Best and Worst Landing Spots for Projected 2024 NBA Lottery Picks

Zach LogoFeatured Columnist IVJune 9, 2024

Best and Worst Landing Spots for Projected 2024 NBA Lottery Picks

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 12 : Alex Sarr poses for a photograph during the 2024 NBA Draft Lottery on May 12, 2024 at McCormick Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

    Most NBA draft discourse revolves around the incoming prospects and what they can provide to their potential employers.

    There is another side to these relationships, though, and it isn’t talked about enough.

    Just like prospects have things to offer NBA franchises, teams have things they give back to these players. From coaching staffs and play styles to personnel groups and timelines to compete, there are a number of different items that could make one possible landing spot more or less favorable than the next.

    We’ll get into more specifics here while highlighting the best and worst potential landing spot within the reasonable draft ranges of eight projected lottery picks.

Matas Buzelis, SF, G League Ignite

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    HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL - MARCH 1: Matas Buzelis #13 of the G League Ignite shoots a free throw during the game against the Windy City Bulls on March 1, 2024 at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best fit: San Antonio Spurs

    Any prospect should be excited at the idea of linking up with Victor Wembanyama, but Buzelis’ fit with the big fella could be better than most. If his shooting comes alive at this level—he’d be in great hands with San Antonio’s developmental staff—he could allow the Spurs to play enormous without sacrificing spacing, creation or open-floor athleticism.

    Even in Buzelis’ best-case scenarios, he’s still filling a complementary role, meaning he has a chance to really shine alongside a mega-talent like Wembanyama. Buzelis is a smart mover off the basketball, so he could punish teams for paying too much attention to the big fella. In return, Wembanyama’s supreme paint protection would alleviate concerns with Buzelis’ ability to contain dribble penetration.

    Worst fit: Charlotte Hornets

    As a big wing with few glaring weaknesses in his game, there isn’t really an awful fit for Buzelis. Heading down to Buzz City would be less than optimal, though.

    Buzelis is unproven as a shooter, so there will be a worry if he winds up with a non-spacing center like Mark Williams. Buzelis counts playmaking as one of his greatest strengths, and you wonder how much he could show that in Charlotte, where LaMelo Ball just posted a usage rate that would’ve ranked second overall if he qualified (34.3 percent), and Brandon Miller could be poised to handle more on-ball responsibilities as a sophomore.

Stephon Castle, PG/SG, UConn

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    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - APRIL 08: Stephon Castle #5 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after beating the Purdue Boilermakers 75-60 to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship game at State Farm Stadium on April 08, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

    Chris Coduto/Getty Images

    Best fit: Utah Jazz

    It would take a bit of a draft slide for Castle to slip to the No. 10 spot, but at least he’d enjoy a soft landing in Salt Lake City. His two-way playmaking is built to enhance good players around him, and the Jazz already have one star in Lauri Markkanen and could be hunting for another.

    Utah has looked to maximize shooting in the frontcourt, so if Castle’s needs time to develop, this offense should have sufficient spacing anyway. He would also benefit from having extra creators around him, and the Jazz have plenty of playmaking between Keyonte George, Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson.

    Worst fit: Detroit Pistons

    Shooting shortages would make it really tricky for Castle to find his fit, and they don’t get much more dire than they are in Detroit. Of the eight Pistons who cleared 1,000 minutes this season, only two topped the league-average splash rate of 36.6 percent: Isaiah Stewart, who never strays far from the rumor mill, and Marcus Sasser, who primarily handled spark-plug duties as a rookie.

    Detroit’s starting five often featured two total non-factors from three: Jalen Duren, who is 0-of-6 from range over two seasons, and Ausar Thompson, whose 18.6 three-point percentage was second-worst ever for a player with 100-plus attempts. Castle’s presence would only create more congestion, and the Pistons might not even reap the rewards of his playmaking if they keep running the bulk of their offense through Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.

Donovan Clingan, C, UConn

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    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - APRIL 08:  Donovan Clingan #32 of the Connecticut Huskies looks on during the National College Basketball Championship game against the Purdue Boilermakers at State Farm Stadium on April 08, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Best fit: Charlotte Hornets

    While the Grizzlies have a great argument for this distinction, what they don’t have is a high enough draft pick to get Clingan. Maybe they can make a trade to change that, but until that happens, dissecting the potential fit feels like a waste of energy.

    So, we’ll side with the Hornets instead. Yes, they already have a starting center in Mark Williams, but he has played 62 games in two seasons. He may not be a massive obstacle to clear if Clingan reaches his potential. The Hornets need his paint presence—they were 26th in shooting percentage allowed within five feet—and could feed him a steady diet of point-blank scoring chances created by the likes of LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller.

    Worst fit: Houston Rockets

    The Rockets are a defense-first team with fairly significant offensive limitations. Clingan is a defense-first prospect with limited offensive utility away from the basket. Bird’s-eye take, there is too much overlap between them and not enough covering for the other’s weakness.

    Dig deeper into the fit, and you’ll see the Rockets don’t have an opening at the 5, where ascending star Alperen Şengün just ranked second on the squad in minutes, shots and assists. You’ll also notice Houston is already squeezed for spacing and could get even more cramped as it expands the role for non-shooting playmaker Amen Thompson.

Ron Holland, SF, G League Ignite

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    HENDERSON, NV - JANUARY 29: Ron Holland #0 of G League Ignite  dribbles the ball during the game against the Oklahoma City Blue on January 29, 2024 at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

    David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best fit: Memphis Grizzlies

    In a perfect world, Holland would wind up somewhere with spacers in its frontcourt and enough win-now talent to not need instant contributions from him. The Grizzlies check both boxes, since they have Jaren Jackson Jr. as their floor-spacing 5 and a roster that, assuming good health for Ja Morant, could be in position to contend as soon as next season.

    Memphis would only need as much from Holland as he is currently able to provide, but if he’s more ready than expected, he wouldn’t encounter major roadblocks on the wings. The Grizzlies’ need for an impact two-way wing stretches back to their grit-and-grind days, and if Holland polishes the roughest parts of his game, he could finally fill that void.

    Worst fit: Detroit Pistons

    Holland’s ceiling arguably stretches as high as any in the draft, but he is basically starting from the ground floor with regard to his shooting, handling and decision-making. It will take the right developmental environment to bring out his best, and Detroit—how do we put this?—hasn’t exactly nailed many player-development projects of late.

    Holland would benefit from landing in a functional offensive system that doesn’t need too much from him right away. The Pistons had this season’s fourth-worst offense, and they’re desperate to find a difference-maker capable of getting out of this rut. Detroit can also ill-afford more shaky shooters in its rotation, and Holland will carry that very reputation into the league.

Dalton Knecht, SG/SF, Tennessee

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MARCH 31: Dalton Knecht #3 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates a three point basket against the Purdue Boilermakers during the first half in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Little Caesars Arena on March 31, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

    Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

    Best fit: Portland Trail Blazers

    Normally, teams wouldn’t be enthused about turning a 61-loss season into a 23-year-old prospect, but the Blazers might have a different view. For starters, they might be aiming to compete sooner than people. They’ve also taken a few massive swings on upside lately with Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe, and they might see a relatively safe prospect as an investment in those players’ development.

    Portland is deep in the backcourt, but things thin out on the wing pretty quickly. In other words, Knecht may not have a ton of trouble finding his way to significant minutes, especially since the Blazers need spacers in the worst kind of way (28th in made threes, 30th in three-point percentage). And if Portland happens to plunge deeper into a rebuild, Knecht is young enough to keep around for whatever comes next.

    Worst fit: Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls have a standing need for shooting, plus a stubborn commitment to this win-now core that actually doesn’t have what it needs to win now. It feels very possible that the Bulls could talk themselves into taking Knecht if he’s still on the board at No. 11.

    He can’t fix what they need, and they can’t provide the defensive protection that would really benefit him. And since the Bulls’ top scorers are also their best ball-handlers—Coby White, Zach LaVine (if he isn’t traded), DeMar DeRozan (if he re-signs)—they may not seek out catch-and-fire attempts for Knecht the way a more traditional table-setter would.

Zaccharie Risacher, SG/SF, JL Bourg-en-Bresse

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    PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 28: Zaccharie Risacher of Bourg en Bresse Basket looks on during the Betclic Elite match between Paris and Bourg en Bresse Basket at Adidas Arena on April 28, 2024 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

    Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

    Best fit: Atlanta Hawks

    If Risacher really is cemented in a two-player tier at the top of this draft, then the only possibilities here are the Hawks and the Wizards. And while the District might have some take-the-keys-to-the-castle appeal, Atlanta would offer the chance to fill a significant role without asking him to provide more than he’s capable of giving.

    If there’s a knock on Risacher, it might be the lack of a skyscraping ceiling, but his appeal as a 6’9″ three-and-D wing is essentially universal in the modern NBA. A big wing who spaces the floor and silences opposing scorers would be a dream get for the Hawks, who’d help ease some of the concerns with Risacher’s creation ability since he’d have at least one of Trae Young or Dejounte Murray finding him shots.

    Worst fit: Washington Wizards

    There is nothing inherently wrong with Risacher joining the Wizards. There would be some fun ways to build this roster around the length and versatility of Risacher, Bilal Coulibaly and Deni Avdija, and Washington should be more than patient enough to give itself a real chance of getting it right.

    The worry, though, is there isn’t a centerpiece talent in that mix, and you wonder if Wizards fans would expect that out of Risacher if he arrived as the No. 2 pick. This is the earliest Washington has drafted since taking John Wall first overall in 2010. There might be hopes of this pick delivering a similarly transformational talent, and Risacher seems like he might top out as a really good support player but not a cornerstone.

Alex Sarr, PF/C, Perth Wildcats

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    PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 08: Alex Sarr of the Wildcats warms up before game one of the NBL Semifinal series between Perth Wildcats and Tasmania Jackjumpers at RAC Arena, on March 08, 2024, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    Paul Kane/Getty Images

    Best fit: Atlanta Hawks

    While Sarr could find a bigger opportunity elsewhere—the Hawks still have Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu in their power rotation—this would be the best spot for gradually growing his offensive game. Sarr has flashed some ball skills both with his handling and passing, but he’ll basically be a play-finisher early on and would benefit from having plays set up for him by Trae Young and/or Dejounte Murray.

    Long-term, Atlanta should have an opening for a franchise talent in the frontcourt, as Capela feels perpetually linked to the trade market, and Okongwu has yet to secure a starting spot. If Sarr maxes out as a do-it-all defender who can finish, create and shoot, he could be their building-block big man.

    Worst fit: Washington Wizards

    Worst is a relative term here, as we’re working under the assumption Sarr’s draft range doesn’t fall outside of the top two. So, if the choice is between the Hawks and the Wizards, Washington seems like the least favorable situation.

    The blank-slate state of this roster would offer Sarr seemingly limitless opportunities, but it would also do nothing to shield the limitations in his game. He wouldn’t have top-shelf playmakers setting the table for him, nor high-end scoring options drawing defensive attention away from him. Even worse, Washington’s 28th-ranked defense might have too many leaks for even him to cover up.

Reed Sheppard, PG/SG, Kentucky

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    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 15: Reed Sheppard #15 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 15, 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Best fit: Houston Rockets

    The Rockets might be one offensive jolt away from pushing for a prime playoff spot in the West, and Sheppard could be a big step in that direction. He is arguably the draft’s best shooter (52.1 percent from three at Kentucky), meaning he’d address this attack’s biggest weakness. In addition, he’d also supply secondary playmaking, a great motor and more bounce than you usually see from a three-point gunner.

    As for what Houston could give Sheppard, the Rockets could clear him a reserve role for now with a chance to grow into something even greater. Long-term, there’s plenty to like on-paper with a Sheppard-Amen Thompson pairing, with the former supplying spacing and the latter delivering defensive versatility and off-the-dribble creation.

    Worst fit: Portland Trail Blazers

    The Blazers might have a pressing need for perimeter shooting, but they don’t need more guards. Especially not ones who stand just 6’2″ and come with all of the defensive concerns that lack of size elicits.

    Even if Malcolm Brogdon isn’t a long-term keeper for the Blazers, Anfernee Simons could be and Scoot Henderson definitely is until proven otherwise. Simons and Henderson, for the record, each stand just 6’3″. They are two of the most important players on the roster, and Sheppard could have trouble lining up alongside either one. That feels like a deal-breaker.

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