Zaccharie Risacher, Alexandre Sarr dominate conversation as Hawks prepare for draft

Hawks hold No. 1 overall pick in NBA draft scheduled for June 26-27
France's Alexandre Sarr of the Wildcats takes a free throw against the Cairns Taipans during a basketball game in Perth, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. This year's NBA draft may be one of the weakest in years, with no clear-cut choice at No. 1 and an overall lack of depth. What it will likely have again this year: a French connection at the top. A year after San Antonio selected Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick, fellow Frenchmen Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher could go 1-2 in the June 26 draft. (Richard Wainwright/AAP Image via AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

France's Alexandre Sarr of the Wildcats takes a free throw against the Cairns Taipans during a basketball game in Perth, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. This year's NBA draft may be one of the weakest in years, with no clear-cut choice at No. 1 and an overall lack of depth. What it will likely have again this year: a French connection at the top. A year after San Antonio selected Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick, fellow Frenchmen Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher could go 1-2 in the June 26 draft. (Richard Wainwright/AAP Image via AP)

Editor’s note: With the Hawks holding the No. 1 pick in the coming NBA draft, there are plenty of opinions on what the team should do with the selection. Each week before the draft starts June 26, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will present one opinion. This week: Krysten Peek from Yahoo Sports.

A pair of Frenchmen have led the way in NBA draft talks and that has not changed with only a few weeks left until the big day.

Lately, though, Zaccharie Risacher has emerged as the favorite to go first overall in the draft, set to take place June 26-27. In a coming episode of the Hawks Report podcast presented by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, NBA draft analyst Krysten Peek shared why she projected in her latest mock draft why Risacher could go higher than his Alexandre Sarr.

Risacher’s rise in the latest mock drafts came after strong outings in the LNB Pro A playoffs in France this summer, where he averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He helped his team to reach the semifinals in the playoffs.

The 19-year-old’s latest rise in the mock drafts reminds Peek of another Frenchman from a previous draft.

“We saw it last year with Bilal Coulibaly (of the Wizards), just his performance in the LNB Pro A playoffs over in France, and Zaccharie has had the same sort of rise,” Peek said. “And this added extra bonus time that NBA scouts and executives have had to scout over in France or over in Europe while these teams are playing at the highest level has been really beneficial for players like Tidjane Salaun and Zaccharie Risacher. And we had executives or scouts from the Hawks, from the Wizards and also the Rockets at these playoff games. They made the trip. This is very serious business.”

Peek has followed Risacher for many years and has seen his growth over that time. Plus, he has shown the ability to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player, with the ability to defend multiple positions.

“What we’re seeing with Risacher and his potential, I mean, this is one of the most improved players from where he was this time last year to now,” Peek said. “And so when you see that upside and you see how young he is and how much more space he has to grow, then you’re investing in a player that could not only be – you know, everyone says that this is a draft of role players, but if you hit on a certain player that can be that defining wing or defining playmaker in this draft and have that versatility. I think Risacher kind of has that potential as well.”

But the Hawks remain diligent in gathering their information, and Sarr’s name continues to float around the conversation of who will go first overall. Risacher and Sarr could address some of the Hawks’ need for size and depth in the frontcourt.

Plus with youth on their side, the Hawks could continue to shape them into long-term contributors.

“I think teams and fans need to realize, we were spoiled with Victor Wembanyama and what Brandon Miller also did, very early in their career,” Peek said. “I don’t think we’re going to see that from this draft class. So, it’s going to be more of a draft and wait. And just the amount of impact that these players have right away in the NBA isn’t going to be like what we saw this past year, no way near that.”

The Hawks, though, remain tight-lipped about their plans for draft night. But Peek still has tried to sift through some of the information trickling out. Ultimately, she thinks the Hawks keep the pick and that Risacher or Sarr will be it.

“I think they keep the pick,” Peek said. “I think they take either Alex Sarr or Zaccharie Risacher, depending on just their intel and the work that they’ve done leading up to the draft, and it also depends on the conversations that they’ve had with both prospects. But I think they end up selecting at No. 1 when we have the draft here in less than three weeks.”