The NBA season may have just started, but before long we are going to be seeing draft experts hyping up the next class of pro prospects. The college basketball season kicks off next week with blue blood schools getting their warmup games against smaller institutions. Heck, some teams have already been playing in televised scrimmages weeks before the season.
If you’re like me, you might root for your alma mater, but mainly you’re watching to see who will make an impact at the next level. There is a long ways to go until March, but it’s never too early to check in on some of the best players in the NCAA. The San Antonio Spurs have potentially three first round picks in the 2024 NBA Draft, if selections from the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors convey. Even if the young Spurs compete for a playoff spot, they still have a shot at having a high pick in next years draft.
Unlike the 2023 draft, there is no clear cut number one player in 2024. There is a lot of room for a prospect to wow scouts and skyrocket up draft boards. As college basketball kicks off, lets take a look at some of the players Spurs fans should keep an eye on this season.
(NOTE: This list is exclusively college players, so no G League or international prospects like Ron Holland or Alexandre Sarr will be featured.)
Donovan Clingan, Center, University of Connecticut
Let’s start with an NCAA champion. Donovan Clingan wasn’t a starter for the UConn Huskies, but was a key contributor off the bench in their title run. The freshman was stuck behind veteran star Adama Sanogo last year, but showed flashes that make him an intriguing NBA prospect.
Clingan is huge at 7-foot-2, 265 pounds. That size is part of what makes him a strong rim protector at the collegiate level. In just 13 minutes a game, the freshman blocked 1.8 shots a game. He has good instincts and does a good job going vertical and defending without fouling (averaged 1.9 fouls per game last year.) His frame allows him to get great positioning on the boards. He had a 24.7% rebound rate, meaning he grabbed about a quarter of the available rebounds when he was on the floor.
As it stands, Clingan is a rim running, shot blocking big man who won’t space the floor. We need to see him do it consistently in big minutes this year for the Huskies. With a few key contributors from the championship team gone, Clingan should step into a big role.
We’ve seen that Victor Wembanyama is good at disrupting shots all over the floor. He’s been great as a shot blocker on and off of the ball. He’s been playing alongside a big man, and guarding more perimeter players. Clingan would give the Spurs two strong shot blockers, to deter opponents from the paint. There would be some questions on how Clingan fits in offensively, but the defensive potential is endless.
Isaiah Collier, Guard, University of Southern California
All eyes will be on Bronny James at USC this season, but it’s his fellow freshman who may end up higher on draft boards. Isaiah Collier was a hyped guard prospect coming out of high school. He’s a three time state champion and McDonald’s All-American. The 6-foot-5 guard has good size for the position, and is known as a strong passer.
In what seems to be a common player archetype these days, Collier has good feel for the game and high level physical attributes, but has yet to show a consistent three-point shot. He’s creative with the ball in his hands, and is strong enough to finish through contact. He wowed scouts with a 25-point performance in the McDonald’s All-American game, getting to the rim and finishing strong over his peers.
USC is going to be one of the top teams to watch this season. Collier will have the spotlight and could rise to the top of draft boards, if he continues the strong play he’s displayed overseas this summer. The Spurs don’t have many true point guards on the roster, and could use someone at that position who can get to the rim off the dribble and find the open man. Collier could be a fit.
Tyrese Proctor, Guard, Duke
Every year we see someone increase their draft stock at the NCAA Tournament. Tyrese Proctor did himself wonders with his play, but chose to stay at Duke for another season on a stacked roster. The 6-foot-5 combo-guard came alive late in the year for Duke, and scored 16 points in their elimination game against Tennessee, where he looked like one of the best players on the floor.
He found confidence in the second half of the season, getting to the basket more and showing the ability to shoot off the bounce. He scored 9.4 points on 44% shooting from the field and 32% shooting from deep in his freshman season. NBA teams will be looking to see if his shooting continues to improve in his freshman season, and if he can improve as a playmaker in a bigger role. He’ll need to show he can defend at a high level this season as well.
Not the pure point like Collier, but Proctor can fill it up in spurts. He’d provide scoring off the bounce at the guard spot for any team he’s drafted by.
Justin Edwards, Wing, Kentucky
Justin Edwards has all the physical tools to be an NBA player. He’s 6-foot-8 and has good athleticism for his frame. The freshman has more to his game than just an NBA-ready body. He’s got a sweet jump shot from deep and in the mid-range. On a pretty good Kentucky roster, he won’t have to do too much off the dribble. He’ll be an overqualified three and D wing as a freshman.
The Spurs have a lot of wing depth, but in the NBA you can never have enough athletic wings who can shoot and defend. He’s got a lot of potential to be more than just a sweet shooting athletic wing, and it will be fun to watch him develop over the course of the college season.
Trey Alexander, Guard, Creighton
Trey Alexander is a guard who could have gotten drafted in 2023, but decided to come back to school and improve his draft stock. He was lights out as a shooter last season at Creighton. He shot 48.8% on spot up three pointers, 41% from deep overall, and averaged 13.4 points as a Sophomore.
Going into his Junior year for the Bluejays, he is going to be the guy offensively. However, he profiles more as a three-point shooting role player at the next level. With an increased offensive role, Alexander has a chance to show improvement as a shot creator and playmaker for others. At 6-foot-4, he will need to showcase those skills to earn a first round grade.
The Spurs can use more shooting around Wembanyama. Guys like Alexander provide it at a high level, and don’t require the basketball in their hands to be effective.