2024 NBA Draft

5 takeaways: French players make history in 1st round of 2024 NBA Draft

France produces 3 of the top 10 picks, Portland powers up, Dalton Knecht slides to No. 17 and more from Round 1.

See every pick from the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft, which lead off with Zaccharie Risacher going No. 1 overall to Atlanta.

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1. France plants a flag

As expected, Zaccharie Risacher and Alex Sarr went back-to-back atop the 2024 NBA Draft, marking the second straight season a French player went No. 1 overall.

And then Tidjane Salaun shot up to No. 6, selected by the Hornets to make this the first time a non-U.S. country produced three top 10 picks in the same Draft. They were joined by Pacome Dadiet, who went No. 25 overall to the Knicks.

“That’s amazing,” Risacher said. “We are trying to represent our country, and I’m so glad to be a part of it. There is more players coming in. I’m really proud of being a part of the success of my country.”

“Just to be able to realize our dream together is special. I feel like French players are going to take some inspiration, and that’s going to be better (for France) and better for us.”

Risacher, a prototypical 3-and-D prospect, and Sarr, a fluid 7-footer, both seemed targeted for the top from the earliest projections of the Draft. Both enter situations where they should be able to ease into roles, despite the draft-leading selections.

Salaun, projected mid-to-late lottery heading into Wednesday’s event, should prove an athletic, rangy complement to the Hornets’ high-flying offense. The 6-foot-9 forward wields a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a high motor that should allow for instant impact with potential to develop on both ends of the floor.

“I know a lot of French players have (played with) this team in Charlotte,” Salaun said, referencing notables like Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw. “I’m the next one. I will bring all my fire to the club and be ready to play with players like LaMelo Ball, get some alley-oops. I’m ready to jump.”

2. Dollars for Dillingham

The Timberwolves took a massive flyer on Robert Dillingham being a difference maker, trading an unprotected 2031 1st round pick and a lightly protected 2030 swap to acquire the No. 8 pick from San Antonio. Adding Kentucky product Dillingham – with Minnesota deep into the luxury tax after slotting Rudy Gobert around Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards – could inflate the bill upwards of $80 million.

“It’s a blessing for real, because it just shows they trust me and trust in me to develop,” Dillingham said. “And that’s all I needed. I get to play with way better players and learn from them. I thank the Timberwolves for sure.”

Dillingham proved an electric playmaker off the bench in his single season at Kentucky, pairing with SEC Freshman of the Year Reed Sheppard while averaging 15.2 points (shooting 44.4% from 3 and 47.5% overall), along with 3.9 assists. At 6-foot-1 and 164 pounds, he’ll have time to grow into his frame while likely filling a similar role with the now-playoff-tested Timberwolves.

The Spurs had already selected UConn’s Stephon Castle at No. 4, rolling forward the option to continue stockpilng picks around generational talent Victor Wembanyama.

3. Portland powers up

The Blazers tipped off the trading session about an hour prior to the Draft, acquiring forward Deni Avdija from the Wizards for a package that included Malcolm Brogdon and four picks. They soon followed that by snagging Donovan Clingan with their No. 7 overall pick, bringing in a back-to-back NCAA champion and potential defensive centerpiece.

“It’s been a crazy two years,” Clingan said. “A lot of winning, a lot of succeeding the past two years. I feel like I’m going to keep that chip on my shoulder and go into Portland with a lot of confidence, with a willingness to learn and get better every single day.

“I just want to have an impact and try to help this organization win and get to the top and try to win championships.”

The Blazers, who picked up highly touted guard Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 pick a year ago, now have a crowded frontcourt; incumbent starters Jerami Grant and Deandre Ayton could find themselves quickly pushed for playing time, or in new roles elsewhere. Avdija and Clingan are right on the timeline with Scoot and Shaedon Sharpe in the backcourt.

4. Knecht finds soft landing in L.A.

Draft intel had Tennesse product Dalton Knecht – a consensus All-America selection and the 2023-24 SEC Player of the Year – landing somewhere in the top 10. A Draft night slide finally ended with the 23-year-old being selected by the Lakers at No. 17 overall.

“I feel like I’ve been underrated my whole entire life, ever since I was coming out of high school.” Knecht said. “I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, and to this day I’ll always have that chip on my shoulder to go out there and prove people wrong.”

With no Division I college offers as a 6-foot-1 senior, Knecht opted for the JuCo route, shooting up five inches and landing at Northern Colorado and then Tennessee, where he averaged 21.7 points for the Vols, shooting 45.8% from the field and 39.7% from 3. Defense will remain a question until he shows he can hang enough to stay on the court, but if he can, the 23-year-old could provide the Lakers with easy offense.

And if anyone knows how to utilize a motion shooter, it’s sure to be freshly minted head coach J.J. Redick.

“At Tennessee, I watched a lot of J.J. with Coach (Rick) Barnes. Just the way he moves and paces himself, and how he was able to create space. It’s going to be really exciting and really special.”

5. Ignite goes out with a bang

The first real shock of the Draft came when the Pistons drafted a G League Ignite player … who wasn’t Matas Buzelis. Though the 6-foot-9 forward had been widely pegged as a leading option for the Pistons at No. 5, they instead opted for teammate Ron Holland II.

A former top prospect in the class, Holland averaged 20.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.5 steals in 14 games before rupturing a tendon in his right thumb. Overall, in its final season, Ignite struggled to a 6-44 record. And in his time on the court, Holland couldn’t keep the turnovers in check (3.0 per), while a 24.0% mark from 3-point range dragged his shooting percentage down to 44.3% overall. But at 6-foot-7 with a 6-11 wingspan, the potential overrode the questions for Detroit.

“It means a lot coming from (Ignite),” Holland said. “Knowing that program just got shut down and I was the last bunch of that. Definitely taught me a lot on and off the court, really a lot of the things (about) life and (being) mentally healthy and just learning how the NBA operates.

“On the court, this might be surprising to say, but all the losing that we did, I definitely learned a lot more than if we would have won a lot. I think that definitely prepared me for the NBA, just being able to figure things out quickly and move on to the next.”

As for Buzelis, he ended up sliding to No. 11, where he landed with his hometown Chicago Bulls. Ready to embrace the challenge, he credited the coaches at Ignite with positioning him for future success, much along the lines of the 9 current Ignite veterans currently in the league.

“I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “I would do it 10 times over again.”

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Ben Couch is a producer for NBA.com.

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