NBA mock draft: Who might the Utah Jazz target in the lottery?

Big man Alexandre Sarr is still favored to go No. 1, but this year’s lottery is unpredictable.

With the 2024 NBA draft fast approaching, activity is heating up around the NBA.

The combines, individual pro days and interview periods have come and gone. Front offices are now convening and beginning to outline their individual big boards, schedule in-person workouts and finalize their background research. Because of how wide open this draft class is being considered, conversations around the league about potential trading within the lottery begin to increase in level of seriousness and intent.

Between now and June 26, some more movement among player rankings isn’t only a possibility but a certainty. Teams that may be fixated on the best player available may shift towards plugging roster holes and vice versa. The draft is equal parts crapshoot and a fluid process.

But how will everything shake out on draft night? Is Alexandre Sarr still considered the favorite to go No. 1 to the Atlanta Hawks? In version 2.0 of our mock draft, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko, James L. Edwards III and Josh Robbins got together to hammer out the entire lottery.

1. Atlanta Hawks

Alexandre Sarr | 7-0 big | 19 years old | Perth Wildcats

For the record, if I were running the Hawks, I’d call San Antonio and try to trade this pick for No. 8 and get control back of my 2025 and 2026 first-round picks. If the Spurs agreed, I’d then trade Trae Young, Dejounte Murray and Clint Capela this summer, acquire a crap ton of assets and tank next season for Cooper Flagg and Co.

The Hawks’ first-round picks in 2025 and 2026 have more value to Atlanta than San Antonio as the Hawks are somewhat forced to try and be good the next few seasons because they don’t own their own picks as part of the Murray trade a few seasons ago. Getting those picks back would give Atlanta some serious optionality.

But I’m not running the Hawks and we can’t make trades in this mock, so I’m going with Sarr, who I believe has the best combination of size, length and skills in this meh draft. If all breaks right, Sarr could be an elite floor-spacing, shot-blocking big man. — Edwards

2. Washington Wizards

Zaccharie Risacher | 6-8 wing/forward | 19 years old | JL Bourg

(AP) Zaccharie Risacher, of Bourg-en-Bresse, dribbles during a Betclic Elite basketball game against Limoges in Bourg-en-Bresse, eastern France, on Oct. 31, 2023. Risacher could be the top pick in the June 26, NBA draft.

If I were in the Wizards’ shoes, I’d attempt to trade the second and 26th picks to the Hawks for the top pick and then draft Sarr.

But if Washington can’t move up to No. 1 or if Sarr is off the board when Washington drafts second, I think Washington would draft Risacher. Risacher has size, measuring 6-8 1/2 without shoes, and he also has a strong feel for the game on both ends.

Risacher also displayed promise as a long-range shooter early and late during the 2023-24 season.

Is Risacher a perfect prospect? No. I’d be concerned that he managed low vertical leaps during combine testing. But unfortunately for Washington, the 2024 draft has an alarming lack of can’t-miss prospects. –Robbins

3. Houston Rockets (from Brooklyn Nets)

Stephon Castle | 6-6 wing | 19 years old | Connecticut

UConn's Stephon Castle shoots as Stonehill's Todd Brogna defends in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The Rockets’ brass met this week and are still open to a number of possibilities with the No. 3 pick — including paying close attention to the superstar market in hopes of a trade — but should they hold steady, Castle feels like the organizational synergy pick.

The Connecticut wing’s size, upside and positional versatility strongly correlate with general manager Rafael Stone’s draft history, and Castle’s defensive acumen and penchant for making winning plays aligns with head coach Ime Udoka’s philosophy. Houston is also in the business of shoring up their playmaking, with free agent Aaron Holiday’s future in doubt after he had a solid year.

Castle’s shooting in college, long-term projections and ability to play point guard will all play a part in the Rockets’ evaluation of the wing. What is his actual position? Castle has been quite vocal about his capabilities as a lead ballhandler, which has influenced his pre-draft visits, but that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things — you go where you are drafted.

I gave some consideration to Reed Sheppard here simply because of his elite shooting and solid playmaking, but Castle’s wide-ranging skill set and intangibles are too much to pass on, especially with the bulk of Houston’s rotation already set in stone. The Rockets might boast the best defensive second unit in the league with Castle alongside the likes of Amen Thompson, Tari Eason and Steven Adams. — Iko

4. San Antonio Spurs

Matas Buzelis | 6-9 wing/forward | 19 years old | G League Ignite

FILE - Sunrise Christian's Matas Buzelis (13) plays against Montverde during a high school basketball game at the Hoophall Classic, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, in Springfield, Mass. Buzelis is positioned to be one of the top NBA draft prospects for next year. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)

It was surprising to see the Spurs relegate Keldon Johnson to a bench role last season. In a vacuum, he is the type of player you want to surround Victor Wembanyama with — a multi-positional, three-level scoring wing with some playmaking chops. It’s no surprise that San Antonio’s best performing unit by a wide margin had Johnson in it (+20.8 net rating, with Wembanyama, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan) compared to the exact same lineup with Julian Champagnie (+3.3 net rating).

I say this only because I see some Johnson (as well as hints of Chandler Parsons) in Matas Buzelis. Not in terms of size — Buzelis is three inches taller — but in the way both players operate in the half court. He’s the prototypical combo frontcourt player you would want next to Wembanyama, someone who can put the ball on the floor and create for himself and others, space and score. Buzelis is also a tough competitor and a willing defender, which lends well to what direction the Spurs want to go. Having watched a plethora of Buzelis’ jumpers, I have confidence in the form and think he’ll be at least a league average shooter in the long run. — Iko

5. Detroit Pistons

Cody Williams | 6-7 wing | 19 years old | Colorado

Colorado forward Cody Williams, right, shoots in front of Richmond center Neal Quinn (32) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

While it’s tough to get an idea of what Detroit might do here make the pick or trade it because it just hired a new president of basketball operations in Trajan Langdon, the type of player coveted might be somewhat obvious. If you look at how Langdon and his former team, the New Orleans Pelicans, drafted over the last few seasons, there was an attraction to tall, long wings with shooting upside and legitimate switchability on defense.

To me, Cody Williams is the closest to that archetype available at No. 5. The Pistons recently worked out Matas Buzelis, league sources tell The Athletic, which could mean something or nothing at all, but Williams feels like a Langdon-type player based on who is available in this draft and what the Pelicans coveted in prospects.

The 6-foot-6 wing with a 7-foot-1 wingspan has a lot of intriguing qualities about him, despite an underwhelming freshman season at Colorado. For starters, Williams has great versatility as a defender due to his length and alertness. Secondly, on offense, Williams’ long arms allows him to finish in a variety of ways. He’s not an explosive leaper by any means, but he is crafty when around the rim.

How Williams’ 3-point shooting translates will be the biggest mystery surrounding him. He shot 41.5 percent from 3 on the year. However, he attempted just 41 3s the entire season. There is some point-forward potential to him, too, as he makes quick reads and has a decent handle.

His shooting will help determine how impactful Williams could be as a lead ballhandler. When evaluating him heading into the NBA, there are flashes of Herb Jones as a prospect that could be applied. — Edwards

(Williams averaged 11.9 points, three rebounds and 1.6 assists in his lone season with the Buffs: Darren Yamashita / USA TODAY Sports)

6. Charlotte Hornets

Donovan Clingan | 7-2 center | 20 years old | Connecticut

UConn's center Donovan Clingan (32) looks to shoot over New Hampshire forward Clarence Daniels, right, as New Hampshire forward Jaxson Baker, left, defends in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

You cannot teach size, and Clingan has size in abundance. He has the potential to shut down the paint, and the Hornets, who ranked 29th in defensive rating last season, need defensive skill to complement their top perimeter players, LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller. If Clingan meets expectations, he will become a long-term NBA starter at center in the mold of Brook Lopez — a massive body who excels in drop coverage and ultimately develops a 3-point shot.

At UConn, Clingan proved he can be a high-level contributor on a winning team. Even if he’ll need some time in the NBA to figure things out and to adjust to the speed of the game, that’s OK because any short-term growing pains could lead to better lottery odds for next year’s loaded draft. — Robbins

7. Portland Trail Blazers

Dalton Knecht | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Tennessee

Syracuse forward Maliq Brown (1) and Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht (3) go for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

After the top five, rebuilding teams who project to finish in the lottery for the next few years should look for talent over positional need. For Portland, I’m going with Knecht, the athletic bonafide scorer with legitimate shooting range to complement Portland’s backcourt of the future in Scoot Henderson and Anfernee Simons.

Knecht had an impressive showing at the draft combine, making it clear that his skill set is easily translatable to the next level. For a Portland team that finished at the bottom in nearly every three-point shooting category, it’s a hand-in-glove fit. Knecht connected on 40 percent of his 3s and took nearly seven attempts a night. His combination of volume and efficiency pairs well with the young, talented scorers in Henderson and Simons. — Iko

8. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors)

Devin Carter | 6-2 guard | 22 years old | Providence

(Mary Altaffer | AP) Providence guard Devin Carter shoots from 3-point range during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Marquette in the semifinals of the Big East men's tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in New York.

The more I watch Devin Carter, the more I think of Derrick White. This selection may be a tad higher for Carter than what other mocks have yielded, but this feels like the player we all come back to in five years and see being mentioned in All-Defense conversations. He’s that impactful on that end of the floor and is a throwback to what the Spurs culture was built on (not to mention he’s the son of Anthony Carter, who played in San Antonio once upon a time).

Offensively, I put a lot of stock in Carter’s constant improvement as a shooter, from just 26.7 percent from 3 to 37.7 this past season. San Antonio likes players with experience and Carter staying in college for three years speaks to his dedication to growth and development. It’s no surprise that Carter impressed in a private workout for the Spurs this past week, according to league sources.

Could Carter play alongside the also undersized Jones? Carter’s decision-making at times and poor assist-to-turnover ratio gives me pause, but if he’s an off-ball two-way option, there’s a lot to like. — Iko

9. Memphis Grizzlies

Reed Sheppard | 6-2 guard | 20 years old | Kentucky

Kentucky's Reed Sheppard (15) shoots an open 3-point basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against New Mexico State in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Sheppard falling to the Grizzlies would be close to a dream scenario. Marcus Smart is a starter alongside Ja Morant, and with all due respect to Derrick Rose, that’s not getting it done in the Western Conference. Memphis needs to add shooting, a capable deputy ballhandler and then some more shooting.

Sheppard isn’t a complete defender by any means and has a ways to go improving his positioning and physicality, but his instincts mesh well with head coach Taylor Jenkins’ love for hustle and grit. Grabbing Sheppard now also makes the decision to move on from Luke Kennard easier, especially given how dangerously close Memphis would be to the luxury tax and first apron if the Grizzlies retain the veteran shooter. — Iko

10. Utah Jazz

Nikola Topić | 6-6 lead guard | 18 years old | Crvena zvezda

(AP) Red Star's Nikola Topic, right, drives to the basket during the Euroleague basketball match between Red Star and Partizan, in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. The 6-6 guard is a super passer with great vision and size to see over defenders. He also has the strength to get into the lane and can finish strong at the rim. Topic isn't much of a 3-point shooter, but can control a game without shooting. One issue that may dissuade teams from taking him so high: Medical tests showed he has a partially torn ACL in his left knee, which he injured twice last season in Europe

I’m not sure if Topić makes it to No. 10 when the actual draft rolls around, but his recent injury news sure makes it more likely.

Topić, a big point guard with passing chops and the ability to get two feet in the paint whenever he wants, would feel like a home run for the Jazz, who could use precisely that type of player. Topić will be a legit table-setter for the next decade if his health cooperates.

There are concerns that Topić played in just 13 games in the Adriatic League, which isn’t a top-tier league. He won’t be an easy evaluation for NBA folks, but surely has some tantalizing parts of his game. — Edwards

11. Chicago Bulls

Ron Holland | 6-7 wing | 18 years old | G League Ignite

Holland would give Chicago a potentially elite tone-setter on the defensive end, someone whose motor never stops. That aspect of Holland’s game is a sure thing, and at No. 11 in a weak draft, I would think the Bulls would jump at the chance to add someone who has those skills. Make no mistake — a high motor is a skill.

There are questions about the rest of Holland’s game: his efficiency, his shooting and his on-court decision-making. But that’s what player development is for, and it would be on the Bulls and on Holland himself to make those gains in the years ahead. — Robbins

(Holland averaged 20.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Ignite this season.: Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports)

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Rockets)

Tidjane Salaun | 6-9 wing/forward | 18 years old | Cholet

Cholet's Tidjane Salaun holds the ball during the Betclic Elite match against Strasbourg, March 13, 2024, in Strasbourg, France. Salaun is a possible pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

First off, if I were OKC, I’d call Detroit and try to move up to No. 5 for Clingan. Failing that, I’m going to go with a high-upside swing for the Thunder in Salaun.

Rapidly rising Oklahoma City doesn’t need a rookie who can contribute right away and Salaun has one of the highest ceilings in this draft if all breaks right. The Frenchman checks a lot of boxes that the Thunder covet in a prospect — smart, high motor and the ability to be a dribble-pass-shoot guy at the next level if he continues on this trajectory. Salaun has a smooth shooting stroke that I feel confident will translate to above-average 3-point numbers in the NBA. I have questions about him as a legitimate self-creating ballhandler.

There’s a chance Salaun goes as high as No. 7 in this draft. There has been a lot of talk about his upside and the more I dive into his film, the more I’m intrigued. — Edwards

13. Sacramento Kings

Rob Dillingham | 6-1 guard | 19 years old | Kentucky

Kentucky's Rob Dillingham (0) looks to pass the ball around Saint Joseph's Erik Reynolds II (2) and Christ Essandoko, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

I acknowledge that the Kings need help to claw their way back into the playoff picture in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. In order to address an immediate need, Sacramento attempting to trade the draft rights to a player it selects here would make sense. (Keep in mind that the Kings owe the Hawks a first-round pick, top-12 protected for 2025 and top-10 protected for 2026, so the Kings’ cupboard of future first-round picks that could be traded isn’t as full as they would like.)

But for the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume here that Sacramento will retain the draft rights to whomever it picks 13th. In that case, Dillingham would be an intriguing prospect. If Malik Monk leaves in free agency, Dillingham could provide some scoring punch. If Monk re-signs with the Kings, then Dillingham could learn from one of the league’s best sixth men. — Robbins

14. Portland Trail Blazers (via Warriors)

Jared McCain | 6-2 guard | 20 years old | Duke

This is strictly the best player available, and I’d rather get McCain, an electric scorer and plus rebounder at his position with a solid handle, than a big like, say, Duke’s Kyle Filipowski. I also think Malcom Brogdon’s days as a Trail Blazer are numbered and there’s much more appeal for him on a veteran contender than a rebuilding franchise — and I’m not entirely sold on Rayan Raupert.

Portland needs an upgrade in shooting desperately and McCain converted more than 41 percent of his 3s on six attempts per game. If you closed your eyes and imagined a world where Portland added two elite shooters (Knecht and McCain) that were also versatile, athletic scorers, I would consider that a win on draft night. — Iko

This article originally appeared in The Athletic.