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Zaccharie Risacher vs Alexandre Sarr: The Hawks’ Good Problem


The Atlanta Hawks now have less than a month to determine what to do with the first overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. After unexpectedly winning the lottery for the first time in franchise history, General Manager Landry Fields has his plate full this summer, exploring different prospects. Two names have consistently been mentioned at the top of mock drafts as the national media predicts who Atlanta will take with its selection- Alexandre Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher. This article dives deep into each prospect’s strengths, weaknesses, and fit on the Hawks’ roster for the 2024-2025 campaign.

Will Alex Sarr Be the Hawks’ Star?

Sarr’s biggest impact on the floor when he begins his career will be seen on the defensive end. He excels as a low man at 7 feet 1 inches tall in help-side rim protection situations. Last season, opponents shot 65.9% inside five feet against Atlanta, which ranked 26 in the association. Dejounte Murray and Trae Young struggled to keep opposing guards out of the paint, forcing Clint Capela, Onyeka Okongwu, and Jalen Johnson to bring help. Sarr can immediately impact the Hawks’ help-side defense and lower opponents’ field goal percentage in the paint.

He is also comfortable defending away from the paint. In his time with Overtime Elite and Perth, the French big man displayed a unique ability to switch onto opposing guards and wings. His size and lateral quickness allow Sarr to stay in front of quicker, smaller guys. This combination from a 7-footer is difficult to find in many drafts. Head Coach Quin Snyder liked centers to play high up at the level of the screen when defending the pick-and-roll last season. Sarr fits that system; he can switch onto the guard or hedge the screen effectively to cut off driving lanes.

Some fans might argue that Atlanta needs a defense-first center, but former University of Connecticut center Donovan Clingan fits like a glove. While Clingan is an excellent defender, he does not possess Sarr’s offensive upside. Sarr is a seamless fit in the pick-and-roll with Young. He can make smart decisions in short-roll situations and finish off alley-oop slams.

When Sarr grabs a rebound, he can ignite a fastbreak by himself. He does not need to find a guard for an outlet pass because he can put the ball on the floor. He excels in transition, throwing down monstrous dunks from alley-oops or taking the ball 94 feet to the rack himself. This playstyle fits the Hawks’ sixth-ranked pace in 2023-2024.

Sarr encounters some problems on the defensive glass. In 17.2 minutes per game for Perth this season, he averaged 4.4 rebounds. According to HoopsHype, There are questions surrounding his ability to defend opposing physical centers. If that is the case, he might play some minutes at power forward early in his career. Sarr shot 29.8% from beyond the arc last season in just two attempts per game. He will need to improve his outside shot to use it effectively in the NBA.

Risacher is in Play

(AP Photo)

Risacher gives the Hawks much-needed wing depth. He can play as a shooting guard or small forward, and at 6 feet 8 inches tall, he has great length. His height gives him the ability to shoot over defenders from the perimeter. Last season with Bourg, he shot 45.7% from deep, attempting 3.4 triples per game across the EuroCup and LNB Pro A leagues.

Atlanta ranked seventh in the NBA in 2024, taking 37.7 shots from beyond the arc per game. Risacher excels at coming off screens in catch-and-shoot situations within a motion offense. Snyder emphasizes off-ball movement and three-point shooting, falling right into Risacher’s offensive wheelhouse. With De’Andre Hunter in trade rumors and Saddiq Bey going into unrestricted free agency, the Hawks have an opening for small forward minutes. If he impresses, he could carve out a rotation role for himself early in his career.

Similar to Sarr, Risacher wants to push the ball up the court in transition when securing a defensive rebound. He excels at finishing on fastbreaks, whether he ignites or ends the play. He only averaged 3.7 rebounds per contest last campaign. However, Risacher will have plenty of time to grow and get stronger to fight other forwards on the glass, as he is only 19 years of age.

Risacher possesses three-point solid shooting and fastbreak prowess. However, the defensive end of the floor is where he can raise his ceiling to another level. He has the upside to guard 2-4 at the NBA level. Once he gets stronger and grows into his body, Risacher could prove to be a valuable “3 and D” player on the wing.

While he excels in transition, Risacher struggles in the halfcourt with the ball in his hands. He is limited in creating shots off the dribble, often leaning on primary facilitators to put him in the best positions to succeed. However, if he plays with Young or Murray, he will not be leaned on to create much in the halfcourt. Instead, Risacher will fly around screens and find his rhythm through transition scoring. Young is one of the best pick-and-roll operators in the NBA, creating a lot of space on the perimeter with his dribble penetration. Risacher could find a lot of quality three-point shots from the wings and corners when the defense collapses.

With the great power comes great responsibility. Fields and the Hawks’ front office have ultimate flexibility with the first pick. They will do extensive research and scouting to make sure they select a foundational piece for the franchise’s future.

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