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2024 NBA Draft Pulse Check (Part II)
Part II of the 2024 NBA Draft preview showcases another assortment of prospects that should offer intrigue ahead of the upcoming cycle.
Welcome back folks! It’s time for another installment of “Pulse Check.”
In case you missed Part I, you can find it here or below.
But now, it’s time to turn it up another level. Part II will focus on a wide range of different areas when it comes to the 2024 NBA draft class. Make sure to also join us TONIGHT and FRIDAY on Playback for the G League Fall Invitational featuring the Perth Wildcats & G League Ignite.
Stephon Castle | Guard | UConn Huskies
Heading into the 2023-24 NCAA season, this is the name that I’m quickly becoming the most intrigued with. Stephon Castle checks plenty of boxes when you start to look closely at his game. Everything is lining up for Castle to have the tools to have an outstanding freshman season for the UConn Huskies. He’s going to have a talented big man to work with in sophomore Donovan Clingan, as well as some intriguing tools surrounding him.
Castle has some wiggle with good size, as he’s listed around 6’6”. He understands how to use his hesitations in order to set up potential windows to attack. There’s some outstanding feel that is combined with some fun playmaking potential. There’s a chance that Castle could be exactly what NBA teams are looking for when it comes to a versatile combo guard with great feel. As is tradition with most NBA prospects, the shot is the swing skill. If that shot can be around on a consistent level, Castle has the tools to be a potential Top 3 pick in this class. There’s a chance he makes a storm up boards, and don’t be surprised if he starts to become a contender for the top pick.
Jared McCain | Guard | Duke Blue Devils
Personally, I find myself much higher on Duke Blue Devils freshman Jared McCain than some other outlets in the preseason. When I spent the week in Portland at the Nike Hoop Summit, I was intrigued to see a number of players. No player impressed me as much as Jared McCain throughout the week of practices.
McCain isn’t going to wow you with his speed or athleticism. But he’s extremely poised with the ball in his hands and shows great patience to allow opportunities to open up. He’s a player that just simply makes winning plays for his team and creates a lot of efficient opportunities for his teammates. Duke’s going to have a crowded backcourt this year, so it’s going to be interesting to see the rotation develop throughout the year. While McCain might not put up the biggest numbers this year, I’m sure that NBA teams will be drooling at his versatility and impact on a team basis.
Elliot Cadeau | Guard | North Carolina Tar Heels
Throughout my preseason film dive, one guard has continued to impress me with his vision and playmaking ability on the court. That guard is incoming North Carolina freshman Elliot Cadeau. The talented floor general reclassified to join the Tar Heels for the 2023-24 season. While Cadeau is a bit undersized for a modern-NBA point guard, he stands out on the court with his tremendous vision as a facilitator.
Cadeau is listed at around 6’1” and 165 pounds. That’s going to draw plenty of heat from the “height” crowd. But the truth is, Cadeau plays like a giant at times. He’s a gifted shot creator who isn’t afraid to battle and can score at multiple levels. If Cadeau can prove that he can be a multi-level scorer on a consistent level, especially when it comes to finishing around the rim, he’s going to have plenty of fans. He’s going to have the chance to be the best playmaking guard in this class. Despite being undersized, Elliot has some “surprising” bounce and can finish above the rim with nastiness. Put him early on your “watch list.” The tools are a joy to watch.
Isaiah Collier | Guard | USC Trojans
If you’re looking for a physical guard with a nasty mentality, then USC freshman guard Isaiah Collier is going to have your attention. Collier gets downhill like a freight train and defenders bounce off him with relative ease. He’s nasty when getting in the lane and welcomes challengers at the rim. He’s listed at about 6’4” and 205 pounds and looks to be a potential nightmare off the bounce.
There’s been plenty of questions surrounding the versatility when it comes to his playmaking and multi-level scoring ability. Personally, I’ve seen some intriguing flashes from Collier as a playmaker, especially going back to his week of practices at the Nike Hoop Summit. He’s going to put up some big numbers for the Trojans this year. But can the outside shot come around on a consistent level, as well as the rest of his game? That’s going to be the million dollar question for Collier.
D.J. Wagner | Guard | Kentucky Wildcats
The Kentucky Wildcats have been a staple for developing talented guards ahead of the NBA jump. The next in line is talented incoming freshman D.J. Wagner, who has been a popular name in high school basketball circles over the years.
Wagner finished up as the #4 ranked recruit in ESPN’s Top 100 out of high school. He’s listed at around 6’3” and has some quick burst to make defenders get out of position in a hurry. There’s some impressive change of pace in his game and playing at Kentucky should do wonders for his development. Personally, I still have some questions about the versatility of his game offensively. Wagner will need to showcase that his playmaking ability can be unlocked this year, especially with a talented Wildcats team. If the rest of his game can develop, he’s going to have the tools to be a name that can rise on boards.
Zaccharie Risacher | Forward | JL Bourg
A couple of months ago, international forward Zaccharie Risacher was viewed as a potential candidate to be a Top 5 selection for the 2024 NBA draft. After a disappointing showing at Nike Hoop Summit and overseas in FIBA play this summer, the stock for Risacher has cooled a bit.
There’s some fascinating upside still with his game and plenty will be watching closely to see what Risacher can do this year with JL Bourg. He’s a versatile piece on both sides of the floor at 6’8”. But there’s going to need to be some strides in his development as an offensive force. Risacher has the tools to be a talented two-way forward, but there needs to be a level of offensive production unlocked, especially when it comes to his mindset to be a scorer.
Melvin Ajinca | Wing | Saint Quentin
FIBA play is a fantastic scouting opportunity, as it can showcase some talents from all over the world who look to be poised for a big leap in development. One of the top “winners” from FIBA play this Summer was French wing Melvin Ajinca.
Ajinca was sensational for France, showcasing his ability to be a sharpshooting lefty from beyond the arc. He’s going to have the potential to be one of the top 3-and-D prospects in this class with a potentially “safe” floor. He’s got some buzz building heading into the upcoming draft cycle, but now Ajinca is going to need to showcase that his versatility can continue to develop. Ajinca showed the ability to be a potentially dangerous catch-and-shoot weapon this summer. Now, NBA scouts will want to see if he can continue to develop the versatility as an offensive threat.
Alexandre Sarr | Big | Perth Wildcats (NBL)
Another popular international prospect is French big man Alexandre Sarr, who will be playing in the NBL this year for the Perth Wildcats. The first test for Sarr will come quickly, as the Wildcats are set to take on the G League Ignite in a “showcase” for NBA front offices in Nevada.
Sarr has a motor on the court that always seems to be running on high. While that’s a great “problem” to have, there’s going to need to be examples that the game is slowing down for him. He’s mobile on the court and moves around like an athletic wing. Sarr is listed at around 7’1” and 217 pounds. That means that he’s going to need to prove that he can hang with the physicality inside, especially in the NBL. He spent the last year in the Overtime Elite playing for the YNG Dreamerz, where he averaged 11.1 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 47.8% from the field.
Pacome Dadiet | Wing | Ratiopharm Ulm
Put this one on your list, folks. If you want to consider this a “sleeper” then go right ahead. This is one of my favorite international prospects to keep an eye on for the 2024 NBA draft cycle. Pacome Dadiet joined Ratiopharm Ulm midway through the 2022-23 season and only ended up playing in nine games after dealing with an injury.
He really caught my attention while watching Basketball Without Borders while playing alongside Thierry Darlan (G League Ignite) and is getting prepared for the upcoming season with Ratiopharm. Dadiet is a smooth wing, listed at around 6’8”, and he’s got some intriguing versatility to his game. There’s some serious multi-level scoring ability potential and it won’t shock me if Dadiet becomes a popular name during this cycle.
Juan Nunez | Guard | Ratiopharm Ulm
Another name that continues to buzz overseas is Juan Nunez. Born in Spain, Nunez will have plenty of excitement when it comes to his ability as a playmaking guard. He’s listed at around 6’4” and will be turning 20 years old just before the 2024 NBA draft.
Nunez spent the last year with Ratiopharm Ulm and will return for another year with a talented roster. He’s shown some fantastic flashes, as he averaged 8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists last year in 19.6 minutes. The outside shot will need to come around on a more consistent level (30.3% last year) in order for Nunez to start to cement himself as one of the top international guards for the 2024 NBA draft. He should be in line for a big year with Ratiopharm and if Nunez can become more efficient as a scorer, the playmaking ability will draw plenty of attention.
Mantas Rubstavicius | Forward | NZ Breakers (NBL)
An intriguing name to monitor for the 2024 NBA draft cycle is Lithuanian wing Mantas Rubstavicius. The 6’6” wing has drawn some buzz over the last couple of years while playing in the LKL with Zalgiris and Lietkabelis. He’s shown the upside to be a versatile offensive threat, especially after a strong showing in the U20 championships last year. During that tournament, Mantas averaged 19.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game.
In order for Mantas to become a legit prospect for the 2024 class, he’s going to need to showcase some consistency as a scorer, especially from outside. If that can come along, as well as his ability on the defensive side of the ball, he will be a potential sleeper candidate to watch out for in the NBL this year.
Alex Toohey | Forward | Sydney Kings (NBL)
Here’s a potential “dark horse” to put on your list for the upcoming year. Originally, Alex Toohey was committed to suiting up for Gonzaga for the 2023-24 NCAA season. Toohey was one of the top international prospects that was on the radar of NBA scouts heading into the 2024 NBA draft cycle.
After seeing Toohey in person at the Nike Hoop Summit, I thought he was a legit name to keep an eye on. He’s a tough forward who makes smart plays on the court and plays with a high motor. Shockingly, Toohey made the announcement that he would instead sign to play with the Sydney Kings of the NBL for the 2023-24 season. Originally born in Australia, Toohey will be a name to monitor closely. During the Summer, Toohey has been playing in Australia’s NBL1, where he’s averaged 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game in 28 minutes.
There’s a chance that Toohey could become a legit prospect to monitor down the road. But he’s also the type of talent that could intrigue NBA teams with his versatility and ability to make smart plays on the court.
Garwey Dual | Guard | Providence Friars
Some might wonder why incoming freshman Garwey Dual finds himself in the “wildcards” section of this article. That’s for good reasons. Dual is a joy to watch on film and is the type of prospect that every NBA organization would want on their roster.
He was one of the most impressive players throughout the entire week at the Nike Hoop Summit. He’s listed at around 6’5” and 190 pounds, and he has a ridiculous reported wingspan near 7’0". Not only are the measurements impressive, but the ability to use that length shows up frequently on tape. Dual will be viewed by many as a potential preseason top-20 pick for the 2024 NBA draft. If he can hit the ground running for Providence this year, he will be a name that continues to trend upwards rapidly.
He was originally ranked 44th in ESPN’s Top 100 high school basketball prospects. Dual stands out with his defensive ability and tantalizing offensive versatility. He’s a sneaky athlete who can explode for emphatic slams above the rim while showcasing some awesome playmaking potential. Dual is the name to watch out for, especially if you’re looking for a name that can start to make some legit noise in this class.
Berke Buyuktuncel | Forward | UCLA Bruins
One of the “winners” from this past Summer when it came to FIBA play was Turkish forward Berke Buyuktuncel. He was arguably one of the most pleasant surprises from the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Hungary. Berke showcased some intriguing versatility, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
He averaged 19 points, four rebounds, five assists, and two steals during tournament play. That resulted in a late recruiting frenzy that saw Berke commit to suit up for the UCLA Bruins for the 2023-24 NCAA season. At 6’9”, there’s going to be plenty of excitement with Berke moving forward. He’s a versatile asset on the floor with a smooth shooting stroke from outside and some serious playmaking potential.
If Berke can hit the ground running for the Bruins while being consistent from outside, there are going to be plenty of NBA organizations that are intrigued. If it takes some time for him to find his groove, Berke might be a potential breakout candidate for 2025, but time will tell just how quickly things can come together.
Baba Miller | Forward | Florida State
Coming into the 2022-23 NCAA season, Baba Miller was a potential “sleeper” darling for NBA draft sickos. Although extremely raw, Miller had impressed with some of his flashes while playing overseas in Spain. Miller had previously spent time with Real Madrid’s B team in the EBA league. There, he averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24 minutes while shooting 35% from three.
He’s a late bloomer, who spent the majority of his basketball career as a guard at 6’2” before a massive growth spurt saw him hit 6’11”. Miller enrolled at Florida State to join the Seminoles last year as a freshman before being suspended 16 games by the NCAA for receiving funds to help his travel to the United States.
It’s a ridiculous number of games for any player. But for a player with Miller’s rawness, it was impactful due to the lack of playing time and reps he would have the opportunity to receive. He ended up finishing his freshman year with averages of 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.3 minutes and played a total of 15 games.
Miller showcased some improved feel this summer while playing with Spain in the FIBA U19. He averaged 9.4 points per game but looked like a completely different player when it came to his confidence and ability off the ball. There are still some growing pains expected, but if things start to click throughout the 2023-24 NCAA season, Miller will be a name to watch out for.
Trevon Brazile | Forward | Arkansas Razorbacks
Pencil this in as a “remember me?” for the 2024 NBA draft class. Arkansas forward Trevon Brazile was looking like a player who could make some noise last year and find himself as a potential first round selection for the 2023 class. Brazile had transferred over from his freshman season at Missouri and was starting to find his groove with the Razorbacks.
That was until an ACL injury saw Brazile miss the remainder of the 2022-23 season after just nine games. In those nine games, he averaged 11.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 37.9% from three. There’s some intrigue with Brazile, especially for the 2024 NBA draft. If the outside shot can prove to be legit on a heavier volume, Trevon has the skills to be just what NBA teams are looking for in a potential versatile big with floor spacing ability. Before his injury, Brazile had showcased some impressive flashes of athleticism, as well as the potential to become a rim-protecting asset. If the athleticism can come around, as well as some strides on the defensive side of the ball, Brazile will be a hot name for evaluators.
Omaha Biliew | Forward | Iowa State Cyclones
Personally, this is one of the names I’m the most excited to see for the 2023-24 NCAA season. Iowa State freshman Omaha Biliew was one of my biggest “winners” throughout the entire Nike Hoop Summit this year. It seemed as if after every single practice, Biliew did something that stood out in a positive way.
Biliew is a high-motor piece on the court who has a desire to make any possible winning play. He’s one of those players who popped in every drill, as he was obsessed with running every rep at game speed and focusing on the details. The question moving forward is how quickly that will translate for the collegiate level. Biliew was looking like a potential lottery candidate before an underwhelming performance this Summer in the U19 for Team USA. He averaged just 5.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 12.2 minutes. Still, Omaha will be a name to monitor closely, especially with an Iowa State team that should have some fun talent.
Bronny James | Guard | USC Trojans
Yes, it wouldn’t be a 2024 draft preview without mentioning Bronny James. If you haven’t heard by now, Bronny is the son of LeBron James.
(pause for sarcasm)
Moving on. One of the players I was the most excited to see in person at the Nike Hoop Summit was Bronny James. It wasn’t because of the “buzz” surrounding Bronny, but I’ve always been one to say “I’ll make my own evaluation.” After a week full of practices and scrimmages, I found myself more than excited about Bronny for the upcoming season.
The biggest thing that stands out with Bronny is his understanding of his role. He knows that he’s not going to be his dad, which is a statement that cannot be overlooked. Bronny knows that in order for him to have potential success at the next level, he’s going to have to lean on a couple of areas to make him a “desired” asset at the NBA level. That’s just what he does on the court. He has the tools to be a special talent on the defensive side of the ball and has the mindset you’re looking for in a competitive guard. The outside shot looks to be trending in the right direction and if the game can slow down for him as a playmaker, he’s going to check plenty of boxes for NBA teams.
The elephant in the room is his health. Bronny suffered cardiac arrest during a basketball practice and was hospitalized. It’s a terrible development for any person, but that will be something that will be in the back of the minds of scouts and executives moving forward. The hope is that Bronny is cleared to go, and this can be something that is a bump in the road for a potentially successful and healthy basketball career.
Ajay Mitchell | Guard | UC Santa Barbara Guachos
Everyone loves to talk about some potential sleepers heading into another draft cycle. So let’s get into it. One name to keep on your radar is junior guard Ajay Mitchell. He’s spent the last two years at Santa Barbara and has been a name that has intrigued me throughout the offseason when it comes to looking back at previous film.
Mitchell has good size for a combo guard at 6’5”, but it’s the way that he plays the game that intrigues me. He’s shifty in the halfcourt, playing the game with poise and waiting for windows to open up. He finished up the 2022-23 season ranking in the 89th percentile in overall halfcourt offense. That included the 86th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and the 97th percentile in isolation opportunities.
The production also saw an impressive jump as well, something that always gets me in my feelings as an evaluator. After averaging 11.6 points and 3.7 assists as a freshman, Mitchell finished his sophomore year with averages of 16.3 points and 5.1 assists per game.
The key will be unlocking the three-point shot at an efficient rate. He finished at 26.7% last year, down from 32.7% as a freshman. Mitchell did post an 81.3% from the free throw line, which will get plenty of shot doctors on the case. If the versatility can continue to progress on an efficient level, the left-handed guard could make some noise.
Ryan Dunn | Forward | Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia sophomore Ryan Dunn should be a popular name on some sleeper lists. There’s a lot to be intrigued with when it comes to Dunn. He’s listed at around 6’8” and has the position versatility to be a quick riser in the draft ranks.
Dunn spent most of his freshman year playing limited minutes for the Cavaliers. He averaged 2.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game in just 13.0 minutes. Throughout that tape, Dunn popped in a number of different areas. His role was extremely vanilla for the Cavaliers as a connecting piece who made his impact in the interior. Dunn pops off the floor with an impressive amount of power around the basket. That especially shows up on the defensive side of the ball, as Dunn will welcome challengers at the rim for emphatic rejections.
There are a lot of areas that need to have some growth for Dunn to become a first round candidate in this class, but he has the tools to become a big-time breakout candidate this year. Despite just 16 three-point attempts last year, Dunn’s form suggests that it could be an area of his game that might be unleashed this year. If it can show that it’s trending in the right direction, Dunn could become a SERIOUS 3-and-D candidate that will have the serious attention of NBA organizations.
Milos Uzan | Guard | Oklahoma Sooners
Potential breakout returners have a special place in my heart. Something about the idea of a player returning to school and spending the entire summer in the gym, before seeing the rewards pay off months later, just gets me amped up. Another name I’m preparing to see take another step forward this year is Oklahoma sophomore Milos Uzan.
Listed at 6’4”, Milos stands out on the floor with his strong feel for the game and ability to make smart decisions. He’s a player that has a rare ability to know exactly where the ball is supposed to be. Uzan makes simple plays look beautiful, especially when it comes to his ability in transition. The rest of the offensive game has a lot of tools that hint that a big step forward could create some excitement in draft circles. Milos can showcase some impressive touch with both hands, and the shot is promising. He shot 44.1% from the field in catch-and-shoot opportunities as a freshman, including an EFG% of 66.1%.
Mackenzie Mgbako | Forward | Indiana Hoosiers
It was a rollercoaster of developments throughout the offseason when it came to tracking the status of talented forward Mackenzie Mgbako. The #9 overall ranked recruit in ESPN’s high school basketball rankings, Mgbako was originally committed to play at Duke before decommitting late in the process.
Some will speculate that the decommitment was due to a potentially stacked Duke roster that simply might not have had enough minutes to go around, especially with the return of Mark Mitchell and Kyle Filipowski, as well as a crowded backcourt. Mgbako instead pivoted and is going to be suiting up for the Indiana Hoosiers this year. It doesn’t take long to get intrigued with Mgbako. He’s a talented forward with a strong physical profile at 6’8”. There’s some natural scoring ability in his game, especially when it comes to his outside shooting.
The question moving forward is how quickly Mgabko can take that next step forward when it comes to his ability to be a multi-level scorer. There were times in Portland in which Mgbako looked to be a standout on the court with his feel and ability to put the ball in the basket. Other times, you found yourself wanting the “killer instinct” to come out on a more consistent level. If Mgbako can come out of the gates with a strong push, his stock should see a massive upswing.
Scotty Middleton | Wing | Ohio State Buckeyes
There’s always a prospect coming out of high school who has the chance to suddenly outperform his rankings as a freshman. One candidate for that honor this year is Ohio State Buckeyes freshman Scotty Middleton. Ohio State should have the potential to be an exciting squad this year. With Felix Okpara and Roddy Gayle back in the mix, the Buckeyes already have a pair of talented returners to roll with.
Adding a talent like Scotty Middleton alongside those two players is something that cannot be understated. Middleton is one of those talents that the more you watch on tape, the more you start to fall in love. He’s a crafty wing with an ability to score in an assortment of ways on the offensive side of the ball. Don’t be surprised if this is a name that is making a bit of noise in some preseason rankings. Middleton has plenty of fans who are betting on the upside and tools coming together rapidly, even as a freshman.
Kwame Evans Jr. | Forward | Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks have an assortment of intriguing talent coming into the mix this year. Freshmen Mookie Cook and Jackson Shelstad are a pair of names that need to be on your lists heading into the 2023-24 season. Another name to watch out for is Kwame Evans Jr.
Evans is a lengthy forward who has showcased some intriguing potential as a versatile forward with size. He’s listed at about 6’9” and 200 pounds, and he was the 14th-ranked recruit by ESPN out of high school. Evans will be a bit of a “wait-and-see” prospect, as it could take some time for him to find his groove, especially with a talented roster that features plenty of other prospects. But there are some awesome tools that need time to grow. He’s a bit of a chaos factory on the floor, making hustle plays to keep possessions alive and showcasing the upside to step out and stretch the floor. While Evans will need some time to put it all together, he’s a name that could start to creep up boards throughout the year with some growth to his game.
Adou Thiero | Wing | Kentucky Wildcats
It doesn’t seem right to do a “sleepers” section without mentioning this one. Plenty of draft fans are going to be drawn to the Kentucky Wildcats this year due to their laundry list of incoming freshmen talent. But our own Corey Tulaba opened my eyes to another name this “offseason” and I am starting to get in my feelings about it.
Adou Thiero arrived in Lexington as a 6’4”, 181-pound point guard. Heading into his sophomore season with the Wildcats, Theiro is now listed at 6’6”, and is over 200 pounds. It doesn’t take long to see why Theiro could be crucial for the Wildcats this year. His late growth spurt and transformation of his body have turned Adou into a versatile weapon for this Kentucky team. If the play from preseason games has shown anything, it’s that Theiro has the tools to be an explosive game-wrecking type of prospect.
There’s still some rawness to his game, as expected with a player who is suddenly developing into a diamond in the rough on the court. The defensive and playmaking flashes will have you drooling. If the offensive game can continue to develop, there’s something here that will have NBA teams having lengthy conversations with their developmental staff.
Trentyn Flowers | Wing | Adelaide 36ers (NBL)
Trentyn Flowers was trending to be a potential dark horse to watch out for when it came to the 2023-24 NCAA season. Flowers was originally committed to Louisville and the hope was that Flowers was going to be a player who could get plenty of run for the Cardinals as a freshman.
That was until Flowers threw a curveball and recently announced he would be signing to play in the NBL with the Adelaide 36ers. It’s just another talented prospect who is going to join an NBL league that has had a HUGE offseason when it comes to acquiring talent that will have the attention of NBA scouts moving forward. Flowers had a great combination of size and freakish athleticism at 6’8”. There’s some crafty offensive upside that is just starting to scratch the surface.
He’s got a smooth shooting stroke from outside and has the potential to develop into a versatile scorer on the perimeter. There’s some playmaking ability as well that could prove to be a big selling pitch for Flowers as an NBA prospect. Reports have stated that Flowers is hoping to spend more time as a plus-sized playmaker in the NBL, something that will get the immediate intrigue of evaluators moving forward.