2024 NBA Draft: Kentucky’s DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards among top prospects in early race for No. 1 pick

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In the NBA Draft class led by the phenom Victor Wembanyama, there was – for a long time, if we’re honest – little debate about who would go No. 1 in the 2023 NBA Draft. But that doesn’t seem to be the case as we look ahead to the 2024 NBA Draft class.

As you’d expect, there are consistently several names that stand out as early contenders to be the top pick in next year’s draft — including Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland. However, even in a class that has been watched a lot over the years, it is far from agreed on who the top names – at least in terms of the order in which they will be drafted and who could be the highest pick – will be exactly when the draft comes around this time next year.

That leaves the race not too early for No. 1 even more attractive. There are actually half a dozen prospects, give or take, who could find their way into the pole position to become the No. 1 prospect in next year’s draft class. So with the 2023 draft behind us and a long runway between now and next year’s draft, below we’ve got the upper hand on the early race with a look at a few names in contention and some dark horses that could join them.

The competitors

Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite

Buzelis isn’t the consensus No. 1 — again, this class is wide open — but he’s No. 1 for me right now. He’s a touch on the older side and will turn 20 as a rookie, but his 6-foot-10 frame and large wingspan fit the archetype of a promising prospect who could be a force playing the league’s most important position.

Ron Holland, G League Ignite

Holland, like the aforementioned Buzelis, will spend next season with G League Ignite honing his skills and challenging for the No. 1 pick. The former five-star recruit finished as the top player in 247Sports’ Class of 2023 recruiting rankings and brings a combo of power and athleticism with his 6-8 frame to boot.

Justin Edwards, Kentucky

What Edwards has already lit up during his brief stint with Kentucky playing in Canada shows he could be the real deal. He finished as the No. 3 player in the class of 2023 and the No. 1 prospect at his position, so it’s not a stretch to see him as a threat to be No. 1, but if you’re making the bull case with him it’s that he’s already shown a ton of ability as a downhill creator and scorer with room to grow into a potential star.

DJ Wagner, Kentucky

The son of former lottery pick Dajuan Wagner – who is also set to play for John Calipari like his pops – is emerging as a top-five pick in next year’s class. He’s a combo guard who lacks elite position size, so of the four prospects listed in this group, I think he’s the least likely to be the top pick. But his scoring and defensive prowess will bring wins to the table, and players who can play his way can bring real value to the table.

Dark horses to watch

Zachary Risacher, JL Bourg

One of the more interesting international players in next year’s pool, interest in Risacher has waned a bit in recent months and he seems (for now) more in the mid-to-late lottery range for me. It’s hard to imagine him falling too far, though, given his youth, 6-9 frame and flashes of potential play in the Pro A and Euroleague.

Isaiah Collier, USC

Collier’s chances of establishing himself as a potential No. 1 option in the coming year won’t be a problem. The USC-bound combo guard will be the centerpiece of a Trojans team that will draw a ton of attention with LeBron James’ son, Bronny James, spending next season at USC. Collier was once considered the No. 1 player in the NBA.

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