2024 NBA Draft Long Shots Best Bets, Odds, Pick

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Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Zach Edey and Kel’el Ware

It’s time for some 2024 NBA Draft long shots!

When attempting to identify long-shot candidates, it’s wise to envision needs or flaws that cause teams to reach on prospects from an odds perspective. There is one such team in the top ten that could throw a curveball to online sportsbooks. 

For more on the NBA offseason, check out the latest NBA free agency intel from our expert analyst, Matt Moore.

Kel'el Ware 9th Overall Pick (+4000 DraftKings)

Because this draft lacks star power and center has become a need for many teams across the NBA, it’s feasible that Kel’lel Ware worms his way into the top ten. The Indiana product possesses plenty of tools that may persuade scouts into seeing an impressive ceiling. 

Ware is nearly 7’1” tall, and his 7’4” wingspan helped him record 1.9 blocks per game. The 20-year-old owns a large contest radius, whether it’s in the pick-and-roll or the weak-side. He moves his feet relatively well for his size, although processing speed isn’t always there for him – Ware has to fix the mental lapses. 

Offensively, he went 17-for-40 from 3-point range this season and ranked in the 66th percentile for guarded catch-and-shoot attempts per Synergy Sports. Ware will likely struggle with efficiency to begin his career as he adjusts to NBA-level defensive pressure and a deeper 3-point line, but outside shooting potential is definitely there. 

Overall, it’s easy to squint at Ware’s tools and see a stretch-five with rim protection chops, transition mobility, and post-up prowess. There’s a chance that he never approaches this vision and becomes a perennial backup though. 

The Grizzlies lack a starting center and do not have the necessary cap space to make a splash during free agency, such as Nic Claxton or Isaiah Hartenstein. Memphis’ first round pick represents their best avenue to acquire a big man, whether it’s staying put at ninth overall or trading up for either Alexandre Sarr or Donovan Clingan. 

If the Grizzlies do not trade up, then taking Ware earlier than consensus is a realistic scenario given the state of their center rotation. He could form a dynamic shot-blocking partnership with Jaren Jackson Jr. and space the floor for Ja Morant’s relentless rim pressure.  

At +4000 odds (2.4% implied probability), it’s worth a small wager of a quarter of a unit. 

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Zach Edey 9th Overall Pick (+2000 DraftKings)

The same logic applies to Zach Edey here. He dominated college basketball and ranked in the 97th percentile for points per shot at the rim (via Synergy Sports). Sure, Edey’s physical advantages were the driving force behind his success, but the Purdue product also displayed a deadly hook shot with quality touch. He can be more than a size-merchant. 

Morant thrived with Steven Adams’ bone-crushing screens, and Edey can provide the same amount of leverage. It would also be difficult for opponents to navigate Jackson Jr. and Edey in the paint, as their length is a huge deterrent. 

Can he develop a jump shot? Will he survive against NBA speed and not solely be a drop-coverage big? What happens when scorers hunt him and force a switch? Those are crucial questions surrounding Edey’s future in this league. 

Memphis’ desperate need for a center may cause them to gloss over those red flags and buy his interior scoring, rebounding, and rim protection. It’s worth a sprinkle of a quarter of a unit at +2000 odds (4.76% implied probability). 

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Nick Sterling
Jul 21, 2024 UTC