24 for 24: Potential 2024 NBA Draft Prospects I’m Monitoring In NCAA Tournament

NBA Draft Prospects
(AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Even though we are vastly approaching the end of the 2023-24 NBA season: March Madness is here! It’s arguably the most hectic time on the basketball calendar. With that said, it’s never too early to be thinking about the 2024 NBA Draft–yeah, we know it’s probably not the best class in the world. But that doesn’t mean the Miami Heat–who own at least one pick (one first-rounder, one protected second-rounder) won’t try to find another diamond in the rough.

Below, I have identified 24 prospects partaking in the NCAA Tournament that I–yes, me, who’s much dumber than NBA scouts and front office members who dedicate their whole lives to this–am keeping an eye on. Let’s dive into it!

(Note: Not every player on this list will declare ahead of the 2024 NBA Draft … we’re just identifying who may. Every player has their own reasons why they will, or will not declare!)

Alex Karaban, G, UConn

Karaban, while streaky, is one of the tournament’s top (movement) shooters, averaging 13.9 points on 39.5 percent shooting from deep with a 3-point rate (percent of field goal attempts from deep) nearing 55.0 percent. Karaban is likely to be a second-round flier, and is a good decision-maker and an improved team defender. He also plays for a hard-nosed head coach in Dan Hurley and has played in plenty of important games–which the Heat have shown they like (i.e. Jaime Jaquez Jr.).

Baylor Scheierman, G/F, Creighton

Scheierman is one of the best rebounding guards in America; he’s placed in the top-8 in the Big East in total rebound percentage each of his two seasons at Creighton and placed in the top-10 in all three years in the Summit at South Dakota State. He’s also a prolific shot-maker–shooting 37.2 percent from deep (59.6 true-shooting percentage)–and is a good shot-creator with plus facilitating. He can score from all areas from the floor and could make serious noise this March if he sees a few fall.

Caleb Love, G, Arizona

Love’s draft stock has been a roller coaster ride throughout his collegiate career at North Carolina and Arizona–lacking consistency.  I think he’s rehabilitated some of that stock this year, averaging 18.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals on 42.1 percent shooting and 55.4 percent true-shooting–over five percentage points than his career average. If Arizona–a title contender–makes a deep run, Love’s play will be magnified and move himself up draft boards into perhaps the second round. He’s a player I’m monitoring simply because of where his previous stock was relative to where it is now … and how that could potentially change against the nation’s best.

Dalton Knecht, G, Tennessee

Few knew who Knecht was before the season. The Northern Colorado transfer lit the SEC on fire this year, averaging 21.1 points on 46.5 percent shooting and 39.7 percent from 3-point range, including an SEC-most 25.5 points (with 5.2 rebounds) on 48.4/42.4/73.4 shooting splits in 18 SEC contests. He has flown up draft boards since the start of the season, so he may not be there by the time the Heat pick in the first round. The biggest questions about him come on the defensive end, where he doesn’t have the greatest foot speed. But if you’re need of ignitable shooting/scoring, Knecht is definitely a prospect to keep an eye on.

DaRon Holmes, F/C, Dayton

Holmes entered the early NBA Draft process last year, but decided to return to Dayton for a third season. He earned the A-10 Player and Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 20.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 31 games. He’s improved as a 3-point shooter, knocking down 38.5 percent of his 2.5 3-point attempts (20.9 3PAr) after shooting just 26.9 percent on 0.4 attempts (3.9 3PAr) over his first two seasons. He’s a strong interior scorer who’s nimble at 6-foot-10, plus he does a great job defending without fouling. He should be a prospect all Heat fans keep tabs on from now until June.

Dillon Mitchell, F, Texas

I’m a sucker for wings who can rebound; Mitchell fits that exact build. He’s one of the best rebounding forwards in this tournament, finishing in the top-6 in the Big-12 in both defensive and total rebounding percentage this season. Mitchell’s worked to improve his jumper, but he still has more room to grow in that department. He’s an athletic freak who can finish around the rim and disrupt possessions on the defensive end, which makes him an intriguing prospect (in my view).  

Donovan Clingan, C, UConn

Clingan had a limited role off the bench for last year’s UConn team that won the National Title; he was Adama Sanogo’s primary backup. He’s been injured at different points this season, but the 7-foot-2 big is a mountain in the paint. He’s an exceptional shot-blocker and changes UConn’s calculus defensively. The more he continues to improve his frame, the better he’ll get–which should frighten people. Even though he’s still a traditional big, I think he’s improved as a shooter and passer—better modernizing his skillset ahead of what’s to come. Even though the spotlight’s been on him and the Huskies this season, I’m excited to see how he looks in an even bigger role this March relative to last.

Donovan Dent, G, New Mexico

Dent may not be the prospect with the most long-term potential on his own team–hello, JT Toppin–but Dent may be my favorite. Early-season injuries/absences to Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. allowed Dent to blossom. The 6-foot-5 guard’s averaging 14.3 points, 5.6 assists and 1.6 steals. He’s a good shooter who has good touch around the rim, but his decision-making in the pick-and-roll and as a connector stands out the most. He doesn’t make poor decisions very often, and for a secondary ballhandler, his team’s entrusted him to do a lot. It’s unclear whether he’ll declare, but keep an eye on him as June approaches if he decides to test the waters.

Harrison Ingram, F, North Carolina

Ingram, a former Stanford transfer, blossomed as a 3-point shooter this year with North Carolina. He’s a lanky 6-foot-7 wing who’s shooting 37.0 percent from deep on 4.5 3-point attempts (44.1 3PAr) after knocking down just 31.6 percent of his 3.5 triple tries (.373 3PAr) in his first two collegiate seasons. He also improved as a rebounder–especially on the offensive glass–despite lower usage, which has helped him develop more off-ball than he was as a Cardinal. Though his added shooting adds plenty of intrigue since he’s already a good playmaker and connector; we’ll have to see if the former sustains itself, but I’m keeping tabs on Ingram’s potential outside of RJ Davis and Armando Bacot.

Isaiah Stevens, G, Colorado State

Stevens was another player who entered the early draft cycle last year, but elected to return for a fifth year at Colorado State. He’s not the biggest point guard in the world, but is an incredibly savvy playmaker–especially in the pick-and-roll–possessing great vision and passing precision. His scoring has taken more of a backseat this season, but he’s averaging 6.9 assists with a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio–an impressive number for a player whose usage is approaching 25.0 percent. He’s also a deadeye catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter with a strong first step and acceleration. He did injure his calf in the first half of the Mountain West semifinals and has not looked to attack since, but I expect him to look more aggressive Thursday against Texas than he did Tuesday against Virginia.

Jaedon LeDee, F, San Diego State

Is LeDee the best college player in America that few know about? You could make the case (as you could with myriad mid-major talents). Few might recognize him for his role off the bench in last year’s San Diego State run, where it finished as the National runner-up. But this year’s third-team All-American made a sizable leap from his six-man role, averaging 21.1 points and 8.4 rebounds on 55.7 percent shooting and 62.4 percent true shooting. He’s not a modern-day 4 and is an older prospect, which is why he may not be on immediate draft radars, but he carries the toughness and defensive versatility that could intrigue NBA teams to take a flier this summer.

JaKobe Walter, G, Baylor

Walter is a polarizing prospect because of his decision-making and inconsistency; it’s unknown whether Walter will return to school for a sophomore or not, but he was viewed as one of the best offensive guards at the start of the 2023-24 campaign. For Baylor to make a run, it needs Walter’s spark; the 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 14.2 points on 53.8 percent true-shooting and does not need a lot to get going. 

Jamal Shead, G, Houston

Despite being an older and slightly undersized guard prospect, Shead is one of the best point-of-attack defenders this tournament has to offer–which alone intrigues me (I know a team who can use that!). He’s developed into one of the nation’s best point guards, but is incredibly strong and hounds on the defensive end. He’s not a lights-out shooter, but his career 77.5 free-throw percentage could suggest possible improvement down the line. 

Jared McCain, G, Duke

McCain is young, but he’s arguably Duke’s most prolific shooter and will receive plenty of opportunity with Caleb Foster still injured. The 6-foot-3 freshman is averaging 13.4 points and 4.9 rebounds on 39.9 percent shooting from 3-point range with a 54.1 percent 3-point rate. He’s a very good rebounding guard, even if he still does have questions about how he’ll hold up on the defensive end. 

Johni Broome, F, Auburn

Broome has improved tremendously as a shooter, shot creator and playmaker over his four-year career with Morehead State and Auburn. He’s an exceptional rebounder and shot-blocker, ranking atop the SEC in rebounding percentage (18.7) and block percentage (9.4) this season. He’s not overly explosive, but he does all the dirty work for Auburn, who’s been one of NCAA’s most efficient teams offensively and defensively this year. 

Johnny Furphy, G/F, Kansas

Furphy, from Australia, entered Kansas as a 3-point shooter. Though I’ve been impressed with how he’s played through contact–on the glass and when attacking the rim–more as the year’s gone along. He’s averaging 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game, but could see additional opportunity with Kevin McCullar being held out for the entire tournament due to injury. 

Justin Edwards, F, Kentucky

Sometimes, it takes freshmen longer than expected to acclimate to the college game. That was the exact case with Edwards, a former five-star recruit who was a top-3 player in his own class. He initially fell out of the first-round radar (after being a projected top-10 pick), but has played himself back into the conversation over the last month. Since the start of February, he’s averaging 10.4 points on 55.7 percent shooting and 47.2 percent from long range on three triple tries per contest. Don’t be surprised if he continues flying up draft boards over the next three months.

Kyle Filipowski, F/C, Duke

Filipowski was a projected first-round pick at this point last year, but decided to return for his sophomore standing–likely to improve his NBA stock. His free-throw percentage dipped as a sophomore, but still saw his effective field goal percentage and true-shooting percentage rise by 8.5 and 5.5 percentage points, respectively. He’s a plus rebounder with guard skills as a playmaker and ballhandler. I’m intrigued by his long-term prospects as a potential lottery pick in this upcoming draft cycle.

PJ Hall, F/C, Clemson

If the Heat indeed keep its second-round pick, Hall would be a player I’d keep an eye on. Even though he’s been less efficient from long range this season, he’s having the most productive year of his career, averaging 18.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game on 49.2 percent shooting and 58.6 percent true shooting. He can face up or operate with his back to the basket and has improved as an interior defender throughout his collegiate career. He will be going up against a deep New Mexico frontcourt in his opening game–led by JT Toppin (a prospect to keep an eye on in the future) and Nelly Junior Joseph–so he will have a good test up ahead to test his all-around skill set.

Stephon Castle, G, UConn

I’m a believer in Castle’s skillset as a secondary ballhandler and shooter at the next level, though his current 28.1 3-point percentage isn’t where you want it to be. He’s a near-76-percent free-throw shooter, so I’m baking that into potential long-term improvement, but where I’m most intrigued is by his rebounding and versatility defensively. His raw numbers don’t pop off the page, but could be a project worth investing in if you’re looking at potential … I’m interested to see how he develops in a postseason setting.

Trey Alexander, G, Creighton

Alexander is one of the many scoring threats within Creighton’s offense. He’s upped his scoring to 17.6 points per game, in addition to 5.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.1 steals on 45.6 percent shooting, even though he’s just shooting 32.7 percent from distance. Though he’s been more efficient from deep since mid-February. I’ve also appreciated his improvement as a playmaker/facilitator this year–which could be good for his short- and long-term prospects as a player. He’s a talented shotmaker, but I’m interested to see how the other parts of his game look in a slower, more half-court environment.

Tyler Kolek, G, Marquette

Kolek did not play in the Big East Tournament with an oblique injury, but was fully practicing in 5-on-5 drills this week and could give it a go in its first-round matchup Friday against Western Kentucky. The southpaw has developed into a superb long-range shooter over the last two seasons–shooting 39.9 percent on 3.6 3-point attempts (34.5 3PAr) over that span–while being one of this year’s best pure passers. What he makes up for in size is his competitiveness and his on-court acumen with the ball in his hands. Kolek can make nearly every pass and has graded in the top-3 in the NCAA in assist percentage each of the last two seasons with a near 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Yves Missi, F, Baylor

Missi isn’t a high-usage big whose numbers completely pop off the screen, averaging 11.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. The freshman also hasn’t developed any sort of shot or playmaking yet, but he’s functionally athletic and can protect the rim and be a vertical lob outlet for Baylor’s guards. He may be a player who stays another year or two, but I’m monitoring how he’s utilized and how he maximizes his skill set in a tournament context; against the best competition–albeit a small sample–this is a great opportunity to pop. That goes for any player.

Zach Edey, C, Purdue

By now, if you pay attention to college basketball, you’re probably familiar with Edey, a 7-foot-4 behemoth. Edey is likely the frontrunner to win the Naismith Player of the Year award, averaging 24.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 31.1 minutes per game. Even though teams have done it all year, I’m interested to see how Edey responds after last year’s disappointment. We won’t truly know how he will hold up in an NBA setting with NBA spacing and NBA pace until he’s there, but I wouldn’t rule out a team in the second-round (preferably with multiple picks) to take a stab at him. 

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ShoelessJoeWasRight

If we don’t take a big who can shoot, i’m giving up.

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