2024 NBA mock draft: Why Bronny James is projected as a top-10 pick

2024 NBA mock draft: Why Bronny James is projected as a top-10 pick
2024 NBA mock draft: Why Bronny James is projected as a top-10 pick

Although the 2024 NBA draft is still 16 months away, teams are closely monitoring the evolution of next year’s class to see how future first-rounders are progressing and how to value the picks they own.

Jonathan Givony spent the past few months crisscrossing Europe, scouring the college basketball ranks and watching dozens of high school games live and on film to get an updated look at how the 2024 class is shaping up.

The NBA has loosened rules on scouting high school players in recent months, making this class more thoroughly scouted than previous classes. That process will continue during the high school all-star game circuit – McDonald’s All-American, Nike Hoop Summit and Geico Nationals – in March and April.

NBA team representatives say they’ve been disappointed with what they’ve seen thus far from the elite prospects in this year’s high school senior class, a group that historically makes up the backbone of the 2024 draft lottery. High school recruiting analysts widely disagree on who the top prospects in the class are, mostly because they don’t view any of them as sure-fire, elite NBA prospects you’d expect to see atop their rankings.

We have 14 high school seniors currently projected as one-and-done prospects in 2024, which would be a far cry from the 2022 NBA draft (22 one-and-done freshmen selected), as well as 2021 (21). By comparison, this upcoming class currently has 25 one-and-done players projected to be picked in June (although some will likely elect to return to school).

This has been considered a weak incoming freshman class for some time, but the assumption was that reclassifications and late-bloomers would emerge to change the trajectory of the conversation, something that hasn’t happened thus far.

The fact that the high school junior class, which will make up a big part of the 2025 NBA draft, also isn’t shaping up as a banner group thus far is another concern teams have and could be part of the reason so many future picks have already changed hands. More than half of next year’s first-round selections are already slated to be in another team’s hands depending on how pick protections unfold, with more likely to change hands this summer and at next year’s trade deadline. The same can be said about the rights to 2025 NBA draft first-round picks, the majority of which have changed hands already despite that draft being nearly 2½ years away. The NBA and the players’ union appear nowhere close to coming to terms on eliminating the age limit, so there is no “double draft” with the top college and high school prospects coming in the near future.

It will be interesting to see how much attention agents and prospects already enrolled in college will pay to how poorly next year’s draft is shaping up. There will be significant opportunities for players who aren’t projected top-20 picks to improve their standing with another year of school. The fact that players can now earn significant money while in college thanks to name, image and likeness opportunities might make that a more attractive option than spending a year mostly in the G League.

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We’ve seen dozens of underclassmen projected to go in the second round or undrafted enter the draft the past few years despite being advised against it by the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, but with the NIL market absolutely overflowing with cash, it’s possible more players decide to stay and instead make a run at next year’s draft.

Nevertheless, teams will still make at least 59 draft picks (Philadelphia lost a second-round pick) and maybe fewer depending on how future tampering investigations unfold. Good scouting will be even more at a premium to ensure franchises get the best bang for their buck. Much is certain to change with our projections as new players emerge and others inevitably stagnate.

Note: The projected 2024 draft order is based on ESPN projections. The full 1-59 order also reflects picks owed and owned.

Jonathan Givony’s 2024 NBA mock draft

First round

1. San Antonio Spurs

Matas Buzelis | G League Ignite | PG/SG | Age: 18.3

2. Charlotte Hornets

Cody Williams | Colorado | PG/SG | Age: 18.2

3. Detroit Pistons

Zaccharie Risacher | ASVEL | SF | Age: 17.8

4. Houston Rockets

Justin Edwards | Kentucky | SG/SF | Age: 19.1

5. Chicago Bulls

Isaiah Collier | USC | PG | Age: 18.3

6. Utah Jazz

Ron Holland | Texas | SF/PF | Age: 17.6

7. Washington Wizards

D.J. Wagner | Kentucky | PG/SG | Age: 17.8

8. Indiana Pacers

Bilal Coulibaly | Metropolitans 92 | SG/SF | Age: 18.5

9. New Orleans Pelicans (via Los Angeles Lakers)

Kwame Evans | Oregon | PF | Age: 18.5

10. Orlando Magic

Bronny James | Uncommitted | PG/SG | Age: 18.3

11. Portland Trail Blazers

Kobe Bufkin | Michigan | PG/SG | Age: 19.4

12. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors)

Ja’Kobe Walter | Baylor | SG/SF | Age: 18.4

13. Oklahoma City Thunder

A.J. Johnson | Texas | SG | Age: 18.2

14. Memphis Grizzlies (via Golden State Warriors)

Julian Phillips | Tennessee | SF | Age: 19.2

15. Atlanta Hawks

Noah Clowney | Alabama | PF | Age: 18.6

16. Minnesota Timberwolves

Izan Almansa | Overtime Elite | PF/C | Age: 17.6

17. New Orleans Pelicans

Alex Sarr | Overtime Elite | PF/C | Age: 17.8

18. Dallas Mavericks

Nikola Durisic | Mega MIS | SG/SF | Age: 18.9

19. Atlanta Hawks (via Sacramento Kings)

Terrance Arceneaux | Houston | SG/SF | Age: 19.2

20. Miami Heat

Mouhamed Gueye | Washington State | PF/C | Age: 20.2

21. Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn Nets)

Ousmane Ndiaye | Baskonia B | PF/C | Age: 18.9

22. New York Knicks

Tyrese Proctor | Duke | PG/SG | Age: 18.8

23. Oklahoma City Thunder (via LA Clippers)

Judah Mintz | Syracuse | PG/SG | Age: 19.6

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

Babacar Sane | G League Ignite | SF/PF | Age: 19.4

25. Memphis Grizzlies

Kylan Boswell | Arizona | PG | Age: 17.8

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26. Phoenix Suns

Brandin Podziemski | Santa Clara | SG/SF | Age: 19.9

27. Philadelphia 76ers

Juan Nunez | Ratiopharm Ulm | PG | Age: 18.7

28. Denver Nuggets

Aaron Bradshaw | Kentucky | C | Age: 18.7

29. Milwaukee Bucks

Reece Beekman | Virginia | PG/SG | Age: 21.3

30. Boston Celtics

Robert Dillingham | Kentucky | PG | Age: 18.1

Jonathan Givony’s latest 2023 NBA mock draft: Are Duke’s top prospects living up to expectations?

Second round

31. San Antonio Spurs

London Johnson | G League Ignite | PG/SG | Age: 18.7

32. Portland Trail Blazers (via Charlotte Hornets)

J.J. Starling | Notre Dame | SG | Age: 18.9

33. New York Knicks (via Detroit Pistons)

Milos Uzan | Oklahoma | PG | Age: 20.1

34. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Houston Rockets)

Jordan Walsh | Arkansas | SF/PF | Age: 18.9

35. San Antonio Spurs (via Chicago Bulls)

Donovan Clingan | Connecticut | C | Age: 18.9

36. New York Knicks (via Utah Jazz)

Baba Miller | Florida State | SF/PF | Age: 19.0

37. Detroit Pistons (via Washington Wizards)

Xavier Booker | Michigan State | PF/C | Age: 18.4

38. Indiana Pacers

Mark Mitchell | Duke | SF/PF | Age: 19.4

39. San Antonio Spurs (via Los Angeles Lakers)

Mikey Williams | Memphis | PG | Age: 18.6

40. Orlando Magic

Ugonna Onyenso | Kentucky | C | Age: 18.4

41. Milwaukee Bucks (via Portland Trail Blazers)

Alex Karaban | Connecticut | PF | Age: 20.2

42. LA Clippers (via Toronto Raptors)

Amari Bailey | UCLA | PG/SG | Age: 19.0

43. Houston Rockets (via Oklahoma City Thunder)

Bryce Hopkins | Providence | SF/PF | Age: 20.4

44. Houston Rockets (via Golden State Warriors)

DaRon Holmes | Dayton | C | Age: 20.5

45. Portland Trail Blazers (via Atlanta Hawks)

Thierry Darlan | NBA Academy Africa | PG/SG | Age: 19.0

46. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Minnesota Timberwolves)

Matthew Cleveland | Florida State | SG/SF | Age: 20.4

47. New Orleans Pelicans

Will Richard | Florida | SF | Age: 20.1

48. Sacramento Kings (via Dallas Mavericks)

Teafale Lenard | Middle Tennessee | SF/PF | Age: 20.5

49. Sacramento Kings

Trey Alexander | Creighton | PG/SG | Age: 19.8

50. Miami Heat

Olivier-Maxence Prosper | Marquette | PF | Age: 20.6

51. Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn Nets)

Tucker DeVries | Drake | SG/SF | Age: 21.2

52. Philadelphia 76ers (via New York Knicks)

Eric Gaines | UAB | PG | Age: 22.0

53. Los Angeles Lakers (via LA Clippers)

Trevon Brazile | Arkansas | PF | Age: 20.1

54. LA Clippers (via Cleveland Cavaliers)

Mantas Rubstavicius | Lietkabelis | SF | Age: 20.7

55. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies)

Jordi Rodriguez | Joventut | SG | Age: 18.8

56. Phoenix Suns

Berke Buyuktuncel | Tofas | PF | Age: 18.4

57. Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets)

Jalen Bridges | Baylor | SF/PF | Age: 21.7

58. Indiana Pacers (via Milwaukee Bucks)

Michael Caicedo | Barcelona | SG/SF | Age: 19.6

59. Charlotte Hornets (via Boston Celtics)

Tristan da Silva | Colorado | SF/PF | Age: 21.7

Philadelphia will forfeit a second-round pick.

Who is the No. 1 prospect in 2024?

It has been relatively straightforward to identify well in advance the top prospects in the following year’s draft. We had Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson projected No. 1 and No. 2 in our very first forecast more than a year ago. In our first look at the 2022 draft class in late 2020, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr. were all projected to be picked in the top three. The year before, we had Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley slated Nos. 1-3 18 months prior.

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This year? Our confidence level in forecasting the top of next year’s class is at an all-time low, mostly because of how flawed this group looks on paper early on. I’d bet good money on things looking very different from how we have it at the top.

Matas Buzelis, a 6-foot-10 Lithuanian guard, looks like as good a choice as any to be selected in the top three, as he has been on an incredible trajectory since we first watched him in spring 2021 and is in many ways exactly what the NBA is looking for right now. He plays point guard at Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas, one of the best teams in high school basketball, and brings coveted versatility with his ballhandling ability, feel for the game, shot-making prowess and defensive instincts off the ball. He won MVP at the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camp at All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, leading his team to an undefeated record and showing off the many facets of his game playing both on and off the ball.

Fresh off winning MVP at the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Global camp, Matas Buzelis is our early projected No. 1 pick in 2024. The 6’10 Lithuanian guard brings coveted versatility with feel for the game, shot-making and defensive instincts. More: https://t.co/Cw5AcgxiKy pic.twitter.com/jyL5umO5c1

Filling out his thin frame, finding ways to play lower to the ground as a playmaker and improving as a decision-maker and one-on-one defender will be major keys to his development. It’s safe to say Buzelis has both a high floor and high ceiling as the type of Franz Wagner-esqe prospect any NBA team would love to have, even if that’s not typically the profile you look for in a No. 1 pick. He’ll be the focal point of the G League Ignite roster next season with Scoot Henderson departing for the NBA, giving Buzelis a significant runway to maintain his draft stock despite the challenges he’ll face playing against older players on a nightly basis.

2024 NBA mock draft: Why Bronny James is projected as a top-10 pick

Williams’ jumper, which was streaky in the Nike EYBL last spring and summer (18-for-93 from 3, 19%), has shown improvement this season in terms of his range and versatility shooting off the dribble and off movement, but there’s still work to do on this part of his game. We’re still learning more regarding just how dynamic and explosive a ball handler and playmaker Williams is and what position and role best suits him long-term, something we’ll ascertain more about at Colorado next season, which is not a traditional hot spot for one-and-done prospects.

The draft’s top international prospect is 6-9 French wing Zaccharie Risacher, who is currently seeing minutes in both the EuroLeague and French first division at ASVEL, where Wembanyama played last season. Risacher brings dynamic shot-making ability with a quick release and excellent footwork. He brings long strides attacking the rim, creativity as a finisher, the ability to pass in a variety of ways and outstanding defensive instincts. He plays a very narrow role currently for ASVEL, with his minutes fluctuating wildly from game to game, as he starts in the EuroLeague one night and then will be demoted to the U21 junior team the very next day without much rhyme or reason. Building up his body, finding more consistency as a shooter and playing with more assertiveness will help keep Risacher in the mix as one of the draft’s best prospects next year, but he’s not currently in as advantageous a situation as some of his counterparts.

The draft’s top international prospect is 6’9 French wing Zaccharie Risacher, who brings dynamic shot-making ability, long strides attacking the rim, the ability to pass in a variety of ways and outstanding defensive instincts. Full ESPN 2024 mock draft: https://t.co/Cw5AcgxiKy pic.twitter.com/HgECP5Aed5

Why Bronny James is in the top 10

Bronny James is now a projected top-10 pick thanks to the significant jump he’s made at Sierra Canyon, developing into arguably the best perimeter defender in his class while making strides with his shooting and playmaking . Full 2024 mock draft on ESPN: https://t.co/Cw5AcgxiKy pic.twitter.com/4DNo1TOtDx

Some might be surprised to see James, ranked anywhere from 28 to 43 by the major recruiting services, as a potential top-10 pick. James has earned his spot in lottery conversations with the significant jump he has made at Sierra Canyon in Chatsworth, California, this season, developing into arguably the best perimeter defender in his high school class while making strides in his perimeter shooting and playmaking ability.

As most of his peers have flatlined the past 12 to 18 months, James has grown, filled out his frame, found another gear with his explosiveness and become an absolute terror off the ball defensively thanks to his outstanding intensity and feel for the game. He still has plenty of room to improve his ballhandling and pull-up jumper to become a more prolific and efficient shot creator, but he has already caught the eyes of NBA decision-makers with the way he contributes to winning and likely will continue to grow and fill out his game.

Which prospects will wait until 2024 to declare?

The story of the 2022 NBA draft in many ways was the breakout campaigns we saw from collegiate sophomores, with Keegan Murray, Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin propelling themselves into being the Nos. 4-6 picks on the backs of outstanding seasons. Johnny Davis (No. 10), Mark Williams (No. 15), Tari Eason (No. 17) and Dalen Terry (No. 18) are other examples, as they were all completely unheralded prior to the season with the exception of Williams. The sophomore jump hasn’t been the case in 2023 thus far, partially because seemingly every freshman who could have declared for the draft did, with well over a dozen of them falling to the second round or going undrafted. Will this spring bring the same?

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2024 NBA mock draft: Why Bronny James is projected as a top-10 pick

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As discussed, the weakness of this high school senior class leaves considerable room for freshmen, sophomores and juniors already in college to jump into the many open spots we’re projecting to be wide open in the lottery and throughout the first round with a strong season next year. That also includes international players who are currently eligible to declare for the deep 2023 draft but might find the waters chillier than hoped in terms of receiving assurances they’ll be picked and brought to the United States immediately by their NBA teams rather than being “stashed” in Europe for the foreseeable future.

French wing Bilal Coulibaly is gaining steam in recent weeks as a 2023 draft prospect thanks to some impressive performances alongside Wembanyama on Metropolitans 92 and in the French U21 Espoirs league. He is currently weighing the pros and cons of spending another year overseas versus keeping his name in this year’s draft. The 6-foot-7 18-year-old with a 7-3 wingspan has huge potential on the defensive end and is flashing improvement as a perimeter shooter, ball handler and passer in increasingly larger doses, but he still is at a very early stage of development physically and skill-wise, as well as with his aggressiveness and physicality. He will start off next year’s cycle as a projected top-10 pick should he choose not to keep his name in this year’s draft and is the same age as most of the top high school seniors who are currently projected to make up the 2024 draft lottery.

Some of the same can be said about 18-year-old internationals Nikola Djurisic, Ousmane Ndiaye and Juan Nunez – all currently projected as first-round picks next year despite being technically eligible for the 2023 draft. None are having overwhelmingly impressive seasons that would help find guaranteed roster spots and contracts in the NBA this summer, and it could make sense for them to return to international play next year to find more consistency and improve their standing.

Several collegiate freshmen are projected first-round picks in next year’s mock draft as well, such as Michigan combo guard Kobe Bufkin, Tennessee wing Julian Phillips, Washington State big man Mouhamed Gueye, Duke guard Tyrese Proctor, Syracuse guard Judah Mintz, Houston wing Terrance Arceneaux, Arizona guard Kylan Boswell and Santa Clara wing Brandin Podziemski.

Like Ivey, Murray and Mathurin in 2021, some of them are good enough to hear their names called in this upcoming draft should they declare. Some will test the waters this spring and potentially elect to return to college with the clout of being All-Conference or All-American candidates next year to go along with a fat NIL check.

The sophomore Bufkin is in the midst of an outstanding February, averaging 15.5 points, 6 rebounds, 3.5 assists on scorching efficiency (67% true shooting percentage). He has generated significant attention from NBA personnel when combined with his lockdown defensive prowess and youth (19.4 years old), making him younger than several freshmen projected to be one-and-done lottery picks.

Michigan appearing increasingly unlikely to make the NCAA tournament and the potential return of running mate Jett Howard could be reasons for Bufkin to return if he’s not projected as a first-round lock by the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee this spring. Despite possessing significant long-term upside, Bufkin has room to grow with ballhandling, playmaking, decision-making, shooting consistency and his thin frame, things he could elect to address either in college or the NBA depending on his priorities.

Phillips entered this season at Tennessee projected as a top-20 pick but has struggled to find consistency as a freshman, not hitting a single 3-pointer since Jan. 21 and looking like the game moved a little too fast for him at times on both ends of the floor. Another offseason to fill out his frame, smooth out his jumper and develop his ballhandling and passing would benefit him, as he has made strides this season in limiting mistakes and holding his own defensively but just hasn’t been all that productive relative to his peers.

There are plenty of other freshmen – Texas’ Dillon Mitchell, Alabama’s Noah Clowney, Duke’s Dereck Lively II or South Carolina’s Gregory Jackson II – who could benefit from more seasoning at the college level to prepare for an immediate role in the NBA.

2023 NBA Draft: Victor Wembanyama

2024 NBA mock draft: Why Bronny James is projected as a top-10 pick

All eyes are on 7-foot-5 French prospect Victor Wembanyama, the 2023 projected top pick. We’ll have complete coverage leading up to the June 22 draft on ESPN.

• Fantasy or reality: Is Wemby next? • What Victor is leaving behind for the NBA • Spurs win lottery, right to draft Victor • Givony’s mock draft: Victor at No. 1 • How would Wemby fit on the Spurs? • Inside Wemby’s decade-long NBA plan • Snapshot into life of likely No. 1 pick • How to watch Victor Wembanyama

Clowney is one of the youngest players currently projected to be picked in 2023, not turning 19 until July, and still has considerable room to improve his frame and find more consistency with his perimeter shooting. He’s having an outstanding season, has significant upside and would surely be in the first-round conversation should he elect to declare for the 2023 draft, but would benefit from another year at Alabama because he doesn’t play the most coveted position or role as a thin-framed 4/5 who is still coming into his own as an offensive player.

Which upperclassmen will emerge as first-rounders?

Every preseason we put out a mock draft with very few (if any) collegiate juniors or seniors projected in the first round, and every year several emerge to hear their names called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Last year, it was Williams (No. 12) and Ochai Agbaji (No. 14) in the lottery, followed by Jake LaRavia (No. 19), Christian Braun (No. 21), David Roddy (No. 23) and Wendell Moore Jr. (No. 26)

This far out, it’s difficult to know which projected second-round juniors – Virginia’s Reece Beekman, UConn’s Andre Jackson Jr., Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins, Arkansas’ Ricky Council IV or Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner – could elect to return for their senior season. History says some of these players might return and possibly emerge as first-rounders the following year.

Beekman jumped out of the gates quickly to establish himself as a potential first-round candidate in 2023 early this season, but he has cooled off in ACC play. He’s shooting just 40% from 2-point range and 30% for 3 in his past 10 games while not scoring with much regularity (9.7 PPG). Virginia can point to having considerable success sending older players to the NBA with Malcolm Brogdon, Sam Hauser, Joe Harris, Ty Jerome, Trey Murphy III, De’Andre Hunter and others all having strong pro experiences thus far after entering the league of legal drinking age. Beekman is currently the oldest player projected to be selected in our 2024 first round at age 21.3, but he could very well test the NBA draft waters this spring to see what type of feedback he gets from teams.

Early movement on 2024 draft order

Multiple first-round draft picks have already changed hands for 2024, with more likely to change hands over the next year. Teams currently projected to have multiple first-rounders include:

Oklahoma City will have as many as four first-rounders: Houston’s (top-four protected), the Clippers’ (unprotected), Utah’s (top-10 protected) and its own.

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Houston has Brooklyn’s first-round pick (unprotected) as well as its own if it ends up in the top four on lottery night.

New Orleans can swap picks with Milwaukee if it chooses and also can elect to either take the Lakers’ 2024 first-rounder (unprotected) or defer to 2025 if it does not like the makeup of the class or where the pick lands.

The Knicks could have as many as four first-rounders, or just their own depending on how pick protections unfold. They own Washington’s pick if it lands in the 13 to 30 range [provided Washington does not make the playoffs this year], Detroit’s if its pick falls from 19 to 30 and Dallas’ if it falls from 11 to 30.

San Antonio could have as many as three first-rounders; its own, Charlotte’s (if it lands in the 15 to 30 range) and Toronto’s (if it falls from 7 to 30).

Memphis will likely have two first-rounders – its own and Golden State’s – provided the Warriors aren’t selecting in the top four.

Atlanta will have two first-rounders – its own and Sacramento’s – if the Kings make the playoffs and are selecting from 15 to 30.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.

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