2024 NBA Draft: Six Players Who Could Fill Star Void in This Class

While there might not be a bevy of players ready to immediately garner the spotlight, a handful could blossom down the line.
Sheppard is among a handful of players who could become an NBA star down the line.
Sheppard is among a handful of players who could become an NBA star down the line. / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

A common refrain during the lead-up to the 2024 NBA draft has been a perceived lack of star power in this class. To an extent, that narrative is true. There’s no Victor Wembanyama, Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren ready to enter the NBA and immediately be put on the fast track to stardom. However, almost every draft produces a few All-Star-level players. The ’13 draft, the one this class is often compared to, featured Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert, as well as other high-level pros like CJ McCollum and Victor Oladipo.

Who are the best bets to push for stardom down the line in the 2024 draft class? Here’s a look.

Alex Sarr, Perth Wildcats 

Sarr is one of the most naturally gifted prospects in this class, standing nearly 7 feet tall without shoes and possessing a 7’4.25” wingspan. A popular high-end comp for Sarr has been Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., whose ability to protect the rim while possessing significant perimeter skill on the offensive end has made him an extremely valuable commodity. Sarr needs more polishing to get there, but the idea of selecting someone like Jackson in a draft like this has to appeal to teams at the top of this draft.

Donovan Clingan, UConn Huskies

The clearest path to stardom for Clingan is on the defensive end, where the UConn star is one of the most impactful rim protectors to come out of college basketball in a long time. UConn was essentially impossible to score on at the rim with Clingan in the game thanks to his elite length (9’7” standing reach), instincts and timing. A popular comparison for Clingan has been Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler, but there’s a world in which Clingan’s defensive impact is closer to that of Gobert, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year. Plus, Clingan’s offensive package has upside to tap into, with some shooting and playmaking promise flashed at times in the pre-draft process.

Reed Sheppard, Kentucky Wildcats 

Sheppard has been a darling of analytics models since early in the season at Kentucky as he burst onto the scene as a potential draft pick. And while he may not pass the eye test physically, there’s a world in which Sheppard’s lack of size and length doesn’t slow him any more than it did in the college game. Sheppard is clearly a special shooter, but also sees the floor very well and competes defensively. If he can prove he’s worthy of being a primary ballhandler in the NBA, there’s a path for him to become a legitimate star. 

Zaccharie Risacher, JL Bourg

The popular narrative with Risacher, given his athletic limitations, is that he lacks the star power you’d want at the top of a draft. But Risacher’s advanced skill level and productivity at such a young age in France shows the chance of future stardom. Big wings who can shoot like Risacher are certainly on the fast track to huge NBA roles, and his rapid development curve means we shouldn’t rule out potential future growth as an off-the-dribble scorer. Risacher has been labeled a “high-floor” guy in this draft, but there’s an All-Star ceiling, too, if things break right.

Stephon Castle, UConn Huskies 

The main thing holding Castle back from a more sustained push to be the first player off the board in this draft is his inconsistency as a shooter. College teams were more than willing to sag off Castle on the perimeter, daring him to beat them from beyond the arc. Fix that, and the world opens up for Castle. He’s already one of the best on-ball defenders in this class, as well as a capable playmaker with room to continue to grow in that area. Become a consistent shooter, and all of a sudden, Castle has upside to be a two-way star at the next level. 

Ron Holland, G League Ignite

Holland’s stock has slipped, going from potential No. 1 pick prior to the season to now possibly falling out of the lottery. If there’s a “buy low” candidate in this draft, it’s Holland. Ignite was a broken situation, one that would have been hard for any prospect to shine in, and Holland wasn’t put in the best position to succeed as the team’s primary scorer. Even if he doesn’t develop into a consistent outside shooter (he missed badly at times with Ignite), Holland’s elite athleticism and downhill ability give him the chance to be a high-level scorer in time. And if his motor runs more consistently the way it did in high school, he should become a multi-positional defender, too. There are several examples over the years of top prospects bouncing back from bad college seasons (or in Holland’s case, the G League) and overperforming sunken draft stock, and Holland could be next on that list.


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Kevin Sweeney

KEVIN SWEENEY

Kevin Sweeney is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and the NBA draft. He joined the SI staff in July 2021 and also serves host and analyst for The Field of 68. Sweeney is a Naismith Trophy voter and ia member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.