NBA mock draft: Frenchmen could go 1-2 in draft, following Wembanyama's footsteps

Wed, Jun 5, 2024
NBA News (AP)

NBA mock draft: Frenchmen could go 1-2 in draft, following Wembanyama's footsteps

This year's NBA draft may be one of the weakest in years, with no clear-cut choice at No. 1 and an overall lack of depth.

What it will likely have again this year: a French connection at the top.

A year after San Antonio selected Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick, fellow Frenchmen Alexandre Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher could go 1-2 in the June 26 draft.

After those two, the rest of the draft could be as unpredictable as any in recent memory, players pegged to be in the lottery ending up going late in the first round or the other way around. Some team may even take a chance on using a first-round pick on Southern California's Bronny James, son of NBA all-time leading scorer LeBron James.

1. ATLANTA HAWKS: Alexandre Sarr, center, France

Sarr doesn't have the all-around skills of Wembanyama, but then no one really does. He's still extremely talented, an athletic 7-footer who can wreck rims and the hopes of opposing shooters. Sarr's shot still needs some work, but he could end up becoming a franchise player in the next few years. Atlanta fans should love watching him throw down lobs from Trae Young.

2. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Zaccharie Risacher, forward, France

Many NBA mock drafts have Risacher going No. 1 - and for good reason. The 6-foot-9 forward has the skills of a guard and should be a perfect fit for today's NBA. Risacher is a superb catch-and-shoot wing who can beat defenders off the dribble and has a huge defensive upside with his length and athleticism. He may end up being the franchise player the Wizards need in their rebuild.

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3. HOUSTON ROCKETS: Reed Sheppard, guard, Kentucky

The Rockets need shooters and Sheppard is certainly that. The 6-3 guard may be the best shooter in the draft and wowed Kentucky fans during his one season in Lexington. Sheppard has a high basketball IQ - both parents played at UK - is an excellent shooter coming off screens and has sneaky athleticism. He shot 52% from 3-point range and averaged 12.5 points as a freshman at Kentucky.

4. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Nikola Topic, guard, Serbia

The Spurs already have one of the best big men in the game and adding Topic could be the perfect player to get Wemby the ball. The 6-6 guard is a super passer with great vision and size to see over defenders. He also has the strength to get into the lane and can finish strong at the rim. Topic isn't much of a 3-point shooter, but can control a game without shooting. One issue that may dissuade teams from taking him so high: Medical tests showed he has a partially torn ACL in his left knee, which he injured twice last season in Europe.

5. DETROIT PISTONS: Matas Buzelis, forward, G League Ignite

Buzelis bypassed college basketball to play in the G League and improved his draft status by gaining muscle while rounding out his game. The 6-8 forward is an excellent playmaker who can see over defenders and finishes strong at the rim in transition. Buzelis will need to work on his perimeter shooting, though: he hit 27% from 3 for the Ignite last season.

6. CHARLOTTE HORNETS: Donovan Clingan, center, UConn

Clingan's a proven winner as the massive anchor to UConn's back-to-back NCAA titles. Though he doesn't fit the NBA mold of a perimeter-shooting big man, the 7-2, 280-pounder is a load for opponents inside at both ends of the floor. Clingan is a superb shot blocker and rebounder who also sets crushing screens. Clingan also is excellent at finishing on lobs, which could be a great fit with LaMelo Ball running the point in Charlotte.

7. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS:

Stephon Castle, guard, UConn

The Huskies were loaded with talented players in their title defense last season and Castle had no trouble fitting in as a freshman. The 6-6 guard is a solid playmaker who can get his own shot and is a hard-nosed defender. His size and athleticism could end up making him one of the best players of the draft, particularly if he improves his outside shot. Even at 19, he's already a proven winner.

8. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Rob Dillingham, guard, Kentucky

The Spurs could take care of the point guard position by selecting Topic and Dillingham would provide floor spacing when teams inevitably collapse on Wembanyama. Though small at 6-1, 165 pounds, Dillingham has a big game with an ability to score at three levels. He shot 44% from 3 during his lone season at Kentucky and has the quickness to beat defenders off the dribble. His size could be a liability on defense.

9. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: Dalton Knecht, guard, Tennessee

A knockdown shooter, Knecht could be a great complement to Ja Morant. The 6-6 shooting guard is superb at shooting off screens and can fill it up in a hurry, like he did while scoring 37 points against Purdue in the Elite Eight. Knecht is close to a finished product already, a 23-year-old who should contribute right away.

10. UTAH JAZZ: Tidjane Salaun, forward, France

Salaun can make it three French players as lottery picks in this year's draft. The 6-9 forward has the frame and game to fit the NBA style of play. He can shoot it from deep and improved his game - not to mention his frame - while playing in the French LNB Pro A, the same league as Wembanyama before his move to the NBA. Salaun may be a longer-term project, but has massive upside.

11. CHICAGO BULLS: Cody Williams, guard, Colorado

He's a thin 6-8, but has the size and athleticism to shoot over or get around defenders. Williams can create his own shot, is an excellent finisher and has good playmaking skills for a shooting guard. He shot a respectable 41% from 3 during his freshman season and has a huge defensive upside with his length and agility.

12. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: Ron Holland, forward, G League Unite

Holland could end up being the best defensive forward in the draft. The 6-7 forward has a nose for the ball defensively - he averaged more than 2 steals a game in the G League - and is excellent in the open floor, which would be a great fit in OKC. Holland can create his own shot, but needs to make more after shooting 24% from 3 on 3.6 attempts per game last season. The Thunder are at least in a position to wait for him to develop.

13. SACRAMENTO KINGS: Devin Carter, guard, Providence

The 6-3 guard has a massive wingspan and vertical leap, which helped allow him make a big jump from 13 points to 19.7 last season. Carter has a high basketball IQ, is a hard-nosed defender and an excellent rebounder for a guard. The son of former NBA player Anthony Carter, he was the Big East player of the year in a league that included Clingan and Castle.

14. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Ja'Kobe Walter, guard, Baylor

Adding Walter to Castle would give the Blazers quite a backcourt haul. The 6-5 guard was not shy in putting it up from 3 for the Bears as a freshman, taking more than four a game while shooting 34%. His long wingspan and athleticism give Walter the potential to become a defensive stopper at the next level. Shot selection and adding a bit of muscle to his 197-pound frame will be the biggest adjustments in the move to the NBA, but he's only 19 so there's plenty of time.

15. MIAMI HEAT: Isaiah Collier, guard, USC

While Bronny James got much of the hype in Southern California, Collier was the higher-rated prospect out of high school. Once projected as a lottery pick, his draft stock took a bit of a hit during an inconsistent lone season with the Trojans. Even so, Collier has the type of game and solid frame that could translate well in the NBA. The 6-3 guard plays hard with the strength and quickness to get past defenders, but needs to work on his perimeter game after shooting 34% from the college 3-point line.

16. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: Jared McCain, guard, Duke

He was Duke's toughest competitor during his lone season in Durham and is an elite shooter who could fit in on any team. McCain is an excellent shooter off screens and in the pullup game, but can also run the point if needed. He has a high basketball IQ, so should pick up the NBA game fairly quickly.

17. LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Kel'el Ware, center, Indiana

The 7-footer with a 7-5 wingspan has the length and game to have an immediate impact in the NBA. Ware quickly moved up NBA draft boards during team workouts and is a strong rim protector. He's also excellent on lobs and shot 43% from 3 last season, making him the type of stretch big man NBA teams covet.

18. ORLANDO MAGIC: Kyshawn George, guard, Miami

At 6-8, George has good size and is a knockdown shooter who hit 41% from 3 in his lone season for the Hurricanes last year. He is an intriguing prospect to run the point and his length could make him a plus defender. The Swiss guard would be a nice fit in Orlando as a floor spacer and backup point guard.

19. TORONTO RAPTORS: Yves Missi, forward, Baylor

Missi knows his game and sticks to it. A high-motor 6-11 forward, he is a rim runner and shot blocker who didn't even attempt a 3-pointer last season. The Cameroon native should transition well to the pick-and-roll game of the NBA and is a thunderous dunker, as he proved during his lone season with the Bears.

20: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Tristan da Silva, forward, Colorado

Any team could use a steady, do-it-all type of player and da Silva is just that. The 6-8 forward doesn't have eye-catching athleticism, but he is smart and has the size and strength to endure the rigors of the NBA. He also can guard multiple positions and may be the most NBA-ready player in the draft after playing four years in Boulder.

21. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: Carlton Carrington, guard, Pittsburgh

The player known as "Bub" gets buckets in bunches and loves the pull-up J. The 6-4 guard has good size to play point guard and, at 19, has plenty of time to develop. His biggest downside: perimeter shooting. Carrington didn't lack for confidence in his freshman season, attempting 6.1 3s per game, but shot 32% from the arc.

22. PHOENIX SUNS: Tyler Smith, forward, G League Ignite

The Big Three of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal weren't enough to get the Suns past the first round of the playoffs. Smith, with his long reach and ability to stretch the defense could be a good fit to help Phoenix push deeper. The 6-9 forward needs work defensively, but will have time to develop that part of his game in the desert.

23. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: Zach Edey, center, Purdue

Edey's lack of mobility and perimeter shooting drop him toward the end of the first round, but he's still the first repeat AP national player of the year since Ralph Sampson. At 7-4, 300 pounds, he dominated the college game and will be a handful even in the NBA. Edey also would get the opportunity to learn from Brook Lopez, once a back-to-the-basket big who expanded his game later in his career.

24. NEW YORK KNICKS: Kyle Filipowski, center, Duke

New York is loaded with Duke fans and Filipowski could be an instant favorite. The sturdy 6-11 center may not be an elite rim protector nor a consistent 3-pointer shooter, but he has good footwork and plays hard. The Knicks had a solid run into the second round of the playoffs and Filipowski could be another piece to help push them deeper.

25. NEW YORK KNICKS: Tyler Kolek, guard, Marquette

The Knicks have one bucket-getter in Jalen Brunson and Kolek could be an option to help take some of the pressure off. The 6-3 guard is a steady hand at the point who can score at multiple levels. The two-time All-American could also become a fan favorite at the Garden with his scrappy play and ability to score in bunches when needed.

26. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Johnny Furphy, guard, Kansas

The 6-8 Australian has a smooth shooting stroke and gets his shot off quickly. He also has good touch around the rim and good instincts on defense, often leading to steals. Furphy is not much of a shot creator off the dribble and needs to work on his individual defense, so he could need a year or two of development.

27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: DaRon Holmes II, forward, Dayton

The 6-9 forward is good in the pick-and-roll game and a strong finisher at the rim. Holmes has improved his outside shooting, hitting 39% from the 3-point arc after shooting 32% the season before. He can defend multiple positions, but would be undersized as a center in the NBA. He also isn't much of a shot creator, but his pick-and-roll skills may offset that.

28. DENVER NUGGETS: Jaylon Tyson, forward, California

Denver's bid to repeat as NBA champions hit a wall in the second round when its top players were stretched to the limit. Tyson could give them a solid boost off the bench. The 6-6 guard has good size, finishes strong at the rim and is a decent perimeter shooter. He increased his scoring average nearly 10 points to 19.6 last season, so has shown the ability to develop his game.

29. UTAH JAZZ: Bobi Klintman, forward, Wake Forest/Australia

The back end of the first round is typically filled with potential projects and Klintman is an intriguing one. The 6-9 stretch forward from Sweden has good length, both physically and shooting ability. Klintman moves more like a guard and is a good passer for a big man. He will likely need a few years of development before becoming ready, but is worth the risk late in the first round.

30. BOSTON CELTICS: Bronny James, guard, USC

The Celtics are in the NBA Finals and already have a loaded roster, so there's room to take a chance on LeBron's son. Bronny James has an incredible feel for the game after learning from his father and has a solid 6-4 frame. He had a so-so freshman season at USC, averaging 4.8 points and 27% shooting from 3-point range, but has the potential to be a solid pro. James also could come with a huge bonus if his father follows through with his intention to play at least one season with his son.

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