Evaluating potential pathways for the Top 2024 prospects

Naturally, the high school and grassroots landscape is a notch below college basketball and the NBA in terms of complexity. It’s an obvious observation. 

Elite players are able to get away with more at lower levels — and rely heavily on their bread & butter, whatever it might be — to dominate the game. As you move up levels, opponents are better equipped to take away those things — whether it’s from a size, athletic or smarts standpoint. At this point in that evolution, some prospects have built-in counters, or develop counters to reinvent themselves, and some are stopped in their tracks. 

There are countless examples, but here are two timely ones with the NBA Playoffs underway — Lu Dort and Jaden McDaniels. Coming up, the bread and butter for both of them was their scoring ability. Dort was a high volume scorer in his one year at Arizona State, prior to going undrafted. While he has developed as a shooter since his days in Tempe, he falls in the category for me of having 'built-in counters' because of his ability to guard. In essence, the NBA provided answers for him in terms of isolation scoring, but by doubling-down as a defender, he's reinvented himself one of the best players in the league on that end. McDaniels falls in the other bucket — he's developed counters. The early allure stemmed from his perimeter offense at 6-9+. While the upside on hasn't quite materialized yet, he's developed into a $130+ million player in the NBA because of his heightened buy-in on the defensive end.

As said by a scout, who mentioned this in discussing their hope of the One & Done rule never being taken away, each level of basketball is simply another filter in the funnel. By the time prospects reach the NBA Draft, they’ve gone through a number of filters to which they have to scale their game. Still, even then, it’s an inexact science that leads to misses and hits every year. Why exactly is that? 

To me, it’s because identifying these potential pathways of scalability, and all the variables that go into it, is an extremely difficult and nuanced process. Grassroots basketball, because of the more vast sample size, shines a glaring light on many of the variables. So as we finalize the 2024 cycle, I wanted to breakdown the potential pathways for each of the Top-20 prospects; their bread & butter, the potential speed bumps and everything in between.

1. Cooper Flagg

Bread & Butter?

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