Four Players that Could be Surprise Top-10 Picks in the 2024 NBA Draft

In this Wild West of an NBA Draft, any number of players could go in the 6-to-10 range. Who are some candidates to shock the field?
Mar 24, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Colorado Buffaloes forward Cody Williams (10) looks on during the first half against the Marquette Golden Eagles at Gainbridge FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Colorado Buffaloes forward Cody Williams (10) looks on during the first half against the Marquette Golden Eagles at Gainbridge FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft is on Wednesday, and nobody knows anything.

Writers, analysts, agents, and front offices all remain clueless about what's about to transpire in a draft that lacks any real definition at the top. There is no Zion Williamson, no Paolo Banchero, and no Cade Cunningham that dominates the headlines. Instead, debates rage in the media about which players have the highest floors and highest upside with no clear winners.

With this as the backdrop, it's important to mention that there are of course players likely to go in early in this draft: Zaccharie Risacher (JL Bourg/LNB Elite), Alex Sarr (Perth/NBL), Donovan Clingan (Connecticut/NCAA), Ron Holland II (Ignite/NBA G League), Reed Sheppard (Kentucky/NCAA), Stephon Castle (Connecticut/NCAA), Devin Carter (Providence/NCAA), Robert Dillingham (Kentucky/NCAA), and Matas Buzelis (Ignite/NBA G League) and a few other names populate the top of most draft boards.

But the final few spots in the top 10 remain up for debate. Here are some candidates to surprise the NBA world and land in that range.

Kel'el Ware | Power Forward/Center | Indiana (NCAA)

Indiana big man Kel'el Ware had an up-and-down season marked by elite performances as well as major downswings. Going back to Oregon, where he played his freshman season, there have been questions about Ware's motor and energy, and whether or not he has the on-court drive to dominate opponents.

Still, the upside is gigantic with Ware – should he put the tools together, he is an elite rim-running big with a burgeoning 3-point shot. He has the measurements, standing at 7-foot with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and the athleticism to boot.

With teams desperate for a rim runner who can compete in the playoffs like Dereck Lively II did for Dallas this postseason, Kel'el Ware has all of the makings of a player who could perform these duties.

While he had impressive stats (15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists on 59% from the field) on the season, the knock is that against NBA-caliber bigs, he struggled, and seemed content to be beaten sometimes when battling guys like Zach Edey (Purdue), Johni Broome (Auburn), and Felix Okpara (Ohio State, Tennessee).

If the drive can match the talent, Ware could end up returning real value.

Zach Edey | Center | Purdue

After back-to-back National Player of the Year Awards and a career capped off with an appearance in the National Championship Game, Purdue Center Zach Edey is making his way into the NBA as one of the most celebrated players in the history of college basketball.

His production at the collegiate level was unmatched, hence his large collection of accolades. The 7-foot-4 big man averaged a blistering 25.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 62.3% from the field his senior season, as well as providing excellent rim defense, evidenced by his 2.2 blocks per game.

Despite criticisms of his foot speed and lateral quickness on the defensive end, the touch inside is undeniable, and it is not difficult to believe that Edey could be a productive offensive piece when placed in the right lineup.

Because of the possible upside of a big that is essentially automatic inside, it would not be surprising for a team in the top 10 to talk itself into taking Edey higher than he has been typically mocked. There are plenty of teams that need centers, and Clingan/Sarr will be taken off the board early. Edey is among the next tier of talented bigs.

Cody Williams | Small Forward | Colorado (NCAA)

A player who was mocked within the top 10 for a long part of the season before battling injuries and inconsistency, Colorado wing Cody Williams could find himself taken closer to his earlier position due to a confluence of factors.

One of these factors is undeniable. It is of course the success of his brother, Jalen Williams, who plays second fiddle only to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Oklahoma City, a team that finished first in the Western Conference regular season in 2024.

A more relevant factor, however, would be his ability to defend on the wing. Though he lacks explosive athleticism, his fluidity when defending and turning his hips is an important factor for teams looking to shore up their perimeter defense.

Something to really consider, which can turn talent evaluators on or off of Williams as a prospect, is his 3-point shooting. He shot at an excellent rate – 41.5% – but only took 1.7 attempts per game in his lone season of college hoops, meaning it's not as easy to "buy" the shot as it would be had he taken three or more regularly.

Many have Williams mocked in the 12-to-15 range, but some do have him projected as going higher than that. Of the three mentioned thus far, Williams probably has the highest chance of actually being taken top-10.

Tidjane Salaun | Combo Forward | Cholet (LNB Elite/France)

There was hesitation in including Tidjane Salaun in this list because he has actually been rumored to be in consideration for the eighth overall pick by San Antonio. Because his name hasn't been rumored too much elsewhere at the top of this draft, it makes sense to include him here.

Though very raw on both ends of the floor, French forward Tidjane Salaun has garnered a ton of buzz as a player who will go much higher than anticipated on draft night. Standing at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Salaun looks the part of an athletic NBA slasher who can attack the rim.

While he has his promise, there are a lot of flaws in Salaun's game right now, including a lacking handle and an inability to shoot well. He's also not great on the defensive end yet, though proper coaching could have him flourishing in this aspect given his physical tools.

He would to many be considered a reach here, but the Spurs have often (aside from last year) gone for players that aren't necessarily consensus. Whether that has been a positive trend is debatable.

Honorable Mentions

• DaRon Holmes II (Power Forward, Dayton) – Holmes is a very skilled stretch big who can finish plays and defend the rim. Though he's not a 7-footer, he still stands at 6-foot-10 and has a real NBA skillset on the offensive end.

• Yves Missi (Center, Baylor) – Missi is another rim-running big and one who put up numbers as a true freshman in college. A true rim-oriented player, Missi is not going to step out and hit a shot from 15 feet, but he can finish plays, block shots, and rebound.

• Carlton 'Bub' Carrington (Combo Guard, Pittsburgh) – The freshman sensation declared for the draft after initially intending to return to Pitt. This is a result of the hype he's been receiving as a shot-creating shotmaker, a lead guard who can score and also possesses positional size at 6-foot-5.

• Jaylon Tyson (Shooting Guard, California) – Cal's leading scorer and one of the best bucket-getters in the entire country last season, Jaylon Tyson found his home in Berkeley after transferring between different schools in his native state of Texas. He is a big athletic off-guard that can both score and distribute.

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Keenan Womack


Keenan Womack is a sportswriter native to Dallas, Texas, who has spent the last 12 years in Austin, the home of his alma mater, the University of Texas. Keenan has covered sports for SB Nation, Bleacher Report, Rivals/Orangebloods, a host of his own sites and now, Fan Nation. Focusing on basketball, Keenan was on the beat for the Longhorns hoops team for the last two-and-a-half years before moving on to pursue other opportunities. He is married and lives with his wife close to the Moody Center, so they can continue to catch games together.