French players go early, often at NBA draft

By Sports Desk June 26, 2024

For the second year in a row, a player from France was selected first overall in the NBA draft.

As a testament to the NBA being a global game, a player from France was also taken with the second and the sixth pick in the 2024 draft.

The Atlanta Hawks started off Wednesday's draft from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn by selecting Zaccharie Risacher with the first overall pick, and the Washington Wizards followed their lead by taking fellow Frenchman Alexandre Sarr with the No. 2 pick.

The run on French players continued with the Charlotte Hornets selecting forward Tidjane Salaun with the sixth pick, making this the first time in modern history that a country other than the United States had three players selected in the top 10.


Risacher is a catch-and-shoot 3-point specialist and an exceptional defender on the wing, while the big man Sarr possesses the ball-handling ability of a wing and is an elite rim protector.

Salaun was the youngest player taken in the draft at 18 years old, and is considered an excellent athlete with a high motor.

There was one more player from France taken before the first round ended, with the New York Knicks taking Pacome Dadiet at No. 25.

With another Frenchman, Victor Wembanyama, being selected first overall last year by the San Antonio Spurs, this also marked the first time in NBA history consecutive No. 1 picks didn’t play collegiately in the United States.

It wasn't all players from France selected, however.

After the top two picks, the Houston Rockets took sharp-shooter Reed Sheppard from Kentucky, and the San Antonio Spurs used their first of two top-10 picks to select guard Stephon Castle from two-time defending American collegiate national champion Connecticut at No. 4.

Three picks later, Castle's team-mate at UConn, centre Donovan Clingan, was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Spurs then used their second top-10 pick to take Kentucky point guard Rob Dillingham at No. 8, but later traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Forward Ron Holland II, an American who skipped college to play in the G League, went three picks earlier to the Detroit Pistons at No. 5.

Perhaps the biggest - no pun intended - surprise of the first round was the Memphis Grizzlies taking Zach Edey with the ninth pick.

The 7-foot-3 Canadian is the back-to-back American collegiate AP national player of the year, yet was slotted to get picked much later by many experts.

The Utah Jazz rounded out the top 10 by selecting Colorado forward Cody Williams - a strong defender and adept ball-handler.

One name absent from the first round was Bronny James - son of the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, LeBron James.

The elder James had previously said it would be a dream to play with his son, but his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, ended up taking Dalton Knecht with the 17th pick.

Knecht, a prolific scorer and an AP All-American this past season at Tennessee, was projected by many prognosticators to be a top-10 pick, but slid down the draft board.

The younger James hadn't been predicted to be selected in the first round, but could be taken at some point on Day 2 of the draft on Thursday. 

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