We here at No Ceilings are dialed into the draft airwaves year-round, and we’ve already written at length about the top-tier prospects and the Draft Sicko deep cuts alike. However, some of the prospects in this year’s class have gotten less of the No Ceilings focus writing-wise than others. That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to prospect evaluations, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t highlight some of the names in that group that stand out to me.
Last season, I tried something slightly different from my usual Sleeper Deep Dives articles, covering some prospects who haven’t gotten much time in the spotlight on No Ceilings with a few rounds of Editor’s Notes. Now that the calendar has turned over to 2024, I figured that it might be time to bring the Editor’s Notes back for another round to cover some of my favorite prospects in the 2024 NBA Draft class who haven’t gotten as much of a spotlight in our writing. Let’s dive right in, starting with one of the potential top picks in this year’s class.
Zaccharie Risacher has long been considered one of the top potential prospects for this class, but his draft stock has gone on an interesting journey this season. After dominating in the U17 World Cup for France in 2022, his performance in the U19 World Cup last year left a lot to be desired.
Our own Tyler Metcalf wrote at length about Risacher earlier in the season, but I wanted to circle back on him now that he’s further into his season with JL Bourg. At the time, Risacher was struggling to knock down shots—especially off the dribble—but Metcalf crucially noted that Risacher seemed to have regained confidence and aggression after his U19 performance.
I think it’s safe to say that Risacher isn’t struggling anymore:
Risacher now ranks in the 82nd percentile in jumpers off the dribble, per Synergy, and in the 95th percentile offensively overall. After putting up 22 points in just 20 minutes in his last Eurocup game, he’s now shooting 55.7% from the floor and a scorching 57.4% from three-point range in his 14 Eurocup games.
Without a clear top choice in the 2024 NBA Draft, evaluating the top of this year’s group is more fluid than it has been in years. Even with his struggles in the U19 tournament, Risacher still had a pretty clearly defined floor as a defensive wing with great size and lateral mobility who constantly moved off the ball on offense to generate better looks. I’m not going to pretend that he will be a 57% shooter from long distance in the NBA, but I’m sold on his shooting development to the point where I would consider it a weapon.
Risacher might not have the kind of game to be a consistent 20-point scorer in the NBA, but his great handle for his size and much-improved off-the-dribble game indicate that there might be more room for him to grow as a shot-creator. After having seen his impressive development as a shooter this year, I’m finding it harder to rule out the possibility of him expanding his offensive game even further.
Even without that growth continuing at the pace it has this season, though, his 3-and-D skill set will certainly travel. In a draft class with plenty of questions, Risacher is starting to establish himself as one of the players I’d be most confident about betting on near the top of the draft. I’ve moved him into the Top 5 on my personal board, and I would be surprised if he fell out of that group for me between today and June 26th.
Tyler Smith was not the focus for draft evaluators watching the G League Ignite heading into the season. Whatever hype was not divided between Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland was mostly focused on Izan Almansa. However, Smith quickly established himself as a prospect to watch early this season, and he has continued to cruise as the most consistent prospect on the team.
Smith might not have the sky-high potential of Buzelis or Holland if everything works out, but he has been more comfortable in his role than any of the other Ignite prospects. His shooting, with 48/35/74 shooting splits in his 16 G League Showcase Cup games, has carried over to the regular season, as he’s put up impressive 44/43/60 splits in his first eight games. In addition to his shooting touch, Smith is a menace in transition, ranking in the 89th percentile per Synergy. He has the size at 6’11” to cover either big man spot, and his shooting and defensive versatility would pair well with virtually any frontcourt partner.
There are certainly still holes in Smith’s game; he’s a willing passer who usually makes the right reads, but he could stand to improve in that regard. He also has room to improve as a finisher; he’s good when he can finish over or through people, but his layup craft in particular could use some work.
Smith improving on those nits I’ve picked in the previous paragraph would just be icing on the cake, though. At this point in the draft process, he has proven himself to be a floor-spacing big who’s ready, willing, and able to fill a role for an NBA team sooner rather than later.
I doubt that Smith will be the first G League Ignite prospect taken in this draft; as my board currently stands, he wouldn’t be the first Ignite prospect that I would take either. That being said, he’s been a pleasant surprise at every turn with one of the more easily projectable games in this draft. He’s been knocking on the door of the lottery on my personal board, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up in that group before everything is said and done with the 2024 NBA Draft class.
I’ve said this on Deep Dives podcast episodes before, but I don’t think I’ve emphasized it recently in my writing, and I think it’s worth noting here. I think that it is very important in life to be willing to admit that you are wrong, and I think it is a particularly pertinent factor when it comes to properly covering the draft. In a field where even the best of the best among front office and draft community evaluators alike get it wrong all the time, it’s especially critical to be willing to admit that your original opinion was wrong. It might be a change in the prospect’s development, a change in perspective, or both, but you have to be willing to re-evaluate new evidence and acknowledge that you didn’t get it right the first time. So, with all that being said…
I was wrong about Kyle Filipowski.
In the war room for our most recent Mock Draft, I was surprised to hear that a few of my colleagues were between neutral and bullish on Filipowski as a defender. While the raw block numbers had certainly taken a huge leap since last year, I remained skeptical. I thought that he had taken a step forward this year, but before my recent film deep dive, I still saw him as someone with big man size who wasn’t a good enough shot blocker to be a primary rim protector and who wasn’t quick enough laterally to be a contributor as a switch defender.
As with all prospects who I’ve been skeptical about in the past, I’m happy to feel like I’ve been proven wrong:
The biggest statistical difference between this year and last year is in the shot-blocking numbers; it’s certainly encouraging to see a player’s BLK% go from 2.7% to 7.4% in one season. What stands out to me more in his film, though, is how much sturdier he looks around the basket and how much more comfortable he looks moving his feet on defense. It might be me re-adjusting my prior negative evaluation, it might be an improvement on his end, and odds are that it’s a bit of both. Either way, I feel much more confident in his defensive translation than I did last year—and much more comfortable than I expected to feel this early on in his development.
I’m not going to swing too far in the other direction and declare that he’s a future All-Defensive Team candidate; he still struggles with closeouts to three-point shooters, and guards still can blow by him on the perimeter too quickly for Filipowski to use his length to recover and get back in the play. At this point, though, I think that he’s solid enough defensively to help out on that end of the floor—and maybe sooner rather than later. When combined with his improved offensive efficiency as well this season, I’m getting more and more comfortable with the idea of him as a mid-first or even a lottery prospect for the right team.
DaRon Holmes II
When I wrote about him then, I saw him as a shot-blocking menace who could switch on the perimeter in a pinch and provide value offensively as a complementary piece. He was incredibly successful during his first season at Dayton as a play finisher who was among the best cutters and transition players in college basketball. In the early portion of last season, his change in role from a play finisher to a hub of the Dayton offense was pretty apparent, and his prowess as a passer only added to my belief in his NBA future.
The only thing that was missing at the time was the shot. Holmes shot 1-for-7 from three-point range during his first season at Dayton and also struggled at the free-throw line, hitting 58.6% of his looks at the charity stripe. He was slightly more willing to take long-range shots in his sophomore year, but he still put up fewer than one attempt from deep per game and knocked down only 31.6% of those long-range tries. Holmes’s free-throw percentage notably improved to 66.9% in Year Two, but his jump shot still seemed to be a ways away from being a part of his arsenal. His release was slow enough to be bothered by quicker closeouts, and he wasn’t always willing to take them even when he was left open:
This year has been an entirely different story. Holmes has averaged 2.4 three-point attempts per game this season, and he’s knocking them down at a 43.6% clip. There are always reasons to be skeptical about that kind of sudden success rate, but the film backs up the notion of Holmes’s development as a shooter. His release is noticeably faster, and he looks much more comfortable taking them:
The advanced numbers further bolster the notion of Holmes’s growth as a shooter. His overall numbers on jump shots weren’t pretty either in Year One (17th percentile on jump shots, per Synergy) or Year Two (19th percentile), but there were some fascinating signals within that noise. Holmes ranked in the 26th percentile overall on catch-and-shoot attempts last year. However, he was already decent when unguarded (54th percentile), but the results were really poor when his shot was bothered (just the eighth percentile on guarded attempts).
That pattern has held up this year but with clear signs of improvement. Holmes ranks in the 89th percentile as a jump shooter and the 85th percentile on catch-and-shoot looks. He’s been slightly below-average when guarded (36th percentile), but lights-out when given space beyond the arc, ranking in the 93rd percentile on unguarded looks.
Given the trajectory that he’s been on over the course of his three years at Dayton, I’m willing to bet on Holmes continuing to improve as a shooter. Even if he holds steady at where he is now, though, he’s already nailed the most important aspect of his shooting profile. His ability to make defenses pay when they leave him open behind the arc not only opens up the rest of his own game but also makes it easier to project him as a fit for a wider variety of NBA contexts than it would have been if he were still a non-shooter. When combined with his crushing screens, roll gravity as one of the most prolific dunkers in college basketball, and his passing vision, he has the potential to be a punishing center in small-ball lineups and an awesome pick-and-pop complement to more paint-bound centers in two-big lineups.
When I wrote about Holmes last season, my argument for him was that he was the perfect third big for any team with an offensive hub at center; he would be able to run the same actions as Domantas Sabonis or Bam Adebayo when coming off the bench while also providing real value as a rim protector on the other end and the agility to play alongside the starter in two-big schemes.
With his growth as a shooter, though, Holmes’s fit at the NBA level is even easier to see. I’m certainly not ruling out the possibility of him becoming an NBA starter as someone who’s been bullish on him for a while. Even for those who are more skeptical than I am, though, his floor as a potential rotation big is solidifying by the day. For playoff-caliber teams with a spot in their rotation for a complementary big man, Holmes will be one of the best bets available late in the first round.
Reece Beekman generated some buzz last year as a potential second round pick to fill out a team’s guard rotation. His strengths as an exceptional point-of-attack defender on defense and a facilitating pass-first point guard on offense were intriguing as a potential second round flyer. Part of that was bolstered by his 35.1% mark from three-point range, which made it easier to buy into his offensive value when he didn’t have the ball in his hands.
His three-point shooting has dropped off significantly this year; he’s currently sitting at 28.9% from long distance. That drop-off has led to many souring on his potential. However, there have also been some positive signs of development this season for Beekman that shouldn’t be ignored just because his long-range shots have not gone down.
The biggest improvement has been his finishing around the basket. Beekman averaged just 1.03 points per possession around the rim last season, ranking in the 27th percentile per Synergy. He shot only 42.8% from two-point range, a drop-off from 48.7% inside the arc his sophomore year and a concerning number for a pass-first point guard who needs to threaten the rim to be at his best as a pick-and-roll operator.
This year, Beekman has averaged 1.24 points per possession around the basket, which ranks in the 75th percentile—an excellent mark for a 6’3” guard. He’s taken two more shots per game inside the arc this season (7.6 per game) compared to last year (5.6 per game), and he’s knocked down his two-pointers at a 52.9% clip. When you factor that into the overall offensive picture, he’s actually been more effective this season than last; he grades out in the 66th percentile this season in individual offense, up from the 47th percentile last season.
His improved efficiency with his own offense is nice, of course, but it doesn’t tell the real story of Beekman’s offensive impact. When factoring in possessions plus assists, Beekman grades out in the 96th percentile, per Synergy—just as he did last year. His sparkling 3.36:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last year has somehow improved to 3.48:1 this year, and his relentless point-of-attack defense continues to shine.
This isn’t to say that his shooting struggles should be overlooked by any means. If Beekman is closer to being a sub-30% three-point shooter (as he’s shown this year) than he is to being somewhere in the mid-30s (like he was each of the last two seasons) as a shooter from distance, he will have to be truly spectacular defensively as an undersized guard to earn playing time. However, given what he brings to the table on both ends even without the shooting, I find it hard to believe that he won’t work his way into an NBA rotation for at least a cup of coffee at some point in his professional career. I would be more than willing to take a mid-second round flyer on him for a team in need of defensive help and offensive facilitators, and I would not be surprised if he ends up being a draft steal if the right team takes a chance on him late in the draft or in undrafted free agency.