Bronny James [608x342]
Bronny James [608x342] (Credit: Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

Atl tico end season with win over Real Sociedad

The NBA's pre-draft season is in full swing as the league held its draft lottery Sunday, with the Atlanta Hawks moving up to grab the No. 1  pick, and there are more than 120 prospects in Chicago this week for the draft combine and agency pro days.

The G League camp got things going Saturday, and players Monday began the start of drills, measurements, athletic testing, medical examinations, team interviews and 5-on-5 scrimmaging at Wintrust Arena.

NBA draft experts Jonathan Givony, Jeremy Woo and Bobby Marks recap the biggest takeaways from the combine, assess the prospects who are rising (or potentially falling) and address league reaction and news around the 2024 NBA draft, to be held June 26-27 in Brooklyn, New York.

Takeaways | Big risers | Injury news Quick-hitters | What's coming up | Hawks at No. 1

What's your biggest takeaway from Monday?

Givony: Talk about a very productive first day at the NBA draft combine. The many NBA executives I spoke with seemed pleased with the format, participation and the way prospects competed. The league has found a home in the sparkling Wintrust Arena, with a huge staff that kept the 77 participating prospects flowing through drills, athletic testing and live action. The league avoided mass withdrawals from the competitive 5-on-5 action, so there's quite a bit to look forward to on Days 2 and 3. Bronny James, the USC point guard who ranks No. 98 in our Top 100, was a major standout in drills and athletic testing. Lottery-level prospects, such as Providence's Devin Carter, also elected to participate in competitive action and thoroughly helped their draft prospects.

Woo: It was a refreshing sight to walk into the arena first thing Monday and see a number of top prospects, including projected No. 1 pick Alex Sarr, Donovan Clingan and Zach Edey, warming up for drills and testing. Through changes to combine protocol in the new CBA, the NBA secured full participation from top prospects, including their medical information, in exchange for allowing agents into the building and making scrimmaging officially optional. These players aren't required to do much beyond measuring, athletic testing and shooting drills -- nobody would mistake this for a real eval setting. But the immediate feedback I heard from team personnel Monday was strongly positive.

Having high-profile prospects partake in any type of action adds legitimacy to the combine. Recent precedent had been that lottery picks essentially never touched the court. This year, even the basic shooting drills were a sizable upgrade. The majority of teams won't be able to get these players into their buildings for workouts, so any opportunity to get eyes on them is helpful. For example, seeing players such as Clingan and Edey get out of their comfort zones launching 3s -- not to mention faring OK -- was a scene we'd never have witnessed in years past and a tangible improvement to the pre-draft process overall.

Who stood out during drills and scrimmages?

Bronny James, PG, USC: With dozens of cameras tracking his every move, James had an overwhelmingly positive first day in Chicago, showing he more than deserves to be in attendance. He is in excellent shape, clearly having put on some good bulk from the end of the season. James tested extremely well athletically, with a 40.5-inch inch vertical leap that placed him fourth highest among combine participants, a 32-inch no step vertical (top-10ish mark), a 3.02 second time in the shuttle run drill, 3.09 seconds in the three-quarter court sprint, and 10.96 seconds in the pro lane agility drill -- all solid marks relative to his peers. More impressive was how well he shot in drills, demonstrating a clean, compact stroke and outstanding accuracy in the 3-point star shooting drills (19-for-25, second best behind UConn's Alex Karaban) as well as the off-movement 3-point shooting drill, hitting 77% of his attempts in the side-mid-side pull-up shooting drill.

While he looked bouncy in the transition drills, he showed some of his limitations as a ball handler and playmaker in the half-court pick-and-roll live action competition, where he was unlucky to run into one of the best defenders in college basketball in Providence's Carter, as well as some extremely mobile big men (such as Arizona's Keshad Johnson, who had an outstanding day in his own right) who were making life miserable on opponents every play. This was a positive day for James, who looks to be in outstanding shape and has quite a bit to gain in the 5-on-5 scrimmaging Tuesday and Wednesday. -- Givony

Zach Edey, C, Purdue: Edey, ranked No. 14 in our Top 100, measured exceptionally well as expected -- 7-foot-5 in shoes, with a near 7-foot-11 wingspan, 299 pounds and a 9-foot-7.5 standing reach -- unprecedented figures that we learned at last year's NBA draft combine before Edey withdrew from the draft. But he also tested better than last year, shaving off time from last year's pro lane agility drill, and measuring a solid vertical leap and three-quarter court sprint time, showing the significant improvement he has made with his conditioning and mobility since electing to return to Purdue for his senior season.

He also put on a pretty impressive showing in shooting drills, hitting 3s off movement, spotting up and pulling up off the dribble, showing some real potential in that area as he has long insisted he possesses. Edey has quite a few fans around the NBA at this point, and there are plenty of executives who say they have him ranked as a lottery pick, or even as a top-10 prospect because of how well he rates in their analytics models. -- Givony

Devin Carter, PG, Providence: Carter (No. 17 in our Top 100) was our highest-ranked prospect to participate in Monday's optional 4-on-4 component, which, unsurprisingly proved to be a good decision. Known for his toughness and physical style of play, Carter was his usual self in the drill setting, battling defensively and raising the energy level of others on the floor. He also tested quite well, recording an unofficial 42-inch max vertical (tied with Reed Sheppard and Trentyn Flowers for top mark), 35-inch standing vertical (also tied for the top score), and setting a combine record for three-quarter court sprint time.

While he won't play in scrimmages this week, a solid day at the combine helped back up Carter's reputation as one of the draft's top defenders and athletes. He'll be a strong consideration for teams searching for NBA-ready backcourt help, and presuming he takes this momentum into private workouts, Carter could feasibly come off the board as high as the late lottery. -- Woo

It's early, but there's injury news to share

Rob Dillingham, PG, Kentucky: Dillingham, a projected top-five pick who ranks No. 4 in our Top 100, wasn't able to fully participate in the draft combine Monday. He sprained his ankle in a workout two weeks ago, Klutch Sports agent Lucas Newton told ESPN, and is expected to be out for another two to four weeks. Even with a more conservative timetable, Dillingham should have enough days available before the June 26 draft to conduct workouts with teams as needed, though he may not need to do more than a handful given his draft projections. -- Givony

Nikola Topic, PG, Serbia: While players in Chicago were going through shooting drills, NBA executives could be seen nearly simultaneously pulling up their phones and witnessing a scary sight via social media as Topic went down with what appeared to be a serious injury in Game 1 of the Adriatic League finals in Belgrade, Serbia. In early January, Topic suffered a sprained left knee ligament, which cost him nearly 3½ months of action. Monday, he appeared to reinjure the same knee, looking unable to put any weight as he limped off the court in obvious distress. A postgame examination revealed Topic avoided serious injury, sources told ESPN, and will not require surgery. His injury is being described as a left knee sprain. A source told ESPN that Topic "froze up" after feeling pain in his previously injured knee, but recovered quickly in the locker room.

While this injury will keep Topic, who is ranked No. 5 in our Top 100, out of the remainder of the Adriatic League finals, he is still expected to be a full participant in a Global NBA pre-draft camp that the league is organizing in Treviso, Italy, from June 4-6. NBA teams will be taking a close look at the medical examination that will be conducted at this NBA combine equivalent in Treviso, which will be dispersed to teams picking in the top-15 portion of the draft according to new rules that were put in place in the CBA signed in 2023. -- Givony

More notes, thoughts and things we heard from the combine

Clingan's shooting potential on full display

While in Chicago, I took in a private workout featuring Clingan, G League Ignite's Matas Buzelis and Cairns Taipans' Bobi Klintman. While Buzelis' improving frame and highlight reel explosiveness were certainly notable, it's Clingan's development as a perimeter shooter that could really open some eyes in the pre-draft process as he makes his way to visit lottery teams.

Clingan, the center who ranks No. 3 in our Top 100, has a natural shooting stroke, soft touch and real range that should make him a threat from the perimeter in the not too distant future. He spoke at length afterward about the importance of expanding this part of his game, and he continued to put that on display at the combine, where he made shots with varying consistency in drills. It's not entirely clear what Clingan's draft range looks like, as some of the teams that need centers the most -- such as the Portland Trail Blazers (No. 7) and Memphis Grizzlies (No. 9), moved down in the draft lottery. He has a natural suitor in the Washington Wizards at No. 2, but some real competition from other prospects -- such as Alex Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher, as well. -- Givony

Quick-hitters

Creighton shooting guard Baylor Scheierman, ranked No. 39 in our Top 100, had some positive buzz in the gym after a scorching shooting performance in drills, shooting 24-for-30 on pull-up jumpers (second best at combine) and 22-for-25 on spot-up 3s (tied for No. 1). The 23-year-old has good size for the wing, sharp basketball instincts and a plug-and-play NBA skill already with his dynamic shooting ability. He's likely to receive consideration from teams drafting in the first round thanks to his well-rounded profile, strong analytic model numbers and the outsized importance teams are placing on 3-point shooting. -- Givony

UCLA big man Adem Bona, who ranks No. 49 in our Top 100, had a strong all-around day that suggests NBA teams should take a deeper look despite his up-and-down sophomore campaign. His measurements -- with a 9-foot standing reach and near 7-4 wingspan -- indicate he'll have little issue playing the center position at 243 pounds. He's clearly one of the best athletes in this draft as he reiterated with shuttle and sprint times comparable with many guards and an explosive 40-inch vertical that ranked second best among big men. Bona showed his power, mobility and intensity translates to the competitive 4-on-4 action as well, where he threw his body around and made his presence felt. While his rudimentary skill level and especially perimeter shooting might put a cap on his upside, he too could get looks starting in the late first round. -- Givony

Power forward Ulrich Chomche is the youngest player in this draft class -- who turns 19 in December -- and is probably the most inexperienced prospect as well. The prospect, who ranks No. 40 in our Top 100, was closely watched by NBA teams who are still in an early stage of building their scouting files on him as he was in Senegal at the NBA Academy Africa. Chomche measured (7-4 wingspan, 234 pounds, 9-4 standing reach) and tested exceptionally well athletically, and did not look as raw as expected in drills and competitive action. NBA teams feel like his shooting will eventually be a strength, which combined with his impressive mobility and defensive versatility, gives him a chance to emerge as the type of switchable, rim-protecting, floor spacing big man that is hard to come by. It will take plenty of time and patience for him to step on an NBA court for meaningful minutes, but his upside suggests that a long-term thinking team could take a swing on him in the late first, or early second round. -- Givony

Coming up Tuesday and Wednesday: Scrimmages

Per usual, four teams of prospects are slated to scrimmage on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, with those four games in total serving as the combine's main event. As of Tuesday morning, projected participation in those scrimmages appeared to be better than expected. Only five players were needed as call-ups from the G League Elite Camp -- Jesse Edwards, Isaac Jones, Enrique Freeman, Boogie Ellis and Nae'Qwan Tomlin -- and a solid group of prospects remained scheduled to play.

While only one of ESPN's projected first-rounders is suiting up this week, Justin Edwards (No. 29), there are other top-ranked players who are expected to take the court Tuesday: Harrison Ingram (No. 34), Payton Sandfort (No. 35), Dillon Jones (No. 37), Izan Almansa (No. 38), Scheierman (No. 39) and Chomche (No. 40). NBA teams we've spoken with expect there to be significant opportunity for prospects to work their way into the first round, considering the wide discrepancy in opinion around the league surrounding the talent hierarchy in this draft. There are also some college players facing significant decisions on whether to return to school who might gain clarity this week, including Karaban and Florida State's Jamir Watkins. Bronny James is also currently expected to play, creating a real opportunity for him to continue to change the narrative around his season. -- Woo

Intrigue around Hawks' No. 1 pick centers on ... money?

In any other year, moving up nine slots in the draft to No. 1 would be seen as a coup -- especially for an Atlanta Hawks team that has been mired in mediocrity the past three seasons. But team executives ESPN talked to hours after Sunday's draft lottery did not want to discuss who Atlanta could draft, but instead more the financial ramifications of now having the top pick.

Because the NBA operates with a sliding rookie scale based on when a player is selected, Atlanta is set to increase their payroll by an additional $7 million (the first pick is $12.6 million compared to $5.5 million for a player selected 10th). This matters because Atlanta now has $175.9 million in salary and is projected to be in the luxury tax for the first time since 2010-11.

More important, however, is the Hawks are $2.2 million above the first apron, a result of the unlikely De'Andre Hunter, Dejounte Murray and Clint Capela bonuses. Unlikely incentives continue to count against the first and second apron even if they are not reached. Signing restricted free agent Saddiq Bey to either a qualifying offer or new contract would also push Atlanta over the second apron.

As teams have pointed out, keep an eye on the Hawks' $23 million trade exception that is set to expire July 7. If Atlanta does not shed salary, the exception is not allowed in a trade. Atlanta would also not be allowed to aggregate contracts or take back more money in a trade if the acquiring salary leaves them over the second apron.

Despite the bleak financial outlook, Capela (the Hawks' starting center) is on an expiring $22.3 million contract and could be expendable if Atlanta drafts Alex Sarr at No. 1. Also, outside of veteran Trae Young, no player on the Hawks' roster earns more than $25.5 million. -- Marks