NBA Draft 2024: Low on Hype, but High on Vibes

When discussing this year’s NBA draft, it feels right to begin with an honest acknowledgement. To borrow from Rick Pitino, Victor Wembanyama is not walking through that door. Anthony Davis is not walking through that door. LeBron James is not walking through that door. That is to say, there was no player whose arrival will change the entire fabric of the league, at least not right away.

While the night lacked the instant star power of a Wemby or LeBron, there were still moments that even someone who knows nothing about the NBA could appreciate. Three sets of teammates—Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham from the University of Kentucky, Stephon Castle and Donovan Clingan from the University of Connecticut, and Ron Holland II and Matas Buzelis from G League Ignite—were chosen in the top 11. That made for a lot of familiarity in the post-draft media room, where many of the daps seemed to produce a sonic boom.

Holland, the new Detroit Piston, was eager to praise Buzelis, even though he’s now with division rival Chicago. “I’m super proud of Matas, knowing him since high school and what we went through with Ignite.” (G League Ignite was an official feeder program to the NBA that allowed players to bypass college in favor of turning professional right out of high school, but the team lost 32 of their 34 games this season and was shut down in March.) “Staying mentally healthy throughout the whole season was really draining. Me and him had each other’s backs. Like I said, I’m super proud of him. We both just reached our dream.”

For Buzelis—who last summer told GQ that basketball is like a drug to him—that dream will begin in his own backyard. Growing up in Willowbrook, Illinois, the Chicago Bulls were a massive presence in his life. And even though he had to watch 10 other picks before it was his turn, ending up with the hometown squad was a fantasy-turned-reality. “I was getting a little nervous,” he admits. “But when they said I was going to Chicago…that was good.” Dillingham admitted he was totally surprised by where he ended up, because unlike some of his draft mates, who built relationships with their new employer over the last couple months, he had zero communication with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who landed him in a trade with the Spurs. “I ain’t gonna lie,” he said, giggling, “I didn’t talk to Minnesota at all!”

It’s moments like these, where these mammoth, athletic specimens are reduced to simplistic, twinkle-in-the-eye answers, that you’re stricken by how young they are. Folks, there will be dudes playing NBA games in a few months who were born in 2005. While hearing Buzelis say he grew up watching Derrick Rose adds an extra wrinkle or two, as did a few of them listing Kevin Durant as their personal GOAT, the most precious reminder of youth was when one player was asked which WNBA players he admires and responded with, “I have a girlfriend.”

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