LAS VEGAS — NBA scouts and executives got a first look at a handful of draft-eligible players in the 2024 NBA Draft as the Perth Wildcats competed in a pair of exhibition games last week at G League Ignite. The Ignite won Game 1 124-105 and the Wildcats bounced back in Game 2 with a 127-112 victory Friday night.
“It’s a good benchmark to start the draft season, especially with everything open toward the top of the draft,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. There is a lot of talent on the field this week and it was good to see some players improve.
The Ignite roster is full of young talent. Of the 15-man roster, seven players are eligible for the upcoming draft, with at least three projected in the first round. At least two scouts or executives from each NBA team were present all week for practices and games. All scouts were familiar with the Ignite’s two young players, Ron Holland and Matas Bozlis, but it was Perth center Alex Sarr who showed the most improvement in his game, showing glimpses of promising development as an all-around big player in the NBA. .
Saar finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 blocks in 29 minutes in the first game. The 7-foot center from France looked much more comfortable in the second game, coming off the bench to record a double-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in the win.
“I just want to show NBA scouts how good I can be on the court, on or off the ball,” Saar told Yahoo Sports. “I think my versatility with protecting the rim, high motor and creating shots is what separates me from the other bigs in this draft.”
Saar scored in a myriad of ways, whether it was going for long 3s off pick-and-pops, taking players off the dribble or taking lobs off the roll or in transition. Defensively, he was the best shot blocker on the floor, consistently shooting the gap, deflecting passes and switching shots with a 7-5 wingspan.
“He’s a really good player and it’s hard to shoot him,” Bozlis told Yahoo Sports. I didn’t expect him to come out and protect the perimeter like he did, and he did a lot of little things really well.
This is not Victor Vimbayama 2.0 by any means. There are similarities in that both players are from France, are over 7 feet tall and have a unique knack for controlling the ball in the open court and superb shot-stopping skills.
“The NBA is evolving and becoming more situational, so even at my size, I have to be able to guard any position and feel comfortable with the ball in my hands,” Sarr said. “I feel like I’ve always been able to play around and it’s nothing new or uncomfortable for me to come out of the paint and make plays.”
Sarr, the younger brother of the Oklahoma City center Olivier Saar, joined the Wildcats after spending last season with Elite overtime in Atlanta. Olivier went the college route, playing at Wake Forest and Kentucky before going undrafted in the 2021 NBA Draft. Unlike his older brother, Alex chose to go professional, playing one season in the Australian National Basketball League before reaching the NBA.
“The professional route just suited me better as a player and helped me develop my game better,” Alex Sarr said. “The distance gives me more freedom and versatility, so that’s why I chose to play in the NBL and not college.”
Saar and his parents have been in Australia for less than two months. Wildcats head coach John Reilly has already seen strides in his development as he gets comfortable with the new team and system.
“He’s just gotten better and better since he’s been here,” Reilly said after Friday’s game. “I can’t imagine how much we’ll grow over the course of the season. Alex has a chance to be really special. We all get obsessed with blocked shots, but that’s also how he keeps players in front. Durr, his second attempt at contesting shots and how well he reads the defense and finds small opportunities on offense.”
Entering the two preseason exhibition games against the Ignite, Saar was largely projected as a fringe first-round pick with plenty of potential and time to develop at the NBA level. NBA scouts were more than impressed with where Saar is at this point in his development and how much he’s improved since his addition to Elite last season.
“There were stretches in both games where he was the best player on the floor,” another NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. A two-way player who showed everyone this week that he is more than just a rim protector.
Sarr will play his former team, Overtime Elite, in an exhibition game on Sunday in Las Vegas before the team returns to Australia for the NBL Blitz (a tournament with every NBL team) which runs from September 16-22.
The 18-year-old center made a strong statement to start the draft season and will be a player that many NBA teams will be watching closely this season as another versatile, 7-footer out of France prepares to Less than more time to reach the NBA. One year.