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France Has 4 Players Projected To Be Selected In 2024, Including 2 Top 5 Selections, Is The French Taking Over The NBA?

Is France on the verge of taking over the NBA?

Last year, the San Antonio Spurs selected Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick. While Wembanyama was the first-ever French player selected with the first overall pick, 1coun4 French nationals played in the NBA in 2024-25. Wembanyama’s countryman Bilal Coulibaly was also a lottery pick, as he was selected with the No. 7 pick by the Indiana Pacers.

France Has 4 Players Projected To Be Selected In 2024, Including 2 Top 5 Selections, Is The French Taking Over The NBA?

Wembanyama certainly lived up to the hype that surrounded him entering last year’s draft, winning NBA Rookie of the Year accolades. Meanwhile, Coulibaly showed off his enormous potential during stretches and averaged over 10 points and four rebounds in seven appearances in March before suffering a season-ending wrist injury.

But those two are not the only Frenchmen to “show out” this season. Rudy Gobert earned his third NBA Defensive Player of the Year award this season. He helped the Minnesota Timberwolves earn a trip to the Western Conference for the second time in franchise history.

Ousmane Dieng, selected as the No. 11 overall pick in 2022, showed improvement in the 2023-24 G-League, earning G-League MVP honors this year. Dieng has appeared in 72 games for Oklahoma City.

Twenty-year-old Sidy Cissoko, 23-year-old Malcom Calazon, and 25-year-old Olivier Sarr have shown some promise in the G-League. None of the trio are stars, and Dieng still has a ways to go in his development. Evan Fournier and Nic Batum were once solid role players. In total, more than 40 French nationals have played in the NBA.

Future French NBA Players

It appears that the French invasion will continue in the coming seasons. Five players from France are considered draft prospects in 2024, according to The Athletic’s John Hollinger. This includes 19-year-olds Alexandre Sarr and  Zacharie Risacher, candidates to be the No. 1 overall selection in 2024. Tidjane Salaun is also projected to be a top 20 selection, while Melvin Ajinca is also expected to hear their name called.

Brice Dessert, Mohamed Diawara, Ugo Doumbia, Lucas Dufeal, Noah Penda, Zacharie Perrin, and Armel Traore have also entered their names in the 2024 draft. It is unknown how many of the seven players will remain in this year’s draft.

Plus, Nolan Troare is projected as a first-round pick in 2025.

“I think we got so much talent, it’s exciting, “Gobert told Hollinger. “You go (back) 20 years ago, we had a few guys like (Tony Parker) and Boris Diaw and (Nicolas) Batum, and now you look, and there’s so much talent every year coming in. Credit the French clubs and the French federation for being able to develop some of this talent and allowing them to play to their abilities.”

Examining The Top French Players In 2024 Draft

Here is a look at France’s top four prospects in this year’s draft and Victor Wembanyama’s evaluation of them. Wembanyama spoke to ESPN about each player.

Alexandre Sarr

Sarr is considered a top 2 pick. The 7-foot-1, 19-year-old center played for Perth (Australia) in the NBL, averaging 9.7 points and 4.4 rebounds while .520/.298/.714. He is a versatile defender who can play inside and out.

“Alex, it struck me when I first saw him; it was in 2020,” Wembanyama said. “I didn’t know him at all. I never heard of him. And he was just a crazy talent. And you could see that he was willing to get better and to win, but at the time it felt like he didn’t know really himself, how to play and how to use his body.

“And now, I mean, he’s just been getting better and better over the years. Great talent. And he’s had such an unconventional path as well. He has been all over the world.”

HoopsHype believes there is an 87.9% chance that Sarr will be chosen with the first pick and a 12.6% of being taken with the second pick.

Zacharie Risacher

Risacher produced a career season in his third year of professional basketball with Bourg of LNB. The 19-year-old forward had a solid EuropeCup campaign, averaging  13.1 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting .439/.352/.740.

“I got to spend a little bit of time with him,” Wembanyama said. “And we were both really young at the time, but back then even sometimes he practiced with us and he was just doing some crazy things in terms of talent. He’s definitely up there in that draft class. I probably don’t know anybody more talented than him in this draft class.”

“And he’s just all around. He can do pretty much everything. He’s very long, can block a lot of shots, and offensively, he can just let him do his thing. He’s had the chance to have a professional start like very few do. I mean, in Europe, very few players can get from the youth programs to the professional, and he’s one of them and he’s actually dominating this year. He was an all-star in France. So yeah, I mean, it’s all going well so far. I’m proud of what he’s doing.”

Risacher is a consensus top-5 prospect, with HoopsHype giving him top billing for being selected No. 2 at 45.4%. He also has a 15.0% chance of going No. 3, 19.3% going No. 4 and, No. 5, and a  2.8% of going No. 1.

Tidjane Salaun

Salaun is a 6-9 forward who finished his first full pro season with Cholet. He averaged 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals while shooting .373/.329/.767.

“I’m glad that he’s finally getting some professional time, professional performances,” Wembanyama said. “His work ethic and will to get better are just up there. I also spent a little bit of time in the summer of 2022 with him working out. I can trust this guy to get better and to work out like crazy.”

HoopHype has Salaun going between No. 13 and No. 20. Salaum is given a 32.3% chance to go 14th to Portland.

Melvin Ajinca

Like Salaun, Ajinca is coming off his first professional season. The 6-7 wing averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting .375/.309/.797 in 28 appearances for Saint-Quintin BB.

“I think I’ve known him for almost 10 years now,” Wembanyama said. “I wasn’t older than 11 when I played against him for the first time.”

“He’s always been [among] the best talents of our generation and at some point, I don’t know what happened, but he just got absolutely jacked and he started jumping out of the building,” Wembanyama said. “The one thing he did different than anyone at the time was making shots. He was making tough shots, and he had a reliable shot for a long time.

“I think he was a surprising prospect because he’s now at the professional level when guys who were, at first sight, more talented than him have totally disappeared, and he’s still there. And I’m glad to see a guy I spent so much time with and grew up playing against, I’m glad to see a guy like this being close to the league now.”

HoopsHype has Ajinca being selected between No. 43- No. 48.



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