Best Fits For Indiana’s Kel’el Ware in 2024 NBA Draft (2024)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The 2024 NBA draft begins Wednesday, and Indiana’s Kel’el Ware is widely expected to be a first-round pick.

The 7-foot center is coming off a breakout sophom*ore season at Indiana. Ware averaged 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. He made the All-Big Ten second team and the Big Ten All-Defensive team.

Ware most often scored around the rim, whether it was alley-oop dunks off pick-and-rolls or using his 7-foot-4.5-inch wingspan to shoot over defenders. Ware led the Big Ten in defensive rebounding percentage, and he finished sixth in blocks. With a developing 3-point stroke – he shot 42.5% on 40 attempts at Indiana – Ware, just 20 years old, is an intriguing prospect.

Recent mock drafts project a wide range of options for Ware in the late lottery and late first round. He’s slotted as high as No. 13 to the Sacramento Kings by Bleacher Report, and Ware’s most popular projection is No. 23 to the Milwaukee Bucks by The Athletic, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and On3. ESPN has him going No. 26 to the Washington Wizards.

All signs point to Alex Sarr of France and UConn’s Donovan Clingan being the first two centers off the board in the early lottery. But the second half of the first round features several centers in a close range, including Ware, Purdue’s Zach Edey, Baylor’s Yves Missi, Dayton’s Da’Ron Holmes II and Duke’s Kyle Filipowski.

Roster fit is so important in the NBA draft. Just ask former Hoosier Trayce Jackson-Davis, who was picked No. 57 and traded to the Golden State Warriors but finished 11th in NBA All-Rookie voting. But based on the current draft order and mock drafts, plus a few other destinations, let’s break down the best fits for Ware in the 2024 NBA draft.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings already have 6-foot-10 Domantas Sabonis, but their frontcourt depth is very thin. Ware’s rim protection skills would be welcomed at No. 13 to Sacramento, with Sabonis only averaging 0.5 blocks for his career. Sabonis and Ware can both step out and shoot from the 3-point line, too, so playing the two together is certainly possible. Ware played well in the pick-and-roll game at Indiana, and pairing him with an experienced, All-Star level point guard like De’Aaron Fox could help ease his transition to the league.

Milwaukee Bucks

Ware’s name has popped up most frequently in mock drafts at No. 23 to Milwaukee. The Bucks have 35-year-old center Brook Lopez, who made the NBA All-Defensive team in 2022-23, but he’s a free agent after the 2024-25 season. Allowing Ware to learn from a veteran like Lopez before asking him to play a significant role could be smart. The Bucks are still in position to be a contending team for a long time with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, and finding a young center for the future would help extend that window.

Washington Wizards

Some mock drafts have the Wizards taking French center Alex Sarr at No. 2, which would likely negate the need for Ware at No. 26. But if Washington passes on Sarr or UConn center Donovan Clingan for a guard or wing – or trades back in what is viewed as a weak draft – Ware would fill a need. The Wizards traded Daniel Gafford midseason, leaving their current roster without a clear, long-term piece at the center position.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The highest I’ve seen Ware in recent mock drafts is No. 13, so this might be a bit of a reach at No. 12. But based on roster fit, it could be worth it for the Thunder to take Ware here or trade back a few spots. Oklahoma City has 21-year-old Chet Holmgren at 7-foot-1 inside, but their roster as lacks frontcourt depth. Holmgren also struggled with physicality in the playoffs against the Mavericks’ bigs. Ware had some of his least productive college games against strong centers, too, but he also led the Big Ten in defensive rebounding percentage last year. It may take a few years for Holmgren and Ware to develop physically, but their inside-out scoring versatility and shot-blocking makes for a tantalizing combination.

Orlando Magic

The Magic have a solid center in Wendell Carter Jr., but drafting Ware at No. 18 would help reinforce the weaknesses in his skill sets. Ware was a strong rebounder and shot-blocker for the Hoosiers last season, and Carter averaged career-lows with 6.9 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game last season. The Magic also don’t have much depth behind Carter inside. Orlando has a budding star in Paolo Banchero, plus the young and talented Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, but adding a center like Ware could help continue the steady climb to the playoffs they’ve experienced the last few seasons.

Toronto Raptors

Toronto traded away power forward Pascal Siakam midseason, leaving its frontcourt without a surefire piece to build around for future seasons. Center Jakob Poeltl had a solid season at 11.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, and he’s entering the second year of a four-year, $78 million extension. But Poeltl doesn’t shoot threes, and he can’t carry the entire load inside. The Raptors need size in the short term, and Ware is an intriguing, long-term option for a rebuilding team picking at No. 19.

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Best Fits For Indiana’s Kel’el Ware in 2024 NBA Draft (2024)
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