Once a dream, Ron Holland believes he can be the No. 1 pick in 2024 NBA Draft after season with G League Ignite

The 2023-24 NBA season hasn’t even tipped off, but G League Ignite star Ron Holland has already made a loud statement on the 2024 NBA Draft cycle.

The Ignite unofficially started their season with the G League Fall Invitational against the Perth Wildcats of Australia’s NBL, and Holland left his mark by averaging 28.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 1.5 assists over his first two games.

The 6-8 forward flashed every skill in his arsenal that makes him one of the most promising prospects in this year’s class. He’s known for his energy, intensity and competitive spirit on the defensive end, and Holland used his sharp instincts and 7-foot wingspan to wreak havoc, both on the perimeter and in the paint.

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On offense, he showed that he has already made strides as an on-ball shot creator. He knocked down jumpshots with confidence off the dribble, got downhill and attacked the rim with aggression, and even got to the free throw line 20 times in two games.

In a year where the race for the No. 1 overall pick is seen to be wide open, Holland has already given himself a head start on the competition with instant success at the professional level — and that’s exactly why he felt the G League was the right path for him.

Holland had originally committed to play college basketball at Texas but after head coach Chris Beard was fired following a domestic violence arrest, the 18-year-old elected to re-open his recruitment in April.

“After I had de-committed from Texas, my circle had told me to keep an open mind,” Holland told The Sporting News. “I had come to visit the G League and everything they were telling me when they were recruiting me, I came to see if it was true and it definitely was. And it was a lot more than what I was expecting.”

Holland wanted to choose the best option for his development and since the Ignite’s inception in 2019-20, no program has produced more NBA players than the G League pathway.

“I definitely talked to Scoot [Henderson] a whole bunch about this because he was the most recent guy they had put in the league,” Holland said of the 2023 No. 3 overall pick. “When I talked to him, he was saying everything you could possibly ask for, if [going to the NBA] is what you wanna do, they can supply you with.

“I definitely thought this was the right path to take. Seeing what they did with Jalen Green and all those guys, how they put them in the draft, I was like, ‘this is something I might want to do,’” Holland said. “It’s a pro route, so what better way to teach you to get to the pros than the pro level of basketball?”

Holland is widely considered to be one of the best, most versatile defenders in this year’s draft class. And while he mentioned several times that he’s striving to develop and polish his offensive game, he knows that his defense is what separates him from the pack.

“The main thing with defense is, I really just don’t like losing,” Holland stated with confidence. “I know if I can get my whole team locked in and I’m locked in on defense, that means they can’t score. If they can’t score, they can’t win the game. … It really just comes with the mindset.”

While so many prospects will tell you they love watching prolific scorers like Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant, Holland instead chose to highlight some of his favorite defensive stoppers to mimic his game after.

“I study a lot of Jrue Holiday, one of the best defenders in the league,” Holland told TSN. “Really just how hard he plays on defense and how much he controls the other team’s offense. He knows what the offense is gonna do so he has his guys locked in and lined up, knowing where to be.”

He also mentioned that he sees a similar trajectory for himself as Nets rising star Mikal Bridges.

“Mikal Bridges, before he was an All-Star [caliber player], his job was to guard the best player on offense and hit open shots when it’s time for him to hit open shots,” Holland said. “How he just stays locked in on the ball and embraced his role in making sure if the best player on the other team scores a basket, it’s not easy. How locked in he is on defense is how I’m trying to be.”

Holland emphasized that his versatility is his biggest strength as a prospect, and he strives to excel in his role the same way Bridges has at both stops in his career so far.

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“The more versatile you are, the more valuable you are,” Holland began. “The more versatile you are, the coach can put you in any type of position or have you do anything. It makes the game easier because wherever I put you, I trust you’re going to do your job. I see myself doing that in the league. Wherever I go, I’m going to be able to do my job. I can guard 1-through-5 so it really doesn’t matter and I’m ready to embrace a role.”

Holland spoke on how he has goals to lead the Ignite to a G League championship this season, and he wants to “maintain a weight of 200 to 207” so he can hold his ground as a defender at the NBA level right away. 

But now that the No. 1 pick is in his sights, his dream of simply being drafted has evolved and he’s ready to do the required work to make it happen.

“I really just had a dream of getting drafted but the more I got into it, I was like, ‘Nah, I can really go No. 1 in this thing,’” Holland told TSN. “The more I seen it, the harder I work and it really became a dream. Everything I’ve been doing in the gym, I try and work like this is something I’m really trying to do.”

If the start to his Ignite career is any indication, Holland won’t have to wait very long to hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver call his name next June.

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