Hawks make French teen Zaccharie Risacher only the 2nd No. 1 overall pick in franchise history

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks are looking for French teen Zaccharie Risacher to help revive the franchise after making the forward the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night.

The 19-year-old Risacher (pronounced Ree-zah-shay) impressed the Hawks as a catch-and-shoot scorer with ideal size for a wing player. Risacher — at 6-foot 9 and 215 pounds — will be expected to join guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray and forward Jalen Johnson as foundation players for a team which has not won a playoff series since advancing to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals.

“I’m real excited about what’s going to happen,” Risacher said in a interview with Hawks media. “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.”

In a year there was no consensus choice as the top player in the draft, the Hawks could have traded down for more selections. The No. 1 pick was their only selection in the the draft. Instead, general manager Landry Fields didn’t pass up the rare opportunity to take advantage of the top pick.

“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.”

When asked to compare his game to a current NBA player, Risacher suggested Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson.

“I like the way he plays,” Risacher said. “I think we’ve got the same game. He’s obviously a veteran. … I can improve this style of my game.”

The Hawks drew a big crowd to State Farm Arena to watch the draft, and the announcement of Risacher drew an enthusiastic response.

The Hawks passed on another French star, 7-footer Alex Sarr, who had been projected by many to be the top selection, following France’s Victor Wembanyama, who was last year’s No. 1 pick by San Antonio. Among other options for Atlanta at No. 1 were UConn’s Donovan Clingan, who could have been the team’s center of the future, and Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard.

Sarr did not work out in Atlanta. Fields said that wasn’t a crucial factor in his decision to select Risacher.

“At the end of the day there’s enough information on all these guys to make an informed decision,” Fields said. “… The pick was still Zaccharie.”

Fields said Risacher was a top candidate to be the team’s top choice from the start of the draft research. Even so, Fields acknowledged there were ongoing debates on his staff through the last week before Risacher “ultimately won out.”

Fields said Risacher’s ability to make a positive impact on the Hawks’ defense, a nagging team weakness, “was really a huge part of all of this.”

The Hawks didn’t expect to be making the No. 1 pick before they were the surprise winner of the NBA draft lottery. Atlanta had only a 3% chance of landing the top pick.

Fields faced pressure to make good on the second No. 1 overall selection in franchise history. In 1975, the Hawks made David Thompson the No. 1 pick before Thompson opted to play for Denver in the ABA.

Fields said he fielded calls from executives interested in trading for the No. 1 pick, and he said the conversations continued Wednesday. Fields acknowledged he had to consider offers because the Hawks had no other draft picks this year and few selections in the next few drafts.

The Hawks’ future drafts were weakened by their 2022 trade with San Antonio for Murray. Atlanta traded 2025 and 2027 first-round picks to the Spurs and also included a 2026 pick swap in the trade.

Fields also must decide if the Hawks will continue to lean on their backcourt of Murray and Young for scoring leadership. The Hawks kept Murray at the trade deadline in February despite speculation he could be available in exchange for draft picks.

Other key offseason decisions may be looming for such veteran players as center Clint Capela, who is entering the final year of his contract, and forward De’Andre Hunter.


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up