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.
This is the third part of a multi-part series covering nearly 40 prospects. You can read the first two entries, which explore the G League Ignite players and some of the NCAA’s most notable returning players.
Duke and Kentucky
Duke and Kentucky continue to dominate the college basketball landscape in terms of recruiting and pumping out NBA talent. Both teams have very talented rosters once again this season and expect to have several first-round draft selections in 2024. Kentucky especially could have quite a few prospects receiving lottery consideration with a loaded recruiting class featuring five top-50 recruits.
Duke returns Tyrese Proctor, a true PG prospect with a high basketball IQ. He is a talented playmaker who can run an offense efficiently while limiting turnovers. At 6-foot-5, he can use his size effectively on both ends of the court giving him value as a versatile on-ball defender. So far this season, Proctor is averaging 9.6 points and is very efficient on two-point attempts at 55.6%. He is also continuing to improve as a shooter, converting on 34.6% on three-point attempts. Most impressively, Proctor averages 4.2 assists per game to only 1.2 turnover.
Jeremy Roach, Caleb Foster, Jared McCain
Proctor will be joined in the backcourt by Jeremy Roach, who is averaging 14.6 points per game this season and has improved his three-point percentage in each season he has been at Duke. They will be backed up by two highly touted incoming freshmen, combo guard Caleb Foster and marksman shooting guard Jared McCain. Both are making the most of their opportunities McCain specifically is off to strong starts to the season shooting the ball beyond the arc, knocking down 46.9%
Like Proctor, Kyle Filipowski is another Duke player who could have been highly drafted a year ago but chose to return to school. Even after averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds per game, there were still plenty of improvements that could be made. So far he has done just that, upping his scoring to 18.2 points per game and improving his three-point percentage up to 41.2% as well as making more of an impact as a shot blocker.
Joining him in the front court will be Mark Mitchell, a 6-foot-9, 232-pound forward who had a strong freshman season, averaging 9 points per game on a 47/35/76 shooting line as well as flashing defensive potential. However, he has struggled to shoot the ball so far this season, making only 12% of his three-point attempts through the first 14 games.
The Wildcats will feature incoming freshmen ranked #3, #4, #6, #16, and #43 overall according to the 247 Composite. Justin Edwards, a 6-foot-7 small forward has struggled to shoot the ball out the gate, averaging 9.1 points and shooting only 27.5% from three. He has begun to slip down the board after the expectation that he could get off to a fast start as a scorer but remains a high-upside prospect worth paying attention to as he develops and adjusts to the college level.
Aaron Bradshaw is an athletic and mobile 7-footer who has flashed the potential to stretch the floor, rebound, and protect the rim. Bradshaw had been out with a foot injury that delayed his debut for Kentucky so he has only played five games this season. In his second game, Bradshaw flashed the upside that made him such a highly touted prospect, putting up 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 7-of-12 shooting, including 1-of-2 from beyond the arc. If he can continue to play at this level, he should be among the top center prospects in the draft.
DJ Wagner is a talented scoring guard and competitive defender, but he will need to improve as a three-point shooter to cement himself among the top of the draft. Through 14 games, Wagner is averaging 12.8 points, 3.5 assists, and 1 steal while shooting 44% from the floor and only 31.3% from three on 3.4 attempts per game. Even if his shooting does not come around, Wagner is a smart guard who takes care of the ball and makes an impact on the defensive end, giving him a fairly high floor.
Coming off the bench as a super 6th man will be Rob Dillingham, a pure point guard with great ball handling and passing ability who has shown he can be a high-level three-point shooter as well. He is very fast but is on the smaller side, which hinders him defensively. Through 12 games, Dillingham has averaged 14.4 points, 4.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 42% from three. While Wagner continues to start over him, Dillingham appears to have taken the lead regarding draft stock.
Reed Sheppard is off to a scorching hot start and has shot up draft boards. The 6-foot-3” freshman combo guard is averaging 12 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.5 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game in 26.5 minutes per game through 15 games with an incredible 59/54/83 shooting line. Sheppard has been very impressive on both ends of the court and has a chance to be one of the best shooters in the draft, as well as an intelligent and pesky defender who excels at forcing turnovers on the defensive end.
Fifth-year senior Antonio Reeves will provide valuable experience and consistency to the young Kentucky backcourt. Reeves is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard who averaged 14.4 points per game last season and shot 39.8% from three. This season, he is off to a fast start, upping his averages to 18.9 points per game on 42.7% from three.