The 2024 NBA Draft cycle is starting early this season.
While we have already been able to watch some of the top college prospects make their debuts in offseason tournaments overseas — like Kentucky’s DJ Wagner and USC’s Isaiah Collier — fans in the United States will have the chance to catch future NBA stars in action this week.
NBA G League Ignite is set to host the “G League Fall Invitational” with two matchups against the Perth Wildcats of Australia’s NBL in Henderson, Nev. on Sept. 6 and 8.
The two-game showcase will serve as our first opportunity to watch Ignite’s prospect-loaded roster, including two players in contention for the 2024 No. 1 pick, Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland, and potential top-10 pick Izan Almansa.
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They’ll go head-to-head with a Perth squad that qualified for the NBL Playoffs last season, headlined by three-time NBL MVP Bryce Cotton and NBL Next Stars 2024 NBA Draft prospect Alexandre Sarr.
Buzelis and Holland will both try and make their mark on the newest draft cycle during this showcase, but what is it about Buzelis that has him in contention for the No. 1 pick?
Why G League Ignite’s Matas Buzelis is in contention for No. 1 pick in 2024 NBA Draft
For those of you who are reading about Buzelis for the first time, he was a five-star prospect, McDonald’s All-American and the No. 5 ranked player in the Class of 2023, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.
The 18-year-old Latvian-American had a lengthy list of high-major college offers but elected to pass up schools like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and UCLA to turn pro and take the G League Ignite route.
Standing in at 6-11 and 195 pounds, you would think Buzelis would play in the frontcourt at power forward or center, but he’s a true small forward.
He handles the ball with confidence on the perimeter and is more than capable of creating his own shot off the bounce. He’s already a knockdown 3-point shooter but he can also use his size to his advantage, taking smaller matchups into the post to finish around the rim with coordinated footwork or hit turnaround jumpers with his soft touch.
6’10 5-star Matas Buzelis getting buckets at Nike EYBL KC ???? He recently chose to bypass college to commit to G League Ignite for the 2023-24 season (after his senior year) pic.twitter.com/zyy2ccTic0
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 9, 2022
Defensively, his current build would lend him to taking on perimeter assignments at the next level but with his height and length, he should have no problem marking other frontcourt players once he inevitably puts on some weight.
He still needs to improve his ball-handling and playmaking if he’s going to be a go-to option, and there’s room for him to develop as a defender as he grows into his body, but there is no denying Buzelis’ high ceiling of potential.
He fits the archetype of a versatile two-way player that every team is looking for in today’s NBA. The G League Ignite route just might be the perfect choice for his growth as a prospect, allowing him to put his body to the test against grown men and other pros while spending a full year with NBA-level skill and strength training.
If all goes to plan, Buzelis should find himself in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft next June.
Where to watch G League Ignite vs. Perth
- Date: Wednesday, Sept. 6 and Friday, Sept. 8
- Time: 9 p.m. ET | 6 p.m. PT
- TV channel: NBA TV
- Live stream: Sling TV | NBA App
Both games between G League Ignite and Perth Wildcats will be broadcast on NBA TV and on the NBA App. Sling TV also offers a streaming option.
Fans in the U.S. can watch the G League Fall Invitational games on Sling TV. You can watch some of the top 2024 NBA Draft prospects and stream the sports you love starting at just $15 in your first month with Sling Orange.
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