2024 NBA Draft: Why Kel'el Ware's Upside Is Worth Banking On

The athletic center is still an NBA mystery box, but one worth opening.
Mar 14, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Kel'el Ware (1) shoots as Penn State Nittany Lions forward Qudus Wahab (22) defends during the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Kel'el Ware (1) shoots as Penn State Nittany Lions forward Qudus Wahab (22) defends during the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
In this story:

At Draft Digest, we've spent a lot of time analyzing prospects, trying to identify who can become a future star, and thus present the best value.

After all, that's 80% of what draft analysis is, let's just be honest.

One name that's still splitting the waters, with some seeing his pathway to stardom, and others seeing significant bust potential, is Indiana's Kel'el Ware.

The 7-foot center out of Indiana has, on paper, a game tailor-made for the NBA in 2024, as he's sticking 3-pointers, throwing down lobs, and even manufacturing shots on his own in the post.

Some question his motor based off his lacking dedication while at Oregon last season, which is probably the one point of criticism that I fail to understand given how much geared towards development and improvement he looked this season.

Others, maybe more fairly, wonder what his ultimate top-tier potential is, and what NBA archetype he is.

Is he a Tyson Chandler/Dereck Lively type clone, who can help his team to the Finals one day, or is he more of a young JaVale McGee, during the days when he made frequent appearances on Shaqtin a Fool?

(Note: Ware doesn't make egregious high-profile mistakes in the same manner as McGee did, but there are moments when "unpolished" is probably the kind way to describe some of his decisions.) 

The more one watch Ware, the more one comes to realize just how difficult he is to place in the 2024 draft class hierarchy.

You'll fall in love with him one night, and fall out of love with him the next, setting up a weekly pattern of "will they or won't they?" that becomes enormously frustrating.

I've made a personal decision on him, however. And I'm staying in love.

The shot mechanics are solid, even if he doesn't take enough long jumpers to give us an idea of the sustainability of his accuracy (42.5% on 1.3 attempts).

His length, size, and athletic prowess obviously are all elite, even if he doesn't fully know how to use his body yet, particularly on defense. 

His touch, and footwork, in the post, which allows him to shoot over defenders, is noteworthy, even if time and place is still on the menu of improvements for him.

You can see where I'm going with this. The tools are there, and what really speaks against him is a lack of basketball maturity. At 20 years old, though, that must be forgiven to a certain extent. Most big men develop at a slower rate. That's just a fact. 

Ware has ways to go, but given the crucial elements he's showed us to be skillful in - touch, shooting, footwork, play finishing - it's perfectly reasonable to go into the draft expecting him to iron out his lack of experience by... gaining actual experience.

Will he hit the league like a tornado, and put himself in the Rookie Of the Year conversation? Probably not. He might be a bit of a slow burn. 

But the upside could be worth the patience, and in a draft like this, that's really all you can hope for. 

Unless noted otherwise, all stats via NBA.comPBPStatsCleaning the Glass or Basketball-Reference. All salary information via Spotrac. All odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.


Want to join the discussion? Like Draft Digest on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest NBA Draft news. You can also meet the team behind the coverage. 


Published
Morten Stig Jensen

MORTEN STIG JENSEN

Morten has managed to create a stable career for himself, launching Denmark's first weekly NBA radio show, and co-hosting a weekly NBA TV show. He's a seasoned basketball analyst and is experienced covering the league and its upcoming prospects.