Wednesday, July 17, 2024

2024 NBA Draft true or false: Donovan Clingan worthy of No. 1 overall? Bronny James goes to Lakers at No. 17?

Will the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft be the next Anthony Davis or Anthony Bennett? Is the best shooter in this year’s class from one blueblood school from the Bluegrass State, or a Blue Devil? And is it realistic to expect two-time National Player of the Year Zach Edey to become a starter in the NBA?

We dove into all those — and more — in a roundtable discussion below answering true or false to some of this year’s most polarizing evals. CBS Sports’ Cameron Salerno and 247Sports’ Adam Finkelstein made their cases below to five burning questions I posed in true/false form — and I submitted my own responses as well.

You’ll see there’s a lot of agreement between us and just as much disagreement, which is to be expected in a draft class that remains wide open even with us barreling towards the homestretch of the cycle. Each of us view players and their respective future and current values differently which made for a good temperature check as we get closer to the draft on June 26.

1. True or false: Donovan Clingan is worth the No. 1 pick

Finkelstein: In this draft? True. Clingan is certainly worth exploring and the Hawks are doing just that. The two-time national champ has been in to Atlanta and supposedly had a good workout, which has led to speculation that Atlanta could explore trading down to take him, and picking up another asset in the process. That was essentially Boston’s move back in 2017 when everyone thought Fultz should go one, but they liked Tatum. Indiana did something similar last year when they wanted Jarace Walker and moved back a spot to take him, again picking up another asset in the process. 

Boone: True. If I’m Atlanta I’m not 100% sure he’d be my pick, to be clear. In fact, I view his teammate Stephon Castle as a higher upside swing worthy of being the top pick ahead of Clingan. But the floor and ceiling case for Clingan is obvious: he’s an anchor on the back end of your defense who can change the complexion of how your team defends and plays. Worst-case he’s a starting center. Best-case he might be some iteration of Rudy Gobert. With some questions about other top prospects and how their games might fit in the NBA, Clingan presents safety and upside.

Salerno: False. While Clingan is in contention to be the top selection alongside Alex Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher, I don’t think he’s worth it. Clingan doesn’t have the upside of Sarr. The Hawks would be foolish to pass on him. Could Clingan be the No. 1 pick when it’s all said and done? Maybe. He’s closer to the mid-lottery on my big board because of his lack of versatility. He’s a defensive-first big, which is fine if you want to take him in the middle of the lottery (I had him No. 7 in my first mock draft this cycle) but he’s not worthy of the top pick.

2. True or false: Stephon Castle can play point guard in the NBA

Stephon Castle

UCONN • G • #5

6-6, 210 lbs

Castle is reportedly telling NBA teams he only wants to play point guard at the next level, despite playing off the ball as a freshman.

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Finkelstein: False. Can he? Yes, he probably can. Is that his best, or most natural, position? No it is not. He played with the ball in his hands in high school, but was often UConn’s third ball-handler this year. I’ve never considered him the big point guard that he has been billed as since high school, but his value is having extreme versatility on both ends of the floor, as well as being one of the top perimeter defenders in the class. 

Boone: True. Although, I think this can-he, can’t-he debate on Castle specifically is wasted air. I tend to agree with Fink for the most part. He’s a combo guard who has playmaking ability and profiles as one of the best defenders in the draft. His ceiling outcome based on his physical tools and skills is some version of Jrue Holiday in an ideal world. If you can squeeze that out of him and develop Castle into a consistent shooting threat then in hindsight, the debate on whether Castle was worthwhile of a high pick because of his positional versatility might look silly and shortsighted.

Salerno: False. I don’t understand Castle’s strong desire to play point guard in the NBA when he didn’t play the position at all during his time at UConn. You see it the other way around (a player plays PG in college and a different position in the NBA.) Castle is one of the top defenders in his class and has shown an ability to be a solid distributor, but he’s more of a wing at the next level. For what it’s worth, Castle should be the UConn teammate in contention for the No. 1 pick.

3. True or false: Reed Sheppard is the best shooter in the draft

Reed Sheppard

UK • G • #15

6-3, 181 lbs

After shooting a torrid 52.1% from three-point range as a freshman, is Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard the draft’s best long-range sniper?

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Finkelstein: That’s a loaded question, especially for those of us who watched him in high school, because there’s a big gap between the way he shot it in high school and the way he shot it at Kentucky. He was actually around a 33% career three-point shooter in high school, so the jump we saw this year was shocking. So I’ll just say that I’m more skeptical than most, who only watched him this year, that he’s definitely the best shooter in the draft. 

Boone: Fink, you my friend are a professional hedger. Impressive.

I’ll go with false here. I think the best shooter in the draft is Duke’s Jared McCain. Sheppard’s numbers are laughably good from last season — 100th percentile in jump shots, 99th percentile in catch and shoot, 99th percentile on dribble jumpers, 52.1% on 3s. It’s a joke! But having watched the mechanics on both I think McCain has the skills to be more dynamic as a movement shooter.He really does an excellent job of sprinting to his spots, getting square and firing. Off the catch he keeps it in the shooting pocket then unloads. Reed off the catch isn’t quite as quick and tends to bring it down a bit before unleashing. It’s nitpicking, obviously, but in the NBA those minor details might determine major outcomes.

Salerno: False. I’m siding with Boone. It’s McCain. Dating back to his time in high school and on the AAU circuit, McCain’s greatest strength has been his shooting from distance, and he showed this season why he’s worthy of that distinction. McCain shot 30 of 53 (56.6%) on transition 3-pointers at Duke. The NBA is full of fast-paced offenses, and that skill will translate. 

4. True or false: Bronny will be the No. 17 pick (or a first round pick)

Bronny James

USC • G • #6

6-2, 210 lbs

Will LeBron influence the Lakers — or somebody? — to take his son in the first round?

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Finkelstein: False. No, Bronny will not be a first-round pick. I expect he’ll go 55 to the Lakers. He shouldn’t be picked earlier than that, and if any organization hopes to pick him to get LeBron alongside him, I think Klutch would likely be able to discourage that proactively.

Boone: False. The Lakers go a different direction at No. 17 and Bronny slips out of the first round entirely. I tend to think he still lands with the Lakers but I wouldn’t fault a team in the 30s or 40s willing to take a chance on him with a guaranteed deal. He’s acquitted himself well as a prospect during the pre-draft process and is worth investing in even after a turbulent one season at USC. 

Salerno: False. Let’s be honest here. Bronny James is going to be a Los Angeles Laker. I would be stunned if any other scenario happened on draft night. The Lakers are in win-now mode, so shopping the No. 17 pick makes sense. That would open the door for Los Angeles to pair LeBron with his son by selecting Bronny in the second round. 

5. True or false: Zach Edey will be an NBA starter

Zach Edey

PURDUE • C • #15

7-4, 299 lbs

A historic college player, can Zach Edey’s game translate to the NBA?

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Finkelstein: False. The most likely outcome for Edey is a back-up big, mostly because he can only guard ball-screens in drop coverage, but I don’t think it’s out of the question if he gets on a team that plays that coverage exclusively and they have an opportunity. He’s not a great fit for the NBA game, but his history of continued improvement is something we don’t talk enough about. 

Boone: False. Edey has been a top-30 prospect on my Big Board for a year now so to be clear: I believe in his skill set and think he will be a useful NBA player. You can’t just ignore his size and production at the highest level of the sport. Some of those skills will translate. But some of his weaknesses will be exacerbated in the NBA, too. He’s worth a first-round pick and I’d expect he has a fruitful career as a rotational center who produces for stretches and makes spot-starts from time to time, but is never a full-time starter.

Salerno: False. OK, you have now realized I’ve said false for all five answers. Edey is the most polarizing player in this class because if you asked 10 people where you think he should/will get drafted, you would get a different answer every time. Some aspects of his game should translate to the next level, but I have a hard time believing he will be anything but a role player at the next level — and that’s OK!

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