Who is Zaccharie Risacher, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft?

Damond Isiaka
6 Min Read


CNN
 — 

The NBA is in the midst of a French revolution. First, it was Victor Wembanyama last year. Now, it is Zaccharie Risacher.

Risacher was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the first overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft on Wednesday, making history in the process.

The selection of the 19-year-old small forward means that for the first time in modern NBA Draft history, the No. 1 pick in back-to-back drafts has not played US college basketball.

From being born in southern Spain to playing professionally in France and now plying his trade in Georgia, Risacher’s rise has been rapid, much like Wembanyama’s.

Long-term project or immediate impact?

Risacher was born in Málaga, Spain, but spent most of his youth growing up Lyon, France. His father, Stéphane, was part of the French team which won the silver medal in the men’s basketball competition at the 2000 Olympics Games in Sydney.

He was introduced to basketball at a young age, quickly showing glimpses of promise.

Risacher broke through professionally with French club ASVEL in 2021, playing alongside Wembanyama for a season. Risacher’s selection by Atlanta was celebrated by Wembanyama, with the San Antonio Spurs star posting on X, formerly known as Twitter: “That’s France brother.”

He played a further season with the Lyon-based team before switching to JL Bourg-en-Bresse where he really blossomed and developed the skills which drew the attention of NBA franchises.

Risacher dribbles the ball during the match between JL Bourg and Monaco.

In the 32 regular season appearances he made in France’s LNB Élite league, Risacher averaged 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 21.9 minutes of play, shooting almost 44% from the field and 35% from three-point range.

In the 2023-24 season, he was named the French League Best Young Player, as well winning the EuroCup Rising Star Award for averaging 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 23.5 minutes.

Risacher has recently made his mark on the France senior national team too, making his debut earlier this year at the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers in February having already represented the country at younger categories.

Now, his combination of size and athleticism – the forward is 6-foot-9 and weighs 215 pounds – will be something he hopes can translate across the Atlantic to the NBA.

The Hawks have struggled in recent years ever since advancing to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals – Atlanta has since lost in the first round twice before failing to qualify for the playoffs last season.

The squad possesses its share of elite talent – in particular, guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray and forward Jalen Johnson – but has struggled to find cohesiveness outside of its stars.

The No. 1 overall pick was but a dream for Atlanta by the end of last season as the team only had a 3% chance of landing the top pick in the lottery.

But with the selection of the Frenchman, the Hawks hope he will add his all-around game to form a cohesive glue around their established names.

“We’re thrilled about taking Zaccharie. He has the ability to play on both sides of the ball. He’s a versatile defender, a really good shooter and a high-IQ type player,” Hawks general manager Landry Fields said about the Risacher pick.

“The amount of development he has had up until this point is fantastic, and he’s only 19. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome him and his family to Atlanta.”

Risacher prepares to shoot a free throw during a JL Bourg game.

According to the NBA’s official draft profile on Risacher, although he has positives to his game, the teenager is “unlikely to be an instant-impact player in Year 1, but down the road his shooting and decision-making could make him a valuable rotation piece.”

The NBA’s draft profile compares his upside to that of Denver Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr., Brooklyn Nets’ Cameron Johnson or Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre.

“I’m real excited about what’s going to happen,” Risacher told ESPN after being drafted. “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.”

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