2024 NBA Draft Big Board: Ranking the 25 Best Players From College, International and G League

This year’s class is one of the weakest in recent memory, especially at the top, but there are valuable pieces to help along rebuilds or extend contending windows.
Purdue’s Zach Edey and UConn’s Donovan Clingan are two of the best players in the 2024 NBA draft class.
Purdue’s Zach Edey and UConn’s Donovan Clingan are two of the best players in the 2024 NBA draft class. / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA draft is now less than two months away, with preparations in full swing. The 2024 draft is considered one of the weakest in the last two decades (particularly at the top) after plenty of young star power has come out of recent drafts. Despite that, teams are tasked with finding valuable pieces to help along rebuilds or extend contending windows, and the lack of top-tier choices has created plenty of uncertainty as we head toward the home stretch of the pre-draft process. 

Here’s a look at Sports Illustrated’s Big Board, featuring the 25 best players in this year’s class.

1. Alex Sarr, Perth Wildcats (Australia)

Sarr’s natural talents defensively make him a legitimate candidate to go No. 1 in this draft, depending on who lands the pick. He’s a mobile rim-protecting forward who can guard in space, which makes him the type of big swing NBA teams drafting at the top of this class will likely be looking for. Where will his biggest impact come offensively is the larger question, as he lacks the physicality to punish teams in the post and has often settled for roaming the perimeter hunting jump shots. That said, if you’re hunting for star power in this class, Sarr might be your best shot.

2. Donovan Clingan, UConn Huskies

Clingan is an elite rim protector at the top of the 2024 NBA draft.
Clingan is an elite rim protector at the top of the 2024 NBA draft. / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

To call Clingan an elite rim protector might be an understatement. Clingan’s combination of elite length, impressive mobility and instincts make him an incredibly impactful defender around the basket. Teams shot just 43.3% at the rim against UConn with Clingan in the game this season, and he should be a monster in drop coverage at the next level. He’s also a high-IQ player whose offensive game continues to improve.

3. Nikola Topić, Red Star (Serbia)

There’s plenty of intrigue that comes with Topić, a big point guard who’s extremely gifted playing in ball screens and showcases the type of passing chops that has NBA teams excited. That skill level and feel should help cover some of the limitations Topić has, given he’s not an overly dynamic athlete nor an elite shooter. Had he not dealt with a knee injury throughout the winter, he might have made a more sustained push toward the No. 1 spot. 

4. Zaccharie Risacher, JL Bourg (France)

Risacher would probably be an underwhelming top overall selection in some drafts, but he’s a real candidate here given the dearth of options available. He’s a high-feel wing with great size, defensive smarts and the ability to knock down outside shots. He’s been productive playing overseas against good competition, which raises the floor some. That said, he’s not an explosive athlete, nor a dynamic creator, attributes that could put a ceiling on his game.

5. Reed Sheppard, Kentucky Wildcats

Sheppard is an elite three-point shooter and passing chops.
Sheppard is an elite three-point shooter and passing chops. / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Sheppard’s ridiculous freshman campaign at Kentucky made him pop off the page in statistical models, and the film mostly backs that up. He’s an elite three-point shooter (though he likely won’t replicate the 54% from deep he shot at Kentucky long term), but showed he’s more than that with the Wildcats. Sheppard’s ability to be a connector thanks to his passing chops and feel make him a valuable commodity, and he has a knack for getting into passing lanes for deflections and steals.

6. Rob Dillingham, Kentucky Wildcats

Dillingham is a dynamic shot-creating guard.
Dillingham is a dynamic shot-creating guard. / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Dillingham was the most electrifying player in college basketball this season, a dynamic shot-creating guard whose creativity and ability to make tough shots made him and Kentucky a must watch. His slight frame makes him a likely defensive liability and it’s not clear how much utility he’ll provide in the NBA without the ball in his hands, but if nothing else could serve as a dynamic bench scorer at the next level. There’s risk involved in taking him this high, though.

7. Stephon Castle, UConn Huskies

Castle is a two-way player who is an excellent defender and passer.
Castle is a two-way player who is an excellent defender and passer. / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no question Castle helped his stock with a big NCAA tournament during UConn’s run to a second straight title. Castle’s two-way impact was evident throughout March, but especially at the Final Four, where he shined in both games. His three-point shot will dictate the long-term ceiling, but Castle is an excellent defender and a terror in transition who can pass. That’s enough to put you in the top-10 conversation.

8. Cody Williams, Colorado Buffaloes

Williams has potential with his length and playmaking.
Williams has potential with his length and playmaking. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was an uneven lone season at Colorado for Williams, the brother of Oklahoma City Thunder star Jalen Williams. Cody Williams dealt with multiple injuries throughout the season and vanished from games too easily, especially late in the season and in key March moments. His three-point shot is a bit of a question mark after looking hesitant to fire from deep at Colorado, though he does possess some serious potential with his length and playmaking ability. 

9. Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite

Buzelis is a big wing shot-maker with some ability to play off the bounce.
Buzelis is a big wing shot-maker with some ability to play off the bounce. / Joe Timmerman/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Conceptually, Buzelis fits the archetype of the types of players every team is hunting for: Big wing shot-makers with some ability to play off the bounce. While not without his limitations, the tape from Buzelis in the G League gives him a fairly safe floor—especially since he’s a better shooter than the 27% he made from deep last season. 

10. Ron Holland, G League Ignite

Holland’s athleticism and high motor make him an intriguing prospect.
Holland’s athleticism and high motor make him an intriguing prospect. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The context Holland was put in on a crumbling G League Ignite team was far from ideal, but Holland also didn’t do a ton to help his own cause during an uneven season. He shot poorly from three and generally struggled in a more featured offensive role. Holland’s athleticism and high motor make him an intriguing prospect who could play a valuable role somewhere, but the pre-draft process will be key in winning over NBA teams after a rough season.

11. Dalton Knecht, Tennessee Volunteers

Knecht is one of the best shot-makers in this draft class.
Knecht is one of the best shot-makers in this draft class. / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Already 23 years old, Knecht may be closer to a finished product than some of the younger players in this class. That said, that product is a pretty polished one. Knecht is, without question, one of the best shot-makers in this class, a big wing who should contribute from his first day in the league as a floor spacer who can sometimes hunt his own offense. His ceiling might be capped because of defensive limitations, but the team that drafts him is getting a pro-level scorer.

12. Isaiah Collier, USC Trojans

Collier is not an overly consistent shooter at this stage.
Collier is not an overly consistent shooter at this stage. / James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

USC was among the most disappointing college teams in the country. It’d be quite unfair to blame that all on Collier, though his impact on winning was more muted than I’d expected entering the season. He’s a highly impactful driver and plays effectively in ball screens, but turnovers were a big problem and Collier isn’t an overly consistent shooter at this stage. Will a team near the top of the draft be able to comfortably bet on Collier playing with the ball in his hands at the next level?

13. Tidjane Salaun, Cholet (France)

One of the youngest players in this draft, Salaun has his supporters given his pedigree playing at a high level in France despite his age. He has the size and shot-making ability that will intrigue scouts near the top of this draft, and Salaun’s best performances have been rather eye-popping. Consistency has been a concern though, and he’s far from a finished product. If the organization that drafts him has some patience, it could pay off in a big way.

14. Devin Carter, Providence Friars

Carter is a dogged defender with the length to guard multiple positions.
Carter is a dogged defender with the length to guard multiple positions. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Carter’s explosion this season nearly single-handedly kept the Friars afloat this season after a devastating injury to fellow star Bryce Hopkins. The son of former NBA veteran Anthony Carter, Devin Carter has all the tools to be a productive NBA player. He’s a dogged defender with the length (6’9” wingspan) to guard multiple positions, gets to every loose ball and saw his three-point percentage jump to 38% at high volume this season despite a difficult shot diet.

15. Jared McCain, Duke Blue Devils

McCain hustles for loose balls and defends at a high level.
McCain hustles for loose balls and defends at a high level. / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

McCain quickly became one of my personal favorite players to watch this college season with his toughness and shot-making ability. He impacted the game in a multitude of ways thanks to his willingness to do the little things, hustling for loose balls and defending at a high level. McCain also shot 41% from three, which should be his calling card at the next level. Despite lacking elite physical tools, McCain’s an easy guy to bet on being successful because of his approach to the game, and he has an elite skill that will get him on the floor. 

16. Ja’Kobe Walter, Baylor Bears

Walter could be a useful three-and-D wing in the pros.
Walter could be a useful three-and-D wing in the pros. / Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor’s star freshman had some uneven performances in Big 12 play, but still showcased the skill set that makes him a potential lottery pick. He has good size and length, has the potential to be an elite shooter and did a good job dealing with contact and drawing fouls for the Bears. He’s not a great creator with the ball and doesn’t generate a ton of separation, but he should be a useful three-and-D wing in the pros.

17. Zach Edey, Purdue Boilermakers

Edey has great hands, rebounds out of area at a high level and has proven to be very effective in drop coverage defensively.
Edey has great hands, rebounds out of area at a high level and has proven to be very effective in drop coverage defensively. / Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Is Edey the most natural fit in the modern NBA? Perhaps not. But you’d be hard-pressed to watch the film and not see someone capable of helping an NBA team in a defined role. Edey has great hands, rebounds out of area at a high level, has proven to be very effective in drop coverage defensively and punishes almost everyone in one-on-one matchups down low. A popular comparison tossed around has been Boban Marjanović, but I think there are reasons to believe Edey can have an even bigger impact. Remember, Edey has been playing organized basketball for just seven years and has continued to get better.

18. Kyshawn George, Miami Hurricanes

George could be a great upside swing for an NBA team.
George could be a great upside swing for an NBA team. / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In a draft without much star power, it becomes easier to bet on an upside swing like George. A toolsy playmaking wing who was listed at 6’8” at Miami, George flashed some serious potential during his freshman season despite middling overall stats. His three-point shooting at 41% is his clearest path to minutes early on, with the hope that his skill level and physicality continues to develop with more seasoning.

19. Tyler Smith, G League Ignite

Smith is a potential lottery ticket for teams drafting in the middle of the first round. A 6’11” forward who can really shoot the ball is the type of risk worth taking, especially given how productive Smith was in the G League this season. Defensively, he’s a liability right now, and that may not change until he adds significant muscle. But it’s far from the worst bet in the world to draft a fluid athlete with shooting touch and elite size, especially in this draft.

20. Tristan da Silva, Colorado Buffaloes

Da Silva is an intriguing mid- to late-first-round option.
Da Silva is an intriguing mid- to late-first-round option. / Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA

While lacking some of the physical strength and physicality that NBA teams will want to see, da Silva’s elite shooting stroke and feel for the game makes him an intriguing mid- to late-first-round option. He’s a savvy player who makes good decisions and can operate effectively as a shooter, screener or ballhandler. I’d bet on him finding a way to impact the game at the next level.

21. Jaylon Tyson, Cal Golden Bears

Tyson averaged nearly 20 points and seven rebounds per game last season.
Tyson averaged nearly 20 points and seven rebounds per game last season. / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Tyson finally put it all together during his third college stop, this past year playing for former NBA veteran Mark Madsen at Cal. Tyson averaged nearly 20 points and seven rebounds per game while also showcasing considerable playmaking ability, getting used as a primary handler in ball screen situations and looking comfortable in that role. He’s probably better with the ball in his hands than purely a catch-and-shoot guy, which does make the barrier to entry for him a bit higher, but he’s well worth a look in the late-first round.

22. Kel’el Ware, Indiana Hoosiers

Ware has immense physical gifts that cannot be ignored in a weak draft.
Ware has immense physical gifts that cannot be ignored in a weak draft. / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In a weak draft, it becomes harder and harder to ignore Ware’s immense physical gifts … especially after a productive sophomore season at Indiana. The 7-footer can run like a gazelle, is an effective shot blocker and has shown the ability to stretch the floor. His motor has come into question at times, and physicality-wise, Ware may struggle against NBA bigs. But at this point in the draft, it’s worth the risk.

23. Kyle Filipowski, Duke Blue Devils

Filipowski is a skilled frontcourt player at both the power forward and center positions.
Filipowski is a skilled frontcourt player at both the power forward and center positions. / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no questioning Filipowski’s production in his two seasons at Duke, averaging better than 16 points and eight rebounds on impressive shooting splits as a sophomore. He’s a skilled frontcourt player who can be deployed at both power forward or center, and his 35% mark from beyond the arc this past season is encouraging. That said, he’s not overly physical despite his size, isn’t a great defender and won’t wow anyone athletically.

24. Tyler Kolek, Marquette Golden Eagles

Kolek was arguably the best college point guard in the nation each of the last two seasons.
Kolek was arguably the best college point guard in the nation each of the last two seasons. / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A contending team hunting for a ready-made role player late in the first round will find one in Kolek, who was arguably the nation’s best college point guard each of the past two years at Marquette. He’s an elite passer while not being entirely ball-centric, capable of making a catch-and-shoot three and making quick decisions as a connector in lineups with a more ball-dominant guy. 

25. Cam Christie, Minnesota Golden Gophers

Christie is first-round talent, but could return to school through the transfer portal.
Christie is first-round talent, but could return to school through the transfer portal. / Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Christie has his name in the transfer portal, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay in the draft as his stock keeps rising. He’s a first round–level talent, with the size, shooting ability and pedigree to eventually turn into a productive NBA wing. He shot 39% from three on high volume as a freshman for the Golden Gophers and could explode if he returns to college for a second season of development. I’d definitely be interested in drafting him late in the first round this year and letting him get more NBA-ready in the G League.


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Kevin Sweeney

KEVIN SWEENEY

Kevin Sweeney is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and the NBA Draft, and is an analyst for The Field of 68. A graduate of Northwestern, Kevin is a voter for the Naismith Trophy and is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).