The G-league Ignite program has been a major new platform for up-and-coming NBA prospects. The program’s purpose is to holistically develop the best prospects worldwide who are looking to prepare for the NBA draft. Playing within the NBA G-league system, there’s an appeal to young talent looking to play against top competition and receive NBA-level training/coaching.
Since its creation in 2020, the program has seen prospects in the top 10 of the last three NBA drafts. These prospects are Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Dyson Daniels, and Scoot Henderson. All play significant roles for their current teams.
This trend of top talent seems to be in great hands once again with the 2024 Ignite class. Let’s look at the G-League Ignite’s NBA hopefuls this season.
2024 NBA Draft Top Prospects: G-League Ignite
1) Ron Holland (#0)
Ron Holland is the first of two premiere prospects, not only within the G-league Ignite but in the entire class. The six-foot-eight wing has a wiry frame and is currently projected to compete for the number one pick in the class.
Holland can impact the game on both ends of the floor and play with incredible energy. He’s a very fluid athlete for his size and should have no trouble athletically when transitioning to the NBA. Holland’s main swing factors will be his three-point shooting and just how much he can create for himself offensively. With flashes such as a 33-point outburst in a preseason game against Perth, Holland has shown his game can reach higher levels.
2) Matas Buzelis (#13)
Buzelis will be in contention for as high as a top-three pick and possibly even number one. This is due to his desirable NBA archetype as a lengthy and versatile offensive scorer. Buzelis stands at six-foot-10 but is a true wing with shooting prowess and a fluid handle. Buzelis can shoot the ball at all three levels, and his athleticism shines in transition.
After playing the preseason game against Perth, there’s a lot more Buzelis wants to show once back in action. Scouts will want to see how Buzelis adapts to the increased physicality and speed of the NBA G-league and if he can hold up as a plus defender with his lean frame. Teams will also want to see Buzelis show more assertiveness on the floor. He was too often just a cog in the offense in his limited action. Once Buzelis is back on the floor, however, he has the talent to answer all his doubts, as he remains a highly touted prospect.
3) Izan Almansa (#33)
Izan Almansa is a six-foot-ten big man for the G-league Ignite by way of the Overtime Elite league, and originally Spain. Almansa is currently most heralded for his high-effort play and skilled finishing on the interior. The big man can be seen finishing lay-ups, floaters, and hooks in the paint regularly. He also isn’t afraid to put the ball on the floor or start the break with a solid handle.
Having won the FIBA U19 World Cup MVP in 2023, Almansa is already a successful young player. He plays with a high IQ and feel for the game that we’re accustomed to from international prospects. Almansa will want to expand his game beyond the paint and show that he can be a more switchable defender. He is not afraid to take the three-point shot or switch on defense, but scouts want to see what level he’s truly on in these two aspects of the game. If Almansa’s efforts prove fruitful, you can expect to see him make a push at being a lottery talent.
4) Tyler Smith (#11)
Tyler Smith is a six-foot-ten forward and the second player to make the jump from the Overtime Elite league. Smith possesses many traits you like to see from an NBA wing. He’s a very fluid and explosive athlete at his size, has good shooting mechanics, and has a solid handle.
From the above, you can gather that Smith passes the eye test. Can he put all his natural abilities together in a defined role and effect winning? Will he be someone who possesses an elite skill, or will he be decent at a variety of skills? These are the questions scouts will want to see Smith answer throughout the season. At this point, the G-League Ignite seems to focus more on using him at the four spot in the rotation as the wings are crowded with the aforementioned Holland and Buzelis.
If Smith can play hard within a defined role and shoot the ball well from the arc, he will continue to climb up draft boards.
5) Thierry Darlan (#84)
Thierry Darlan is a six-foot-eight shooting guard for the G-league Ignite by way of NBA Academy Africa. Darlan is currently a fringe prospect as whatever team that may take him would most likely want to continue to develop his game.
However, Darlan has a great mold to work with as an oversized guard who shows potential in every facet of the game. He has great ball handling for his size, good bounce, and a clean shooting stroke from the spot-up or on the move. Darlan has also shown the ability to be a lead guard at times, making plays for others.
Darlan’s main challenge will be finding positioning and freedom to showcase what he can do while also improving upon it. The Ignite have a crowded roster, and Darlan may not have as much opportunity to build consistency into his game. If Darlan can carve out a role within the Ignite rotation to showcase his skill, he can change the opinion of being a raw prospect into a top prospect.