Former G League Ignite teammates Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis will begin their NBA careers as Central Division rivals while the program that developed them disappears.

The Detroit Pistons selected Holland with the fifth overall pick in the NBA draft on Wednesday night. The move surprised the 6-foot-8 forward, who said he didn’t have any contact with the Pistons before the draft.

“It’s a huge shock to me,” Holland said.

Six picks later, the Bulls took Buzelis, a Chicago-area product and 6-9 forward whose parents played professionally in Lithuania.

“Me being born and raised there (in Chicago), it just makes it so much better,” Buzelis said. “I mean, it means everything to me.”

Holland, 18, averaged 19.5 points in 14 games with the NBA G League Ignite before a thumb injury knocked him out for the rest of the season. Buzelis, 19, averaged 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds in 26 games.

The NBA announced three months ago that the G League Ignite program wouldn’t exist beyond 2024.

The Ignite provided an opportunity for NBA prospects who weren’t yet draft-eligible to play pro basketball and prepare for the draft without having to attend college. The NBA determined that rule changes enabling college athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness made college basketball more appealing for players who typically had chosen the Ignite.

Buzelis said he benefited from his Ignite experience.

“Playing against the best players in the world,” Buzelis said. “Getting trained by the best coaches in the world and having some vets that have been on NBA rosters and know what it’s like to go through the route that we went on. So I think I gained an advantage by being there.”

Holland was the first draft pick made by new Pistons president of basketball operateions Trajan Langdon, who already made a major shake-up by firing coach Monty Williams just a year after Detroit had given him a six-year, $78.5 million contract. The Pistons haven’t yet selected Williams’ replacement.

The Pistons have posted the league’s worst record each of the last two years, but they’ve been unlucky in the lottery and were picking fifth for a third straight draft. The Pistons, who haven’t reached the playoffs since 2019, used the No. 5 pick on Jaden Ivey in 2022 and on Ausar Thompson last year.


Needs: Shooting. The Bulls were 27th in the NBA in 3-pointers made and 26th in attempts last season, and they weren’t all that accurate, either. Chicago was 20th at 35.8% from beyond the arc.

Who they drafted: G League Ignite F Matas Buzelis at No. 11.

NBA comparison for Buzelis: A Chicago-area product whose parents played professionally in Lithuania, the 6-foot-9, 197-pound Buzelis has drawn some comparisons to Orlando’s Franz Wagner and Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren. Buzelis is known as a good ballhandler for his size and ability to finish at the rim. He’s also a versatile defender.


Needs: Now that they’ve found their coach ( Kenny Atkinson’s hiring isn’t yet official), the Cavs, focused on adding a young player to their established roster that got them to the Eastern Conference semifinals. There’s little pressure to add immediate help, so Cleveland was likely to pick a player it can develop or use as a future trade asset. They’ve coveted a two-way wing for some time, and there’s always room for another shooter.

Who they drafted: California F Jaylon Tyson at No. 20.

NBA comparison for Tatum: Miami’s Caleb Martin. The 6-foot-6 Tyson played at three schools in three years, going from Texas to Texas Tech to Cal, where he averaged 19.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game last season.


Needs: Frontcourt players, outside shooters and strong defenders.

Who they drafted: G League Ignite F Ron Holland at No. 5.

NBA comparison for Holland: Andre Iguodala. One of the best defensive forwards in the draft is similar in size and style to Iguodala, a one-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive Team player and four-time NBA champion.


The Indiana Pacers didn’t have a first-round pick after making the deepest postseason run of any Central Division team, losing to Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. The Pacers have three second-round picks Thursday.

Needs: The Pacers could stand to build some long-term depth with center Myles Turner and valuable backup point guard T.J. McConnell eligible to hit free agency after the upcoming season.

Who they drafted: Nobody yet. The Pacers currently have three second-round picks: No. 36, No. 49 and No. 50.


Needs: The Bucks could use some wings. With Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley potentially leaving as free agents, the Bucks also may need to find a new shooting guard and backup point guard. Milwaukee also needs to find an heir apparent to 7-foot center Brook Lopez, who is 36 years old.

Who they drafted: G AJ Johnson at No. 21. Johnson is a California native who played most recently for the Illawarra Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League.

NBA comparison for Johnson: The 19-year-old Johnson is raw and will probably need time to work his way into an NBA rotation. The Bucks would love to see him follow a path set by Portland’s Anfernee Simons, who was drafted 24th overall in 2018 and gradually developed into a prolific scorer.


AP Sports Writers Larry Lage, Michael Marot, Andrew Seligman and Tom Withers contributed to this report.