Hawks use No. 1 pick on France's Risacher, 19 (2024)

  • Hawks use No. 1 pick on France's Risacher, 19 (1)

    Tim Bontemps, ESPNJun 26, 2024, 08:17 PM ET

NEW YORK -- The Atlanta Hawks took forward Zaccharie Risacher with the first pick in the 2024 NBA draft, marking the second straight year that the draft has had a decidedly French flavor.

Risacher, the first of four French players taken in the first round, follows in the footsteps of countryman Victor Wembanyama, who went No. 1 to the San Antonio Spurs last year.

Risacher is the fourth overall international prospect to be taken with the NBA's top pick, joining Italian big man Andrea Bargnani (2006, Toronto Raptors) and Hall of Fame center Yao Ming (2002, Houston Rockets).

"It's a blessing, you know," Risacher said. "So exciting. There's a lot of feelings and emotions right now. I don't know what to say, but it's definitely special. I'm so blessed."

Risacher, 19, played this past season for JL Bourg in France's LNB Elite league and averaged 11.1 points and 4.0 rebounds across competition in both the EuroCup and the French league. He is the son of longtime French professional basketball player Stephane Risacher, who won a silver medal with the French national team at the Olympic Games in 2000.

"I'm real excited about what's going to happen," Zaccharie Risacher said. "I just want to do my best to help the team. I just feel like I can help a lot. I'm ready to do whatever it takes to be able to get on the court with those great players."

The 6-foot-9 forward separated himself throughout the draft process, and Atlanta -- which jumped from the 11th spot in last month's NBA draft lottery to the top spot -- used its first No. 1 pick in the lottery era on him. Now, Risacher will go into a frontcourt alongside breakout forward Jalen Johnson with the Hawks, who enter the offseason with plenty of questions surrounding the future of their star-laden backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.

The Hawks also will look to improve on the defensive end, where they struggled last season in defensive efficiency (27th overall), defense vs. on-ball screens (24th), transition defense (29th) and field goal percentage allowed vs. layups and dunks (26th).

Fellow Frenchman Alex Sarr, also 19, was taken at No. 2 by the Washington Wizards, while Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard went to the Rockets at No. 3. Another French player -- Tidjane Salaun -- went to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 6.

Late in the first round, a fourth French prospect went off the board as the New York Knicks took guard Pacome Dadiet with the 25th selection.

"That's amazing," Risacher said. "We are trying to represent our country, and I'm so glad to be a part of it. There is more players coming in. I'm really proud of being a part of the success of my country."

Added Sarr: "It just shows the amount of talent that we have in France. I'm really excited for Zacc. I think our national team is really going to be good."

C'est la France frère 🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷

— Wemby (@wemby) June 27, 2024

During his introductory remarks, NBA commissioner Adam Silver congratulated the Boston Celtics on winning the 2024 NBA title -- drawing boos from the several thousand fans assembled here -- and commented on how the Celtics built their team through drafting each of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum at No. 3 in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.

Silver's comments came with an ironic twist, as the draft was being held at Brooklyn's Barclays Center -- home of the Nets, the team that sent the Celtics the picks that became Brown and Tatum as part of the trade that brought Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett here in 2013.

Unlike last year's draft, with Wembanyama the obvious selection all the way through, it was a much more muddled process this year, with Risacher, Sarr, Sheppard and UConn center Donovan Clingan all discussed as possible options before Atlanta landed on Risacher with the top selection.

After the Hawks took Risacher, Washington selected Sarr, a versatile 7-foot forward who has drawn some comparisons to longtime NBA star Al Horford, with the second pick, as had been widely expected, setting the stage for the first true dramatic moment when the Rockets went on the clock.

Houston, which had the third pick because it acquired it from the Nets in the James Harden trade in 2021, took Sheppard -- the sharpshooter who hit 52% of his 3s with the Wildcats -- adding to a burgeoning young talent base with the Rockets that includes guard Amen Thompson, forward Jabari Smith Jr. and center Alperen Sengun.

"It was unbelievable ... a dream come true," Sheppard said. "... They have a really good thing going in Houston. The coach [Ime Udoka] is really good. They have a bunch of really young, athletic guys, and we'll be able to play fast. It's going to be fun."

Sheppard, who is listed at 6-foot-2, is the fifth player that height or shorter to be picked in the top three of the NBA draft in the past 30 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also is the third Kentucky guard to be taken in the top five of an NBA draft, joining John Wall (2010) and De'Aaron Fox (2017).

That meant another Texas team, the Spurs, was on the clock with the fourth pick -- its first of two, along with the eighth pick, in this year's lottery. The Spurs drew a huge cheer from the crowd in Brooklyn by taking Stephon Castle, a guard from two-time defending national champion UConn.

"I was just playing for the best coach in college basketball and now flipping to the NBA and going to play for a legendary coach like Coach Pop, it's a blessing," Castle said.

With the fifth pick, the Detroit Pistons had been another team with some intrigue, as several teams were potentially looking to trade up to draft Clingan, the top defensive player in this draft. Ultimately, however, the Pistons stood pat and drafted Ron Holland II, a 6-foot-7 forward who spent this past season with the G League Ignite.

The Hornets then continued the French connection at the top of this draft by taking Salaun, a long, rangy, 6-foot-9 forward who spent the past season playing for Cholet Basket in France.

"I think the basketball in France has improved, and that's why we are here in this draft," Salaun said. "Three French players in the top 10, it's not nothing."

That left Clingan on the board for the Portland Trail Blazers, who had been hoping to land the center with the seventh pick, and they were able to get him there.

Drafting Clingan also opened up more questions about the future of other members of the Trail Blazers, including centers Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams, as Portland continues to retool its roster after trading the 14th pick earlier in the evening as part of a deal with the Wizards for forward Deni Avdija.

That was followed by the Minnesota Timberwolves, fresh off making the Western Conference finals, trading a 2031 first-round pick and a 2030 first-round pick swap to the Spurs for the rights to the eighth pick in the draft -- a pick Minnesota used to grab big-time scoring guard Rob Dillingham out of Kentucky.

The Memphis Grizzlies, having missed out on moving up to get Clingan, then grabbed Purdue center Zach Edey -- the 7-foot-4 national player of the year -- with the ninth selection. The Utah Jazz then picked Cody Williams -- the younger brother of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams -- with the 10th selection.

The Chicago Bulls then took forward Matas Buzelis, a Windy City native who played for G League Ignite, with the 11th pick, before Oklahoma City drafted Serbian point guard Nikola Topic, who has a partially torn ACL and could miss the entire season, with the 12th selection.

Sacramento then took Providence guard Devin Carter -- the son of longtime NBA guard Anthony Carter -- with the 13th pick.

The Wizards (though the pick was officially made by Portland) rounded out the lottery by taking Carlton "Bub" Carrington, a 6-foot-4 guard out of Pittsburgh, with the 14th selection.

Later in the first round, the Denver Nuggets traded up from the 28th pick to the 22nd overall selection with the Phoenix Suns to take Dayton big man DaRon Holmes. To do so, the Nuggets traded not only the 28th pick, but also the 56th pick and second-round picks in 2026 and 2031, as Phoenix added to its severely depleted pool of draft picks.

The Knicks, who entered the night with the 24th and 25th picks in this year's draft, traded the 24th pick to Washington for the 26th and 51st selections, with Washington using its third first-rounder of the night to grab Miami forward Kyshawn George.

New York then grabbed Dadiet with the 25th pick, before trading the 26th pick to the Thunder, who used it to take Weber State forward Dillon Jones. In exchange, the Knicks acquired five second-round picks from Oklahoma City.

The second round of the draft will be held Thursday at ESPN's Seaport District studios (4 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Hawks use No. 1 pick on France's Risacher, 19 (2024)


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