NBA: No certain No. 1 pick for draft

Published 2:15 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2024

By BRIAN MAHONEY AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK — Since the lucky numbers came up for the Atlanta Hawks for a surprising victory in the lottery, speculation centered around Alex Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher of France as the players they would consider for the No. 1 pick.

Donovan Clingan hopes he gave them someone else to think about.

The center from two-time defending national champion UConn also visited the Hawks and thought he put on a good performance.

“So I feel like the workout went well and we’ll see tomorrow,” Clingan said Tuesday.

There was no such mystery last season.

Victor Wembanyama was the choice all along for the San Antonio Spurs and the center from France proved to be the right one with a Rookie of the Year season. When the now two-night draft begins Wednesday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, another Frenchman — or two — could quickly hear his name called by Commissioner Adam Silver.

Sarr is a 7-footer who spent last season playing for Perth of Australia’s National Basketball League. Risacher (pronounced Ree-zah-shay) is a forward who had a breakout season last year in France.

The players are friends who were teammates in 2023 when France won the silver medal in the Under-19 World Cup.

“I think we’re two different players,” Sarr said. “We can’t really compare. We played on two different spots and we both bring different skills to the game.”

If Sarr or Risacher is taken first, it would mark the first time that the draft went consecutive years without the No. 1 pick being someone who played at an American college.

Clingan and UConn teammate Stephon Castle, along with Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham, will make sure it’s also a good night for some of the usual college basketball powerhouses.

But the big celebration could be in France.

Sarr wouldn’t confirm whether he had worked out for Atlanta, but he might be skilled enough that the Hawks would have to consider him no matter what with their first No. 1 pick since 1975 — and one they weren’t expected to get after having only a 3% chance of winning the lottery.

Or maybe it’s Risacher, who believes his country will make more draft memories in the years to come.

“My point of view is that a lot of good players are going to show up and that’s amazing to see that we’re growing as a nation,” Risacher said, “and I can’t wait to see more good French players coming to the draft.”