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NBA Draft Prospects to Watch: Will any G League Ignite players achieve liftoff in the NBA?

Ron Holland shows defensive promise, but the production is leaving questions; and he’s not alone

Austin Spurs v G League Ignite Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

The consensus for the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft is that it is weaker than previous years, lacking a clear No. 1 prospect. That may be true at this point, but in every draft, some great players can change the direction of a franchise; they just have to be identified.

While there is still a long way to go this season, I wanted to highlight some of the best and most-discussed prospects around the world that Detroit Pistons fans should be keeping a close eye on throughout the year who could cement themselves among the top of draft boards with a strong season of play.

There will be nearly 40 prospects discussed in a series of posts over the next few days. We will dive into the G-League Ignite prospects today, and future posts will cover returning NCAA players, players from Duke and Kentucky, some top freshmen and international prospects.

G-League Ignite

The G-League Ignite has proven to be a viable alternative to college basketball for high-level prospects, producing first-round draft picks in Scoot Henderson, Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Dyson Daniels, and MarJon Beauchamp over recent years. The Ignite appear to have two of the top prospects in the upcoming draft once again with forwards Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis, the #2 and #5 overall prospects from the 2023 recruiting class according to the 247 composite rankings.

Ron Holland

Ron Holland has intriguing defensive potential as someone who can guard multiple positions effectively at 6-foot-8 with his combination of length, athleticism, and ability to stay in front of his man. He has been impactful through 21 games on that end, averaging 2.4 steals and 0.9 blocks per game including a 6-steal game and multiple 5-steal games. As a scorer, Holland excels when attacking the basket where he can use his body, athleticism, and touch around the rim to finish effectively, leading to him averaging 17.5 points per game on 44.5% shooting so far this season. His development as a three-point shooter will determine his ultimate ceiling, right now Holland is shooting only 21.4% from three and 75% from the line.

Austin Spurs v G League Ignite Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

Matas Buzelis

Matas Buzelis is a 6-foot-10 forward who is very smooth offensively and has a nice jump shot with a high release point, making his shot difficult for defenders to contest. However, he has struggled from beyond the arc in his 15 games thus far for the Ignite, shooting only 21.8% on 3.7 attempts per game. This must improve to fully actualize his value as a scorer. He is currently averaging 12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. With his slender frame, Buzelis will likely have an adjustment to make with the increase in physicality and athleticism of the league, as well as work to do on the defensive end but is an intriguing offensive prospect nonetheless.

Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith has done well to begin the season, averaging 13.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 21.9 minutes while shooting 47/38/68. The 6-foot-11, 224-pound forward is a great athlete who can impact the game with put-backs and as a lob threat. He has the tools to be an impactful defender but must continue to improve on that end of the court. The flashes are there. Through 21 games, he has recorded a four-block game and multiple three-block games, as well as six games with multiple steals. Perhaps the biggest question with Smith is what position he will be best fit to play at the NBA level.

Izan Almansa

Representing Spain, Izan Almansa’s impressive stretch of play led to him winning both the FIBA U17 World Cup MVP and the FIBA U18 European Championship MVP in 2022 as well as winning the FIBA U19 World Cup MVP in 2023, winning one silver and two gold medals. Almansa is a 6-foot-10, 215-pound power forward who played for the Overtime Elite program for the last two seasons before making the jump to the G-League. He is a very strong rebounder with good touch around the basket. On defense, he is somewhat inconsistent but moves well and has shown potential to make a difference as a rim protector. So far this season, Almansa is averaging 10 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 0.8 steals in 27.1 minutes per game for the Ignite.