Best, worst fits from first round of 2024 NBA Draft

Best, worst fits from first round of 2024 NBA Draft

The first round of the 2024 NBA Draft is officially completed, which means it’s time for us to weigh in on the best and worst team fits for several of the top prospects selected. 

BEST | Hawks, Zaccharie Risacher (No. 1 overall): Time will tell if the 6-foot-10 Frenchman is truly the best player in this draft, but his skill set is an ideal match for the Hawks on paper. Risacher, who averaged 10.1 points while shooting 43.9% from the field and 35.2% from beyond the arc for JL Bourg this past season, should be an instant contributor scoring-wise, potentially serving as Atlanta’s second option.

While he has the profile of a player equipped with a skill set to thrive offensively in the NBA, the biggest knocks on Risacher’s game are that he isn’t a great shot creator nor much of a passer. Fortunately for Risacher and the Hawks, these flaws can be masked early on when you have a point guard like Trae Young on the team, assuming he isn’t traded this offseason.

Despite being a project, if Risacher develops into a multidimensional offensive player over the next few seasons, it might not be long until Atlanta is back to making noise in the postseason. 

BEST | Rockets, Reed Sheppard (No. 3 overall): Sheppard isn’t just the best shooter in the draft, he’s arguably a generational shooting prospect. The 2023-24 SEC Freshman of the Year averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Kentucky Wildcats last season while shooting an astonishing 52.1% from three-point range. And don’t let his 6-foot-2 frame fool you, Sheppard is an impressive athlete, as evidenced by his NBA Combine-best 42-inch vertical leap.

It’ll be interesting to see how much playing time Sheppard gets out the gate, considering Fred VanVleet is under contract through at least next season. Even so, in the short term, Sheppard will have plenty of time to grow alongside his backcourt mate of the future Amen Thompson, the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft. 

BEST | Spurs, Stephon Castle (No. 4 overall): The national champion will be a major piece in helping restore the winning culture in San Antonio. The Spurs needed to surround reigning Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama with a point guard capable of being a difference-maker on both ends of the court. While Castle played off the ball in college, the Big East Freshman of the Year should be able to secure the starting point guard spot from Tre Jones rather quickly.

Castle still has a way to go offensively, as he averaged just 11.1 points while shooting 47.2% from the field and 26.7% from downtown as a freshman. However, his addition instantly upgrades San Antonio’s disastrous defense. Even though Wembanyama finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year balloting this past season, the Spurs posted the ninth-worst defensive rating in the Association (116.4).

WORST | Pistons, Ron Holland II (No. 5 overall): Some analysts predicted Holland to be one of the biggest draft day fallers, so naturally, the Pistons selected him fifth overall. Holland, a consensus five-star recruit out of high school, offers a high ceiling, but he’s one of the rawest prospects selected in the draft lottery.

The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 18.5 points and 6.7 rebounds with the G League Ignite last season before rupturing a tendon in his right thumb. However, his offensive game is a major work in progress, given that he shot 47.4% from the field and 23.9% from three in the 15 games he was healthy enough to play. For a team in desperate need of players who can simply make an immediate impact like the Pistons, this is a missed opportunity to improve their short-term future outlook. 

WORST | Trail Blazers, Donovan Clingan (No. 7 overall): By no means is Clingan (13 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 2.5 bpg last season) a bad pick for Portland. The fact that he fell out of the top six selections is one of the biggest surprises of the entire draft. However, with starting-caliber centers Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams III still under contract for the next two seasons, it’s questionable that the Trail Blazers selected the former Huskie.

Even though Portland traded for ex-Wizards forward Deni Avdija on Wednesday, the team might regret not stocking up on another wing if it doesn’t move Ayton or Williams. 

BEST | Timberwolves, Rob Dillingham (No. 8 overall): Minnesota sent a 2030 protected pick swap and a 2031 unprotected first-rounder to San Antonio for the draft rights to Dillingham, who’ll be another sparkplug off the Timberwolves deep bench. Dillingham, arguably the best pure scorer in the draft, averaged 15.2 points per game during his freshman season at Kentucky. With reserve guards Monte Morris and Jordan McLaughlin headed for free agency, Dillingham could quickly establish himself as Minnesota’s backup point guard, which would create a formidable duo alongside reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award winner Naz Reid.

WORST | Grizzlies, Zach Edey (No. 9 overall): Memphis had to add a big man or a wing through the draft, and while Edey fills a position of need, he might not have been the right prospect for the team to select. Edey, a two-time AP player of the year, was one of the most dominant — and overhated — players in college basketball history.

The 7-foot-4, 300-pounder averaged 25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game last season, but he’s not well-suited to succeed in today’s NBA. Aside from the fact that Edey never made a three-point attempt in college, he might be too slow to keep up with NBA athletes consistently. This could pose a serious issue for the Grizzlies, whose up-tempo offense revolves around letting point guard Ja Morant thrive in transition. 

BEST | 76ers, Jared McCain (No. 16 overall): Philadelphia’s lack of depth and rebounding woes were its downfall during the team’s first-round playoff loss to the New York Knicks, but McCain should help solve those issues. The 20-year-old is one of the better shooters in the draft and has a case for being the class’ best rebounding guard. In 36 games last season, McCain averaged 14.3 points and five rebounds while shooting an efficient 41.4% from three-point range.

Considering McCain averaged just 1.9 assists per game, he might not be suited to be a lead ball handler for the Sixers bench early in his career. Nonetheless, with the scoring and rebounding he does provide, McCain has all the tools to develop into Philadelphia’s version of Boston’s Derrick White.

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