The second annual Fall Invitational featuring G League Ignite and an international team — this time the Perth Wildcats (a year after featuring Mets 92 and No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama) — concluded Friday after a two-games-in-three-days exhibition series, and we’re no closer to crowning a frontrunner for the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft than we were days ago. Each of the team’s stars shined bright in their own ways and in different settings, with Alexandre Sarr of Perth showing flashes of stardom and Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis of G League Ignite also proving their potential as likely top-five picks.
The teams split the two-game series 1-1, with G League Ignite taking the first game, 124-105, followed by a Perth win Friday, 127-112. And in each of the games, the stars of their respective teams led the way. In game number one it was Holland — one of the few candidates to go No. 1 in 2024 — who led G League Ignite with 23 points, five rebounds and three steals in just 28 minutes of action. Buzelis added 16 points on 13 shots to go with five boards and a pair of blocks.
In game number two it was Bryce Cotton who led the way for Perth with 40 points followed by 26 from Sarr in a team-leading +23 plus/minus coming off the bench. Sarr finished 10-of-14 shooting and had 10 rebounds, three assists and a second consecutive game of six swatted shots in an all-around showing, helping overcome a monstrous 33-point explosion from Holland on the other side.
Here is a recap of the exhibition series along with a few takeaways of what we learned over the few days of action in Vegas.
Game 1: G League Ignite 124, Perth 105
G League Ignite
- Ron Holland: 23 points, five rebounds
- Matas Buzelis: 16 points, two blocks, five rebounds
- Izan Almansa: 14 points, eight rebounds, three steals
- Tyler Smith: 15 points, four steals, two blocks
- Alexandre Sarr: 17 points, six blocks, seven rebounds
- Jordan Usher: 22 points, six rebounds
Game 2: Perth 127, G League Ignite 112
G League Ignite
- Ron Holland: 33 points, six rebounds, five steals
- Matas Buzelis: 17 points, four rebounds
- Izan Almansa: 13 points, four rebounds, three blocks
- Tyler Smith: Seven points, five blocks, six rebounds
- Jordan Usher: 24 points, three assists
- Alexandre Sarr: 26 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, six blocks
1. Sarr’s star brightens dramatically
Entering the week, all eyes were on G League Ignite teammates Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland as each looked to potentially solidify themselves as the No. 1 player in the 2024 class. And while we may have gotten some clarity on that topic (more below), it was clear to me this week that neither was the biggest story to come out of Vegas. Former Overtime Elite prospect Alexandre Sarr, playing in the NBL’s Next Stars program this year with Perth, burst onto the scene with two big games for the Wildcats, averaging 21.5 points and six blocks per game in two outings vs. G League Ignite. Sarr’s length and fluidity have long stood out as his most promising attributes, but his ability this week to convert that into production — both as a shot-blocker and as a finisher from inside and out — really stood out. He not only played with physicality and confidence on the inside, but his stroke looked good extending beyond the 3-point line to boot, showcasing real stretch-big potential.
2. Holland has No. 1 pick potential
Over the summer, Kentucky’s Justin Edwards for my money looked like he was best positioned to potentially grab the steering wheel and drive into frontrunner status as No. 1 in this uncertain 2024 class. But Holland this week absolutely looked the part of a No. 1 pick primed to emerge as the best in class. He capped his big week with a 33-point game Friday and had some nice flashes as a creator off the dribble and finisher to go with his explosive, quick-twitch athleticism.
Holland led all scorers in the first game and had the second-most in the second to combine for 56 on the week. The former Texas signee is primed to emerge as the most exciting long-term talent on a stacked G League Ignite team this season and has shown immense growth and development already as an offensive weapon.
3. Buzelis beaming with upside
It’s impossible to be disappointed in Buzelis after he turned in 33 combined points and three blocks in the pair of exhibitions this week vs. Perth. He wasn’t the main attraction this week, just given how well Holland and Sarr played, but he still looked every bit the part of a future lottery pick, showing activity on defense and using his length to make plays as a scorer and playmaker when given the rock. His physical tools for a jumbo wing are plenty intriguing and we saw even more of that on display this week with some special defensive sequences and some exciting flashes on offense. Few players have the movement and skill he has at 6-foot-10 to create with the ball in his hands, and his diverse skill set on both ends should keep him in the mix as a likely top-10 talent in the 2024 class all year.