June 13, 2024

Alex Sarr leads continuation of NBA’s French influx. Will next chapter come with Hawks?


CHICAGO – It appears just a little too excellent, proper?

The Atlanta Hawks win the NBA Draft Lottery in a yr when the closest factor to a consensus prime prospect, Alex Sarr, is acquainted with precisely one American metropolis: Atlanta, the place he lived for a yr as a member of Overtime Elite in 2022-23. A French large man who performed final season for the Perth Wildcats in Australia, Sarr has lived in Spain, the U.S. and Australia over the previous three years whereas growing his recreation.

At the NBA Draft Combine, Sarr informed reporters he usually went to Hawks video games as a spectator — OTE was simply two and a half miles from State Farm Arena — however he didn’t know or meet any of the gamers. He’ll absolutely acknowledge a number of of them if he’s Atlanta’s alternative, because the Hawks have made just about no transactions up to now two seasons. (That consists of Clint Capela, by the way in which, the French-speaking heart Atlanta already employs; Sarr mentioned he and the Geneva native have by no means met.)

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Atlanta followers might roll their eyes at the concept that of course the Hawks gained the consolation-prize lottery yr — one other French heart went first in final yr’s draft, if you haven’t heard, and the 2025 class is fairly stacked too.

Yet there is no such thing as a doubt the Hawks nonetheless had been tremendously lucky final Sunday. A crew that has no tanking choice for the next three seasons attributable to unprotected picks owed from the Dejounte Murray commerce as an alternative lucked right into a No. 1 general choose anyway. Sarr won’t be Victor Wembanyama, however he (or whomever the Hawks take with the primary choose) nonetheless ought to be an impactful participant, one who can even be on a team-friendly contract for 4 seasons. And importantly for a crew that was shredded on protection a yr in the past, Sarr’s strengths tilt closely towards that finish of the ground.

“I’m a versatile defender,” mentioned Sarr, who measured slightly below 7-feet tall with out sneakers final week, “and I can play inside-out offensively.”

Sarr didn’t tip his hand on metropolis preferences on the mix however mentioned he wished to go No. 1.

“I’m a competitor, so I want to be first in anything I do,” he mentioned. “I don’t know if it’s important because I can’t control it. I would (tell them) I’m the best player in the draft.”

Unlike some tall gamers who choose up the sport late once they notice their dimension benefit, Sarr mentioned he started taking part in basketball on the age of 4 as a result of his father and older brother each performed. (His brother Olivier performed collegiately for Wake Forest and Kentucky and is at present on a two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.)

That improvement observe is to be anticipated, as a result of France has grow to be a correct basketball nation. Sarr’s emergence is an element of a robust new wave of French expertise hitting the league on this three-year span. In addition to Wembanyama in 2023, the Rookie of the Year’s fellow lottery choose, Washington Wizards ahead Bilal Coulibaly, and projected 2025 excessive lottery choose Nolan Traore, 4 French gamers are more likely to be first-round picks on this draft: forwards Zaccharie Risacher, Tidjane Salaun, Pacome Dadiet and, of course, Sarr.

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The Hawks will not less than take into account two of them, Sarr and Risacher, at No. 1. Sarr is the title most frequently talked about atop draft boards, however Atlanta executives Landry Fields and Kyle Korver and head coach Quin Snyder mentioned au revoir to the draft mix on Thursday to jet throughout the pond and see Risacher play in France (together with this scandalous photo from the sport that reveals Snyder sporting regular human glasses). Salaun, in the meantime, is a late riser who might crash the lottery equally to how Coulibaly did a yr in the past. Dadiet’s vary is extra towards the late first spherical.

Given this inflow, I caught as much as essentially the most distinguished of the outdated guard French gamers, Minnesota Timberwolves heart Rudy Gobert, earlier than Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals to speak about his younger countrymen.

“I think we got so much talent, it’s exciting,“ Gobert said. “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.”

Gobert is aware of Olivier Sarr effectively however hasn’t met Alex but. Gobert nonetheless tracks French prospects’ video games, even when the time zones don’t enable him to look at.

“It’s really important for me to be one of those guys to inspire the younger generation. Some of those older guys inspired me,” Gobert mentioned. “It’s just the cycle. I try to lead the way and be there for them … giving them whatever knowledge or whatever they need.”

As for his scouting report on the youthful Sarr?

“Sure, he’s got all the tools to be an amazing player,” Gobert mentioned. “It’s always up to the way the guy works and his mindset and his mental toughness. In this league, that’s what it comes down to. That’s the one aspect that people don’t realize or talk about from the outside.”

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Sarr, who weighed in at 224 kilos on the mix, has a thin body. That takes us to Gobert’s one large piece of recommendation.

“Embrace the moment … and work on your body. Obviously the skill is really important, but as a 7-footer in in this league, the body is the key, and then the skill.”

Gobert and Sarr may theoretically be teammates as early as this July, when the French nationwide crew will play within the Olympics, however Sarr may be a longshot to make that roster given the presence of two star facilities (Gobert and Wembanyama) on a veteran squad. More seemingly: Gobert will first meet Sarr within the jump-ball circle at a Timberwolves recreation early next season.

Whether that occurs in opposition to Atlanta or one other crew remains to be anybody’s guess, and neither the Hawks nor Sarr was leaving any clues through the week. Regardless of whom they choose on June 26, the Hawks are in a significantly better place than they had been every week in the past.


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(Photo of Alex Sarr: Daniel Pockett / Getty Images)





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