Sunday, May 19, 2024

2024 NBA Draft prospect rankings: Alex Sarr jumps up to No. 1 in first Big Board after NCAA Tournament

This time last year, Victor Wembanyama was the unquestioned, no-doubt-about-it No. 1 prospect in a deep 2023 NBA rookie class that at the top fell mostly chalk with Wembanyama, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson – all projected top-three picks – filling out the top three of the draft. But as we look ahead to the lottery next month and the 2024 draft in two months, there remains real questions about which draft prospects will wind up selected with the top picks this year, much less at No. 1.

In our latest prospect rankings for CBS Sports, we once again have another No. 1 atop our board with France’s Alex Sarr – an exciting 7-foot prospect – supplanting fellow Frenchman Zaccharie Risacher in the top spot. Sarr has shown the physical tools and athleticism to see his stock soar in the NBL, and he could pay off the top pick with quality production in the NBA because of the combination of his upside and youth.

There is never a sure thing in the draft, of course, but in ranking prospects, my credo has always been to take the biggest swings the earliest. For an analyst that’s easy to abide by; if I miss on ranking a player I have only my track record online to answer to. Yet for an NBA GM whose job may be on the line pending the production of a pick, that can be a much different calculation. Keep that in mind. In a wide-open class, opinions may vary substantially dependent upon a number of factors, and this cycle in particular leaves a lot of room for interpretation based upon how you look at it.

So below is my latest read on the room in the class with my updated prospect rankings. 

Rising: Alex Sarr

Current rank: 1 | Previous rank: 3  

Sarr makes a two-spot leap in the latest rankings that qualifies as the smallest, but most significant, jump, taking over the No. 1 spot. The leap comes in part due to a troubling stretch from fellow Frenchman Zaccharie Risacher (more on him below) and in part due to the hiding-in-plain-sight nature of his prospects. We tend to overthink evaluating sometimes, but his case on paper is pretty easy to buy into: he’s 7-foot-1, he’s an elite shot-blocker, he’s an explosive athlete, and there’s encouraging development in his shot that may foretell future progress for him as a bigger shooting threat. He makes wild highlight-reel plays look routine on a regular basis, and has grown leaps and bounds as a more confident shooter this season at a still-young age of just 18.

Falling: Yves Missi

Current rank: 24 | Previous rank: 16

In a draft short on talent among bigs, Missi might draw some interest after flashing some wow at Baylor as a true freshman. There’s probably a bit more development needed here for him to pay off lottery prices, though. He didn’t shoot 3-pointers in college and hit just 61.6% of his free throws, while committing three times as many turnovers as assists. While he fits the profile of someone I want to bet on – he’s 7-foot with wild athleticism and defensive upside at the center spot that could be game-altering – there are a number of wings and guards who I’d prefer to him at the moment.

Rising: Tristan da Silva

Current rank: 23 | Previous rank: NR  

The Colorado forward will be 23 years old by the time the draft rolls around but da Silva looks like a late riser worthy of watching as this cycle comes to an end. He had a great showing for the Buffs in the NCAA Tournament where he averaged 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and shot 56.3% from 3-point range on 16 attempts. Size, skill and shooting are all in his bag and should be in high demand for teams in the 20s or 30s given his projectable game. 

Falling: Bobi Klintman

Current rank: 30 | Previous rank: 27  

I liked the profile of Klintman coming out of Wake Forest last season and he has done enough to hang around in the top 30 after a fine season in the NBL with Cairns. Still, there’s some holes to poke in his game; he struggled finishing at the rim and lacks strength, which shows up on tape in particular when he works his way into the painted area. His touch on layups and floaters still leaves a bit to be desired. At his size I think there is quite a bit of promise here with the way he can play in transition and put the ball on the floor. Taking him in the top 20, though, where I previously had him, seems a steep price at present for a raw project.

Rising: Dillon Jones

Current rank: 18 | Previous rank: 19  

The more I study this class, the more I think Jones – a product of Weber State – is a top-20 talent. He was a major riser during the NBA Draft Combine last summer before returning to school, and as a junior with the Wildcats, all he did was 

  1. Improve his shot
  2. Improve his passing
  3. Cut down on turnovers, and 
  4. Score it more efficiently on a bigger volume. 

We need not overthink it. He can make plays out of the pick and roll, score out of isolation with his big 6-6 frame and has an advanced IQ to impact winning with passing vision and hustle. There’s a ton of traits but tangible and intangible to like here. 

Falling: Zaccharie Risacher

Current rank: 5 | Previous rank: 2

Risacher’s stock has been up and down the last year yo-yoing somewhere between No. 1 and No. 10 in our ranks, and the latest update in the ranks has him square in the middle. He’s made just seven of his last 33 3-point attempts and struggled for J.L. Bourg the last month. His game is predicated on stretching the floor as a shooter and projecting him to be an impactful defender as a big wing, but it’s hard to buy into him as the top prospect right now in his recent form.

Top 10 prospect rankings

1 Alex Sarr France C 7-1
2 Stephon Castle UConn Fr PG 6-6
3 Nikola Topic Serbia PG 6-6
4 Rob Dillingham Kentucky Fr PG 6-3
5 Zaccharie Risacher France SF 6-9
6 Matas Buzelis G League Ignite PF 6-8
7 Donovan Clingan UConn Soph C 7-2
8 Reed Sheppard Kentucky Fr SG 6-3
9 Ron Holland G League Ignite PF 6-6
10 Isaiah Collier USC Fr PG 6-5

Check out Kyle Boone’s entire Top 50 Big Board of 2024 NBA Draft prospects

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