Although the 2024 NBA draft is still 16 months away, teams are closely monitoring the evolution of next year's class to see how future first-rounders are progressing and how to value the picks they own.
Jonathan Givony spent the past few months crisscrossing Europe, scouring the college basketball ranks and watching dozens of high school games live and on film to get an updated look at how the 2024 class is shaping up.
The NBA has loosened rules on scouting high school players in recent months, making this class more thoroughly scouted than previous classes. That process will continue during the high school all-star game circuit -- McDonald's All-American, Nike Hoop Summit and Geico Nationals -- in March and April.
NBA team representatives say they've been disappointed with what they've seen thus far from the elite prospects in this year's high school senior class, a group that historically makes up the backbone of the 2024 draft lottery. High school recruiting analysts widely disagree on who the top prospects in the class are, mostly because they don't view any of them as sure-fire, elite NBA prospects you'd expect to see atop their rankings.
We have 14 high school seniors currently projected as one-and-done prospects in 2024, which would be a far cry from the 2022 NBA draft (22 one-and-done freshmen selected), as well as 2021 (21). By comparison, this upcoming class currently has 25 one-and-done players projected to be picked in June (although some will likely elect to return to school).
This has been considered a weak incoming freshman class for some time, but the assumption was that reclassifications and late-bloomers would emerge to change the trajectory of the conversation, something that hasn't happened thus far.
The fact that the high school junior class, which will make up a big part of the 2025 NBA draft, also isn't shaping up as a banner group thus far is another concern teams have and could be part of the reason so many future picks have already changed hands. More than half of next year's first-round selections are already slated to be in another team's hands depending on how pick protections unfold, with more likely to change hands this summer and at next year's trade deadline. The same can be said about the rights to 2025 NBA draft first-round picks, the majority of which have changed hands already despite that draft being nearly 2½ years away. The NBA and the players' union appear nowhere close to coming to terms on eliminating the age limit, so there is no "double draft" with the top college and high school prospects coming in the near future.
It will be interesting to see how much attention agents and prospects already enrolled in college will pay to how poorly next year's draft is shaping up. There will be significant opportunities for players who aren't projected top-20 picks to improve their standing with another year of school. The fact that players can now earn significant money while in college thanks to name, image and likeness opportunities might make that a more attractive option than spending a year mostly in the G League.
We've seen dozens of underclassmen projected to go in the second round or undrafted enter the draft the past few years despite being advised against it by the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, but with the NIL market absolutely overflowing with cash, it's possible more players decide to stay and instead make a run at next year's draft.
Nevertheless, teams will still make at least 59 draft picks (Philadelphia lost a second-round pick) and maybe fewer depending on how future tampering investigations unfold. Good scouting will be even more at a premium to ensure franchises get the best bang for their buck. Much is certain to change with our projections as new players emerge and others inevitably stagnate.
Note: The projected 2024 draft order is based on ESPN projections. The full 1-59 order also reflects picks owed and owned.