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P.I. [Draft] Pulse: Who Has Asserted Themselves in the Draft Conversation?

NBA Academy forward Ulrich Chomche. Credit: NBA Academy

The 2024 NBA draft process has already been noted by NBA personnel as one of the more challenging in recent memory. Heading into February, boards are stacked full of polarizing prospects with little resembling a consensus at the top, or throughout. In such a wide open class with a perceived lack of bonafide stars, teams are hunting unique sleepers, proven value propositions, and steady role players that could provide some return on investment early.

In that spirit, in the latest addition of “P.I. Pulse”, Pro Insight’s Alex Brown and Zach Welch analyzed a group of prospects who have risen into the NBA draft conversation for their play thus far.

*All statistics are as of February 3rd, 2024

Devin Carter

6’3” Guard | Junior | Providence | 21.9 Years Old

Season Stats: 18.7 PPG (48.1 / 35.9 / 69.8) 8.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 2.6 TOPG, 2.1 FPG

While Devin Carter has long been known as a pesky defender, his improved offensive impact with substantially increased responsibility has caught the eyes of NBA teams. Operating under first-year head coach Kim English, Carter has arguably been the most impactful player for the Friars on both ends, stepping into his greater offensive role in stride and demonstrating that he offers a versatile, unique and coveted value prop at the next level.

Diving into that jump he’s made on the offensive end, he is one of their highest usage scorers now and is operating with his best career efficiency, by far. He is most valuable as an off-ball shooter, with comfort well beyond NBA range and efficiency on a high volume (41.2% on 4.0 C&S 3PA per game). This is a major step up from last season (32.4% on 2.1 C&S 3PA per game) and demonstrating that this shooting development is legit will be huge for Carter. He is learning to leverage his newfound shooting gravity to attack the basket, both against closeouts and out of simple PnR sets and has been uber effective at the rim, as well, shooting 69% on such attempts, despite being a largely below-the-rim finisher. NBA evaluators will likely raise questions about his role and usage projection on the offensive end at the next level, however, due to his lack of true guard skills. His skillset is far more congruent with that of a wing than that of a point guard. He lacks an elite handle and his decision making and passing accuracy both stand to improve, as evidenced by his mere 1.3 A:TO ratio.

Providence guard Devin Carter. Credit: Providence Athletics

Carter has always been a defense-first player and has been one of the bigger pests on that end since his freshman season with South Carolina. He slides well laterally, steers opposing ball handlers with his chest, has quick hands, and has a great feel for screen navigation. He is equally impactful off the ball, being able to stick with his man well, while offering aggressive gap support and being able to get back quick enough to really bother shooters, as evidenced by his 2.8 blk%. He has a feel for switching seamlessly on and off-ball and plugging holes that will fit in well with the way some of the most innovative NBA defenses like to operate. All that being said, he lacks elite positional size and strength, at only 6’3” and 188 pounds, so evaluators may raise questions about his limited switchability. NBA teams are becoming increasingly concerned with the viability of playing smaller guards in the playoffs, so if he can demonstrate some semblance of switchability, it will go a long way in demonstrating his translation to the next level. His positional rebounding may serve as some indicator that he can compete with bigger players.

Overall, NBA teams may look at Carter’s excellent positional defense, on and off the ball, coupled with his ability to provide some offensive value, and see a role for him at the next level. Some evaluators see him slotting into a role similar to that of Jose Alvarado in New Orleans, which seems ideal. The best application of Carter’s skills at the next level would be allowing him to be a defense-first off-guard that can generate havoc defensively, while operating as an off-ball shooter that can make basic connective reads getting downhill.

- Zach Welch

Pelle Larsson

6’6” Wing | Senior | Arizona | 22.9

Season Stats: 12.3 PPG (52.4 / 42.0 / 82.1), 4.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 1.7 TOPG, 2.6 FPG

Entering year 4 of his college career as a key cog in one of the most deadly offensive teams in the country, Arizona’s Pelle Larsson has continued to affirm himself as an under-the-radar NBA prospect garnering serious draft consideration. Larsson may not be the flashiest, nor the type of player to scale to a higher usage role, but the Swedish wing has built up a reputation for his ability to impact winning in the gaps with his team-first approach, high efficiency, fundamental play, and tough defense. 

By the numbers, Larsson has been a pillar of efficiency as a perimeter shooter. Currently producing in the 94th percentile for C&S efficiency whilst sitting at 39.0% from 3 on his career (closing in on 300 attempts) and 83.5% from the line (just over 300 attempts), Larsson’s off-catch shooting has been a real tool throughout his career. Furthermore, he is an active relocator, routinely finding gaps to fill and getting himself squared in preparation. The main knock on his perimeter game is that he chooses his spots very conservatively, as he is only attempting 2.4 per game despite shooting 42.0% on the year. Long term, the path for Larsson to outperform his draft position will be impacted by his ability to raise that off-catch 3PAr while maintaining efficiency. More specifically, proving that he can be deadly from the corners on a higher attempt rate would certainly help his case to get meaningful NBA minutes, as he currently lacks that movement and off-screen shooting lethality. Outside of the range shooting, Larsson adds value in a couple key areas, namely with his connecting passing reads and straight-line rim attacks. As far as his passing goes, Larsson keeps things simple, maintaining a healthy 2:1 AST:TO by making decisive and fundamental reads in the flow. Along with being wired to make an extra pass, his passing arsenal consists of kickouts when walled off, drop-offs, pocket passes, stunt punishes, or recognition of cutters/broken defenses, which is a solid enough foundation for a projected role player. Lastly, it is worth touching on Larsson’s overall straight-line offense, encompassing areas where he really shows aggression. He is active in pushing the pace and filling lanes in transition, but also can attack a closeout with a quick first step and really get to the free throw line at a solid level. While a good complement to have as a shooter, moving forward his relatively simple slashing game would benefit from adding more advanced counters to more effectively navigate NBA space and length.

On the defensive end, Pelle has been a key versatile piece for Arizona as a switchable wing that really works to contain ball handlers at the point of attack. His combination of lateral quickness, strength, engagement, willingness to fight through screens, and scheme knowledge makes him a relatively safe bet to hold his own at the next level. However, the lack of NBA-level length is a limiting factor that is especially evident when contesting in the rearview or recovering (sub 2.0% blk/stl rate). Moreover, he will also have a lower margin for error as an off-ball/help defender, as he simply won't be able to afford being late or slow on a rotation/lock-and-trail in NBA pace and space. When he is on it, he can really impact the game by just getting through screens and not surrendering advantages, but those lapses of ball watching will have to be phased out. All things considered, for the NBA, Larsson will likely need to hang his hat on really pressuring ball handlers and lock-and-trailing at a high level. 

Looking forward to his draft stock, Larsson does turn 23 prior to draft night, making him more of the type of prospect that teams would like to get in the second round. The Christian Braun role comparison gets thrown around a lot as a versatile wing that makes winning plays on a lower usage, and while Braun came into the league at a younger age, the basic value proposition is similar. His ceiling might not be higher than a supporting piece, but there is still a lot to like in his bankable value as a (truly) team-first wing that could commit to defense while picking his offensive spots tactfully and efficiently, and he has potential to stick in the league as a result.

- Alex Brown

Ulrich Chomche

6’11” Forward | 2005 | NBA Academy Africa | 18.1

While he is questionable to stay in the 2024 NBA draft and is considering college options for next season, Ulrich Chomche is a name generating buzz among NBA circles. Chomche has become one of the “mystery men” of this cycle as one of the youngest and most unproven players with an intriguing combination of elite physical tools and budding modern skills. In a year with so little certainty, teams could see the higher ceiling Chomche possesses and talk themselves into taking him in as a priority developmental project who spends plenty of time growing with a G League affiliate.

On the offensive end, he is still quite raw by NBA standards, but his tools, skill growth curve, and willingness to try things may convince teams he’s worth betting on as someone to continue developing. He has all the physical tools you could want from a modern big, including good speed and fluidity, a +7” wingspan, lightning-quick load time on his jumps, and a strong frame. As an offensive foundation, he can operate as a rim runner, roller, and play finisher with his improving screening technique, well-timed rolls, and an ability to get up for lobs. Beyond that, he also has a good feel for off-ball movement and crashes the offensive glass hard, giving him a solid set of ancillary skills from which to expand. Most intriguing are his passing flashes, showing signs that he can make smart, quick, incisive connective reads and operate as a DHO hub down the line. Beyond this, he’s also shown intriguing flashes of slashing footwork with tight space navigation and adept footwork, as well as a willingness to shoot. The driving often comes with poor decision-making and the shot mechanics need work, but the willingness to explore these areas of his game — with some semblance of success — is certainly intriguing. Ultimately, he’ll have a long way to grow on this end, but the overall foundation with flashes of skills is certainly going to catch some eyes in the league.

On the defensive side, Chomche has some more concrete flashes and a more immediate value-add, although he still has plenty of room to grow, as well. His tools lend themselves even better on this end. His reaction timing, ball tracking, and quick load time make him an absolute force of a weakside rim protector. He still has to work on his discipline in this area, but he has had many dominant showings, such as averaging 3.8 BPG at Basketball Without Borders last year. As for his PnR coverage, his lateral agility, quick hands, and fluidity lend themselves well to him being especially impactful at the level. That being said, there have been multiple games in Road to BAL in which Chomche was used as NBA Academy Africa’s primary point-of-attack defender. Whether this may be replicable in the NBA remains to be seen, but it is incredibly rare to see a center with the movement skills and coordination to stay in front of an opposing team’s point guard consistently throughout the game. As for areas to grow, his decision-making and positioning as a weakside defender and his execution in drop both will need some work; he also fouls far more often than you’d like to see. While he has major areas in which to improve, his versatility and ability to create havoc in a variety of ways will be tantalizing to NBA teams.

While it’s yet to be determined if Chomche will end up in this year’s draft, he has shown the combination of tools and two-way flashes to garner consideration as an upside bet this year if he does declare. Teams will question his competition level and how raw his game is, but in a draft with so few guys they can bet on, someone could very well take him in and look to patiently develop him and tap into that clear upside.

- Zach Welch

Cam Spencer

6’4” Guard | Gr. Senior | UConn | 23.8

15.3 PPG (48.2 / 44.8 / 90.3), 4.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.1 TOPG, 2.4 FPG

For the modern NBA where offense continues to explode and spacing is paramount, there are few better perimeter threats to bet on in June than UConn’s 5th year senior Cam Spencer. Transferring in from Rutgers and now being surrounded by pro prospects in Stephon Castle, Alex Karaban, Donovan Clingan, and Tristen Newton, Spencer has been a massive piece of the current #1 team in the country, and is building a stronger NBA case than many anticipated. At first glance, Spencer’s physical tools, athletic profile, and age do not scream “NBA player,” but his offensive skill set is nothing less than highly coveted. 

A very efficient and versatile perimeter threat that can hit 3s on high volume off the catch, off the bounce, and off movement, Spencer’s shooting execution has been simply superb thus far, ranking in the 94th percentile as a spot-up threat that is also shooting off screens at the 73rd percentile (high volume - 23.9% of his total possessions). As a near 50-40-90 shooter, maintaining that level of efficiency on a .588 3PAr (6.1 attempts) is undoubtedly NBA-level shooting prowess that he can hang his hat on. While the shooting is far and away his best skill, his passing is the trait that really helps make his case as a draftable commodity, hovering around a 3:1 AST:TO as it stands. He primarily accomplishes this by making tactful and decisive reads after running off screens or handoffs where his shooting gravity gives him an advantage, but he is also adept at making connecting passes and punishing broken defenses. Furthermore, he is in the 95th percentile as a PnR handler when including his passes (90th without), often hitting the roll/pop/ghost with polished timing and accuracy. While you would ideally like to see Spencer put more pressure on the rim as a handler (4th percentile overall time% rank at the rim), he has been efficient here throughout his college career, currently sitting in the 76th percentile after a 97th percentile finish last year, (of course, on low rim frequency and volume). He does not necessarily look the part of an NBA level athlete on his way to the rim and will surely have to pick and choose his moments carefully, but he knows his spots and how to choose them tactfully, and his efficiency despite those limitations speaks to that. At the end of the day, though, as long as he can come off the bench and shoot the 3 with high efficiency off movement and off the catch while making good connective reads with the ball (in theory similar to the role exemplified in players like Sam Merrill), he could hang on the offensive end. 

UConn guard Cam Spencer. Credit: UConn Athletics

On defense, the margin for error for a shorter guard that lacks NBA length and athleticism is slim at best, and in order to really survive for the long haul, Spencer will have to be able to mitigate his lack of tools by playing sharper mentally than his opponents while adding a level of toughness, engagement, and effort that surpasses his peers. Since he will be relatively limited to defending guard-sized players, working on becoming an adept angle enforcer in POA, getting through screens on and off the ball, locking and trailing, and making few mistakes will be key to him sticking on the court. While the DBPM has been a positive indicator over the last couple years on good defensive teams (5.2 on Rutgers, who finished 6th in DRTG, and currently 3.4 for UConn, ranked 45th here), as has the steal rate (career 3.0), answering questions about his defensive scalability and outlook will be a key point to follow as the Huskies look to repeat in March.

While certainly on the older end for a prospect, as he’ll turn 24 in April, teams will inevitably see the appeal in an elite and versatile shooter that can also handle and pass, especially as a contributor on a rookie contract. Look for Cam to continue to make his case for an NBA contract in June, especially if the Huskies persist in their reign. 

- Alex Brown

Zvonimir Ivisic 

7’2” Big | Freshman | Kentucky | 20.5

4.3 PPG (54.5 / 60.0 / 50.0), 2.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 0.8 TOPG, 1 FPG

Zvonimir Ivisic is another potential upside swing that is garnering some mid-season interest after a strong season debut on January 20th. He has a unique intersection of elite size, intriguing movement skills, and two-way skill flashes, but he is quite old for a freshman; at 20.5 years old already, he is even older than Duke sophomore Kyle Filipowski, for example.

The pitch for him offensively is largely based on a variety of flashes he’s shown, despite not having an established baseline pro skillset. He has the foundation of a good shot, with a quick release for his size and the confidence to put it up in a variety of situations, but his shooting resumé is still a bit shaky. That being said, starting off 3/4 from beyond the arc in his debut was enough to catch some eyes. He also has the mobility, touch and size to be an intriguing PnR partner, while also flashing some ball skills and passing vision at lower levels. That being said, he’ll need to overcome the hurdles of getting rid of his contact aversion and owning his space better. He has the tools to intrigue teams as a roller and a variety of skill flashes that teams may see and look to further tap into.

Defensively, his most translatable skill is, without a doubt, his shot-blocking prowess. He has the length, reaction timing and vertical pop to be a fearsome rim protector. This has translated to the beginning of his tenure with the Wildcats, as he had five blocks in just 26 minutes across his first two games. Beyond that, with his movement skills for his size he has produced flashes of ball screen coverage versatility and convincing helpside rotations. That being said, his defensive feel and fundamentals still have a ways to go. He’ll need to learn to adopt better footwork, improve his understanding of positioning and off-ball responsibilities, and cut down on his fouls.

While he may be older than the “traditional” raw freshman upside swing, Ivisic is a name to keep an eye out for this season because of how unique he is. He is another example of a prospect that teams might be willing to take a swing on to try to carefully develop him and tap into that high upside, since there is so little certainty in this class.

- Zach Welch

Honorable Mentions

Adama Bal

6’6” Wing | Junior | Santa Clara

A naturally talented wing that has become the primary scorer for Santa Clara after two years at Arizona, the NBA appeal with Bal is the combination of three-point shooting and connective passing at a young age for the class, as teams are hunting wing-sized players in that mold. He has questions to answer on D and needs polish on O, but the foundation is enough to make fans in the league.

Keshad Johnson

6’7” Forward | Gr. Senior | Arizona

Johnson is a San Diego State transfer with a high defensive IQ who has added floor-stretching to his skill set, paving his way into the NBA conversation as a potential scalable role player. While the sample has been small (55 attempts), there have been clear improvements, and if he can remain in the high 30s from deep, he could work his way into the second round.

Jonathan Mogbo

6’8” Forward | Senior | San Francisco

Mogbo is a late-blooming small-ball 5 that has been very efficient from the floor as a rim runner, play finisher, and roller. With ball skills, connective passing chops and promising defensive versatility, he has proven to be more than your run-of-the-mill big, and he’s garnering NBA interest as a result. His size and lack of elite rim protection will make his transition and on-court fit more challenging, but the production and uniqueness are too much to ignore.

Jaxson Robinson

6’7” Wing | Senior | BYU

Robinson is a streaky wing sniper that started the season scorching from the field and has since returned to earth a bit. He offers intrigue for his archetype as a versatile perimeter shooter that can carry confident volume, but will need to show more consistency and find ancillary ways to impact the game when he isn’t shooting, as well as prove he can fill a niche defensively at the NBA level.

Hunter Sallis

6’5” Wing | Junior | Wake Forest

Sallis has taken a major step forward after two years at Gonzaga, and has become the primary option for the Demon Deacons. Proving to be more of the perimeter threat he was expected to be has been a huge development for him, knocking down 38.6% of his 3s thus far on much improved volume. Teams will be monitoring if he can add another layer to his game as a passer and/or take his defense to the next level, but the growth this year has been tremendously encouraging.

Jaylon Tyson 

6’7” Wing | Junior | California

Blossoming in production after transferring into Cal, Tyson has carried a very high usage as an on-ball primary, taking over 30% of his possessions in PnR and eclipsing 20 points per game on 36% shooting from deep. Questions center on his shot diet and decision making, especially with regards to how he would look to a scaled-back NBA role. Nonetheless, there aren’t many players at his size that can fill it up like Tyson has thus far, and that will get him somewhere.


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