July 15, 2024

2024 NBA Draft: Hawks select Zaccharie Risacher at No. 1; Wizards take Alex Sarr at No. 2


The French invasion of the NBA continues.

On Wednesday night, Frenchmen were selected at No. 1 and No. 2 in pro basketball’s annual amateur draft, with the Atlanta Hawks taking JL Bourg forward Zaccharie Risacher No. 1 and the Washington Wizards selecting Perth 7-footer Alex Sarr.

Risacher, 19, of Lyon, France, literally followed in the footsteps of Parisian sensation Victor Wembanyama by having NBA commissioner Adam Silver call his name at the start of the draft in New York. Sarr, also 19, of Toulouse was right behind him.

Beyond their shared nationality, however, Risacher and Sarr’s route to the draft stage in Brooklyn was almost nothing like the path Wembanyama blazed last summer in going first to San Antonio.

Whereas Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4, never-seen-anything-like-him budding superstar was the presumptive top pick for months leading up to the 2023 draft, there was no consensus No. 1 prospect this year. As late as this week, NBA scouts and league executives were unsure about who the Hawks would choose. Atlanta selected Risacher from a muddled top tier that included Sarr, Connecticut center Donovan Clingan and wing Stephon Castle, and Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard.

Rounding out the top 5 of the 2024 draft, the Houston Rockets selected Sheppard third; Castle went fourth to the San Antonio Spurs (where he will pair with Wembanyama), and the Detroit Pistons selected G League Ignite forward Ron Holland fifth.

Risacher is a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged nearly 11 points and four rebounds playing in France’s top pro league last season. He is a stout defender who shot nearly 39 percent from 3-point range.

Risacher comes to an Atlanta franchise in which the biggest star — Trae Young — could be on the trading block, but where there is room for Risacher to compete for playing time on the wing. While 6-foot-8 forward Jalen Johnson averaged 16 points and 8.7 rebounds last season and is only 22, Sadiq Bey is a restricted free agent coming off a torn knee ligament, and the Hawks are seeking to trade De’Andre Hunter. Atlanta finished 36-46 and in 10th in the East, and were bounced out of the Play-In tournament in the first round.

Risacher was born in Malaga, Spain, but grew up in Lyon, France, and his father was a French Olympian and silver medalist in basketball in 2000. Risacher was a member of France’s U19 World Cup championship team last summer and played for JL Bourg last season. His team played in France’s top pro league, and a second division of teams competing all across Europe.

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Sarr, meanwhile, averaged 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in Australia’s top pro league last season. He was the first international prospect to play for Overtime Elite in the U.S. His brother played for the Oklahoma City Thunder last season on a two-way contract, and his father played professionally in Senegal. Sarr came off the bench for the Perth Wildcats in Australia’s pro league last season and averaged 1.5 blocks per game while shooting nearly 52 percent from the field.

Sarr is expected to be a key piece of the Wizards’ extensive rebuild. Before the draft Wednesday, Washington traded Deni Avdija to Portland for Malcolm Brogdon, and, perhaps more importantly, the 14th pick in the 2024 draft.

For the first time, the NBA Draft is being held over two nights, with Round 1 scheduled for Wednesday at the Barclays Center and Round 2 on Thursday. While most draft experts consider this year’s class to be weak at the top, they also say the depth of the class is more on par with previous drafts. Among the biggest draft storylines set to unfold is the status of Lakers star LeBron James’ son, Bronny, who is in the draft after just one season at USC.

Who takes the 19-year-old Bronny, and in which round, will spark enormous interest and likely inspire chatter about where his dad — arguably the greatest player ever and the NBA’s all-time scoring champ — goes as a free agent this summer.

If the younger James is drafted and makes an NBA roster, he and his father would become the first father-son duo to play in the league at the same time.

This story will be updated.

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(Photo of Zaccharie Risacher: Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images)





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