2024 NBA Draft Winners and Losers: Rookie class will have a tough road to make immediate fantasy hoops impact

Round 1 of the 2024 NBA Draft is over, but we'll get another dose of draft season on Thursday as the second round gets underway at 4 p.m. ET. With several surprises in the first round, we'll see what value slipped into Day 2 and which team will potentially draft Bronny James.

As analysts continue to dole out their initial draft grades, let's examine the fantasy basketball draft winners and losers and assess the impact of some trades that went down before or during the draft.

Before we dive in, I have to give my usual spiel on why I don’t like drafting rookies. It’s not easy for most first-year players to come into the league and see minutes with a meaningful enough role to produce fantasy points.

Last season was an extreme outlier because Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren possess true star potential. This class does not. Therefore I have the best of this class projected as late-round picks at best. There’s a lot of time between now and the 24-25 season but that’s unlikely to change.

Ok, off my soap box and onto the winners of the draft.

France is becoming the new mecca for basketball prospects. The first two picks this year were French, with F Zaccharie Risacher going first overall to the Atlanta Hawks and F/C Alex Sarr going second to the Washington Wizards. Four Frenchmen were selected in the top 25 (a new record), with PF Tidjane Salaün going sixth to the Charlotte Hornets and G Pacôme Dadiet going 25th to the New York Knicks.

Of the four Frenchmen selected on Wednesday, Sarr has the most potential to contribute right away for fantasy managers as the Wizards are approaching a full-scale teardown.

Zaccharie Risacher (right) and Alex Sarr (left) were the top two picks in the 2024 draft. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Zaccharie Risacher (right) and Alex Sarr (left) were the top two picks in the 2024 draft. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Trading Deni Avdija was a deal I didn't see coming, but it makes sense after seeing Washington's corresponding moves. That move cleared the deck for Bilal Coulibaly. Coulibaly's play in the offseason (Summer League or Paris Olympics) will likely dictate how high he's drafted in fantasy leagues ahead of next season. Still, a late-round pick is reasonable, considering his stock potential and an expanded role in the offense.

I envision a similar opportunity for second-overall pick Alex Sarr. He said he wanted to play in DC over Atlanta because he'd get more playing time as a rookie. He also has some late-round appeal due to the Wizards' extremely thin frontcourt, and his athleticism and versatility help fantasy managers in the stocks and boards department.

Back to the Avdija trade for a moment: In going to Portland, the Wizards received buyout candidate Malcolm Brogdon and a 2024 first-round pick. That selection was used on Carlton "Bub" Carrington, a 6-foot-5 guard who can facilitate and score from either guard spot — fulfilling a need with no backcourt help besides Jordan Poole. To close out their great night, they made a late-round swap with the Knicks to scoop up Miami's Kyshawn George, a 6-foot-8 Swiss army knife who looks like a better shooting version of Anthony Black.

Kyle Kuzma will likely be the next trade piece for Washington, and once he's off the books, the youth movement will be on and poppin' in Chocolate City.

The 23-year-old Tennessee alum was projected as a lottery pick, but concerns about his age likely factored into a brief slide. As luck and circumstance would have it, Knecht was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers 17th overall, making him one of the steals of the draft. Knecht was one of the most prolific scorers in the nation, delivering over 21 points with five boards and 2.6 threes per contest in his senior season with the Vols. He shot 40% from three on over six attempts per game and, more importantly, connected on 42% of his catch-and-shoot threes.

The Lakers needed a 3-point threat on the perimeter, and they found it. Knecht's defense is a question mark at the next level, but he'll likely carve out a spot in the rotation immediately because he'll be JJ Redick's version of JJ Redick. He's not draftable in redraft formats but could be a source of threes off waivers during the season.

Carter is one of my favorite players before the draft and is an excellent fit for a win-now Sacramento Kings squad. De'Aaron Fox is waiting to sign an extension to see what moves are made in the offseason, and between re-signing Malik Monk and drafting Carter, things are trending in the right direction. Carter is the son of former NBA veteran Anthony Carter, and while he only stands at 6-foot-3, his skill set reminds me of a more explosive version of De'Anthony Melton (floor) or Derrick White (ceiling).

He's a dog on defense and prides himself on being an exceptional on-ball defender with a knack for jumping passing lanes.

In his junior season, he averaged 19.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.6 dimes, 2.5 threes, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks with 47/38/75 shooting splits. Although he's an undersized combo guard, he's far more dynamic than Davion Mitchell and Kevin Huerter. He's a player who could carve out minutes right away for a Kings team that needed a two-way punch alongside Monk off the bench.

Missi replaces Jonas Valančiūnas as the Pelicans' interior rim protector and rebounder. Missi, a 7-footer and former five-star prospect who dipped from Baylor after his first year, is far more athletic and defensive-minded than Valančiūnas. Missi has some Dereck Lively II traits in his ability to run the floor, rebound and block shots at a high rate. Larry Nance Jr. is the closest thing to a center currently on the New Orleans roster, so there's some serious sleeper potential in redraft fantasy leagues if that holds.

Fun fact: Missi is only the sixth Cameroonian player to have played in the NBA.

If the Hawks stick with their current roster, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2024 NBA Draft will not be fantasy-relevant as a rookie, and that's an L. A lot of pressure comes with being the top pick, so I expect the Hawks to take their time with things, considering he's a 19-year-old prospect. Plus, there's a logjam on the wing with Bogdan Bogdanović and Jalen Johnson currently occupying the SF and PF spots.

His 3&D skillset can get him in the rotation, but I'm skeptical about how quickly he'll get enough meaningful minutes for fantasy managers to see an ROI. He won't be a bust, but it'll take time for him to grow into one of the primary offensive options.

Blazers GM Joe Cronin's post-draft presser clearly stated that C Donovan Clingan was one of the higher-rated prospects on the Blazers' draft board. Before delving into Cronin's praise for Clingan, he stressed that he was looking for competitors and would keep an open mind when trading away veterans.

Regarding their seventh overall pick, Cronin told the media that Portland's scouting department locked in on him after his freshman year. To see him improve so much in one year as an effective screener, roll-man and passer after already being a defensive monster made the pick a no-brainer.

Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams III are extension-eligible and should be sweating now that Clingan is entering the fray as direct competition. Their stock is falling, along with Jerami Grant, who will likely be dealt this offseason with the Blazers bringing in dual forward Avdija.

There was actually considerable action on Bronny James to go first overall to the Hawks. He was No. 1 in ticket count per BetMGM, taking 25% of the bets for the top pick in the 2024 NBA Draft — that's wild!

Those folks burned money because Bronny went undrafted in the first round. The 6-foot-2 combo guard had a strong combine, and despite Rich Paul's best efforts, NBA teams still need to be swayed to select Bronny. There's still more time to hear his name called on Thursday.