2024 NBA Draft Confidential: Coaches, executives, scouts on Risacher and top forward prospects


The Boston Celtics, back atop the NBA world, must be looking down at their brethren with bemusement.

For essentially the entirety of the seven seasons that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have played together, a not-zero cross-section of pundits and fans have more or less insisted that the two of them should be broken up, and one — almost always, but not always, Brown — should be traded. The criticism was relentless: redundant skills, including inconsistent shooting, an unwillingness to share the ball with each other and with teammates, supposed friction between the two. Every year, Boston’s front office refused to move one of them (Brown) out of town, even as the C’s failed to break through their quite high ceiling year after year and secure the franchise’s 18th NBA championship.

It took a while, but Tatum and Brown (or, if you prefer, Brown and Tatum) had the last word. They found common ground; they improved on their deficiencies, and they led Boston to a league-best 64-18 regular season mark, followed by a no-doubt about it 16-3 postseason including a decisive 4-1 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Yes, they got help from Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porziņģis, acquired last summer by team president Brad Stevens. But Tatum/Brown (or Brown/Tatum) were the catalysts for Boston’s latest championship. Brown was named both Eastern Conference finals and finals MVP, and Brown singled out Tatum as his “partner in crime” afterward.

The moral of the story? Get two All-Star forwards, and you, too, can build a championship team.

If only it were that easy. But having multi-dimensional wings who can handle, shoot, facilitate and score, and who can switch and defend at the other end, is a near-must for any team hoping to realistically contend in the game today. Luckily, for those 29 teams now chasing Boston, this year’s draft provides solid potential among the wing prospects, including a potential No. 1 overall selection in France’s Zaccharie Risacher.

Also, as you know, this series owes much to my colleague Bruce Feldman’s NFL Confidential. I also tip my cap to Dane Brugler’s NFL Beast and, of course, Sam Vecenie’s annual, massive, excellent NBA Draft Guide. Sam does this year-round, and better than anyone on the planet. Conversely, I drop in for a few weeks, sleep on your figurative couch, watch a bunch of Netflix movies and leave you a gift certificate for Buffalo Wild Wings as a thank you.

Having said that, this isn’t a fly-by-night deal for me. I have spent, as I do every year, the last couple of months bugging more than two dozen coaches, NBA executives, scouts and other folks who’ve seen this year’s top prospects in person. In exchange for anonymity, they tell me the truth, both good and bad, about what they actually think about the players.

Also, if you know me, this is not a mock. You know I don’t do those. I leave that to my guy Vecenie. It’s also not a rundown. We had to make choices as to who to include, or this would run 40,000 words. So there will no doubt be a guy or two who’s taken in the second round that isn’t listed here.

We started with the guards on Sunday. The wings are today; the bigs are coming tomorrow, the day before the start of what is now the two-day NBA Draft.

Number one?

France’s Zaccharie Risacher has a strong chance to be the second straight player from the increasingly potent country’s hoops programs to be taken first overall in the NBA Draft. And if the Hawks don’t take Risacher No. 1, they could well take French big man Alexandre Sarr, who played in Perth this past season in the Australian National Basketball League. (As of this writing, it doesn’t look like that’s the direction in which the Hawks are running.) But the 19-year-old Risacher, who played this season for JL Bourg-en-Bresse in France’s LNB Élite League, has risen during the past year to become an intriguing potential first overall selection. At 6-foot-8, he has the desired size for a modern NBA wing, able to play both forward positions.

Zaccharie Risacher | 6-8 wing/forward | 19 years old | JL Bourg

Western Conference executive No. 1: A lot of where you go in the draft, when you really target it and drill down, unless you’re totally locked in, like Victor (Wembanyama) was last year, it’s kind of the timing and appearance, the image of it. (Risacher) had that big game. And all the Hawks’ decision makers are there, on the front row. I’m not saying they’re taking him. But they’re on the front row. Obviously, when you have three guys come over at this time of the year, and you leave Chicago, including the head coach, you have interest in the player. And they should. If he can continue to do stuff like that, this is a great time of the year to get hot. It’s just human nature. … He’s in the playoffs. He can shoot the ball, he’s got mobility, runs the floor. He can get defensive rebounds and advance it. Got a left hand on layups, floats in the air with it, passing vision. He’s a skilled offensive player, and has got a chance to be a pretty damned good shooter. And he’s got size with it, too. Needs to get stronger. Defense with these guys is always going to be an issue early on. But I don’t think he has bad mobility, and seems to be a solid team defender now.

I think he’s got a lot of upside as an offensive player, as a big wing that can shoot the ball, and stretch the floor and do a few other things off the dribble. Not a breakdown offensive player that’s going into 10 moves with the clock running down. But I think he’ll be able to get from A to B, and when there’s a gap, get to the rim and do something. The one thing about him, now, in his national team play, and when he’s been with his age group, at the Hoop Summit, he hasn’t been dominant. I’d like to see a little bit more of that. He was shooting 56 from 3 in the EuroCup, and 34 in the French League. Thirty-four is not lights out, but for a young guy, it’s not bad. You can build off of that. It’s not like he was shooting in the 20s. And the other number is very high. He’s an offensive-first player. I think he can get to the point where he’s adequate on defense. I don’t think he’ll ever be a plus defender. But you’re drafting him up high for the offense. He’s not a shot blocker. He’s not a rim protector. This is what you’re drafting him for (offense).

Eastern Conference executive No. 1: I’d love to have him, but not as a No. 1 guy.

Eastern Conference executive No. 2: Risacher’s defense is not bad. That’s one of the things that, for him, is a little underrated. He’s played a lot of basketball in pro practices. He’s been with ASVEL, before he got loaned to Bourg-en-Bresse. He was in Tony Parker’s academy. He practiced with pros, and he’s played against a bunch of Americans. He’s played against guys that were really, really good college players, against guys that are really, really good European players. His whole thing with leaving ASVEL was that he felt like they didn’t trust him, that they weren’t going to carve out a legitimate role for him. That club has had issues with that. …

(Risacher) can pass. He can play minutes for you right now. And he has nice size. Here’s the thing with Risacher and (Tidjane) Salaun, and with (Alexandre) Sarr. They’re big kids. Risacher, he grew. He’s close to 6-9 barefoot. He’s going to look like a (Danilo) Gallinari, 6-10-type guy when it’s all said and done. He can handle the ball, he can pass the ball, he can shoot the ball. He has a good IQ. And he can stay in front of his man and he can guard the ball. You can plug him in with pros and he’s more than fine standing in the corner, waiting until it comes, and knocking it down. If you run him off that line, he can make a play. And he draws fouls. Once you run him off that line, he’ll come toward the basket, he’ll hit you with Euros, and if you come at him, he’ll try to poke it on you. He’s just not an alpha-type personality. He’s a little averse to contact and confrontation. Which, I know, sounds a little scary. But it’s not. Because he plays on the perimeter aggressively. When he’s in his right way, he doesn’t turn down shots. And he attacks in transition, and he does all the right things. It’s just underneath the rim, he’s not a punch-first guy. He’ll get moved out the way. He won’t whine about it; he won’t cry about it.

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Colorado’s Cody Williams does, what one exec says, something “I see that in an NBA game, every night.” (Robert Goddin / USA Today)

Immediate production, long-term potential

When the college and pro basketball seasons began last fall, G League Ignite forward Ron Holland was viewed by many as a potential top pick. Indeed, our John Hollinger has wondered out loud recently why that still shouldn’t be the case. But it isn’t. Holland is still a likely top-10 selection, though, and still has admirers. Ignite’s poor season may have hurt both the stock of Holland and his teammate Matas Buzelis, a Lithuanian forward who grew up outside of Chicago and was a swimmer before committing to basketball full-time. Injuries also limited Buzelis to just nine Ignite games this season. Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht rocketed up draft boards after a sensational season in which he was SEC Player of the Year and led the conference in scoring (21.7 points per game; nearly 40 percent on 3s) during the Vols’ run to the Elite Eight. Colorado freshman Cody Williams, the younger brother of Oklahoma City’s burgeoning star Jalen Williams, made the Pac 12’s All-Freshman team, and flashed more than enough times to secure a high- to mid-first round grade — as did his Buffaloes teammate Tristan da Silva, a second team All-Pac 12 selection. Yet another French prospect, Tidjane Salaun, could be a monster sleeper in the mid-first round. Miami wing Kyshawn George showed potential point forward skills during his single season with the Hurricanes.

Ron Holland | 6-7 wing | 18 years old | G League Ignite

Eastern Conference executive No. 3: I’m a Ron Holland fan. I don’t like his shot, and it’s going to take some time to fix it. But he does everything else pretty well. He gets downhill hard. He’s not afraid. He gets to the basket and gets fouled. Good athlete, long. He’s got alpha mentality. I’m a fan of Ron’s. Shooting always gets better, and hopefully the team will have a shooting coach that can help him. I think it’s form right now, because he brings it to the left side of his body and shoots it on the wrong side of his head. And it has to be a more consistent release point. He’s just got to rep it out and get confidence knocking down shots.

Eastern Conference executive No. 1: Shooting is a little sporadic, but when you’re as long and athletic as (he is), you can live with it. I saw him play well early. The problem was they had a very young team, and they got their ass kicked, and everyone was super critical.

Western Conference scout No. 1: Great upside. He is a high-level athlete. He’s fearless going to the basket. If you look at his free throw numbers, and you remember in the G League it’s only one to make two, unless it’s in the last two minutes, he gets to the foul line a lot. If it says seven times a game, then multiply that by two. It’s probably 14 foul shots a game. He’s an excellent finisher. He’s a defensive playmaker. He’ll block shots; he’ll get steals. Is he somewhat undisciplined in terms of going for steals and taking chances on defense? Yeah, but he makes plays. If, and it’s a huge if, if the 3-point shot becomes passable, he’ll be a superstar. But it’s a huge if. I don’t know what his work ethic is like. If I knew more about that, I’d be willing to make the bet. If it gets better, he has a chance to be a big, big-time player.

Dalton Knecht | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Tennessee

College head coach No. 1 (his team played Tennessee): He was the best player in the SEC this year and best player we faced. He could do everything on the offensive end. He’s a three-level scorer. Very good passer. Creates his own shot. Has good positional size. Can see over the defense. Way more athletic in person than he appears on film. Really improved as a defender as the year went on. Went from a below average to an above average defender throughout the season.

Western Conference executive No. 1: He’s more accomplished right now, with more of a perimeter scorer with some driving. But he’s so old; he’s 23 now. All the analytics formulas, with the guys I’ve been around, they all favor younger players. Now, I think the guy’s done so much, he’s probably going to get into the late single digits. If the house fell in on him, he would be like, 10 or 11. I don’t see him going 15 or 18. That age is a big deal in a lot of these formulas. … Look at his improvement arc. Nobody wanted him coming out of high school. Goes to juco. Goes to Northern Colorado. This guy was coming off the bench for Northern Colorado. Then transfers up, which a lot of guys have a problem with, against stiffer competition. And he kills it from Day 1 in the SEC. The team gets to the final eight. I don’t know why he won’t come into the NBA and be able to score. He may not be able to guard. But he’ll be able to score. I think he’ll be better than Luke Kennard.

Eastern Conference executive No. 1: He’s going to be very good. He’s not great defensively, but he has gotten better. He’s got that drive to be really good. He can shoot the s— out of it. He needs to go to the right team. He’s gotten better defensively, but he’s a little locked in hip wise. Even though he’s athletic, laterally, he’s average. He’s a tough kid, and he’s driven, and those guys usually succeed. I’m not a big age guy. That doesn’t bother me. If a guy can play and he’s 23 or 24, I don’t give a s—. If you’re looking at a guy who’s 23 or 24, and you’re saying he needs to have better upside, I could see that. If he doesn’t have some upside, he is what he is and that’s it, I could see that. But if a guy’s 23 and he’s a player, forget that. I’m all over that. juco, then Northern Colorado, then went to Tennessee and just blew up. He is a worker. He’s driven as hell.

Matas Buzelis | 6-9 wing/forward | 19 years old | G League Ignite

Western Conference executive No. 1: I don’t think Ignite served people well this year. I went to a game one time and they got beat by like 59 or something. You look at the record, it was awful. He did not shoot the ball well overall this year. He was a 40-some percent (3-point shooter) at Sunrise Christian (in Kansas). He dropped into the 20s (.222 at Ignite; Gaaack!), and he was hurt a little while. But the back half of the season, he got going a little bit and was pretty impressive. He’s got mobility. He’s very thin, but he has wide shoulders, so you think there’s a chance to put on weight and strength. He can shoot the ball; I don’t care what the numbers are. He can take a defensive rebound and go coast-to-coast.

He’s a better defender than what you’d think looking at him. Sort of a mirror guy guarding the ball, and then riding in the lane and blocking the shot, or coming over as a weak-side shot blocker. Rebounds well and has more toughness than you think, because he looks like he’s 15. I think he’s a talented guy, when you consider the hand-eye coordination, the offensive skills, the size. I think someone will take him in the top 10. He’s not a stopper (defensively), but I think he can be adequate with the cherry on top being his ability to block shots. He’s probably never — even if he puts weight on — … going to be a hulking guy. So there’s going to be some being overpowered by people inside. And these guys, I don’t care how big they are or how much they’re lauded for their defense at the college or the European level. If they’re that big, there’s some issues when you’re switched out on the island against front line NBA guards. That’s going to the same for everybody.

I think he can eventually scale up to adequate, with him offering you a little bit with the shot blocking, be a guy that has a feel for the game on the offensive side, run the floor. If he gets an opening, I wouldn’t say he’s extremely evasive with the dribble. But he can drive a closeout, dunk on people in traffic. At one time, for what it’s worth, he was a guy people who do these (mock drafts) thought would be the first pick. He’s got a little toughness, a little stuff to him. I don’t think he’s a choirboy. I would bet longterm the shot becomes adequate to good.

Western Conference scout No. 1: He’s got a ways to go. ‘Cause physically, he’s so weak. He does flash athleticism, that’s really, really eye-catching, like he’ll do some eye-popping stuff — cutting to the baseline, or driving a closeout and getting to the rim and dunking. But then, if he has the ball and if a defender is set up in front of him and gets into him, there’s a good chance he’ll turn over the ball. And shooting it, he’s so inconsistent. I see the excitement with the talent, but I just think it’s so far away because of his (current) physical limitations. He’s just so weak, and has such poor core balance and strength. It’s going to take a couple of years for this guy before you can really figure out if he really can be a consistent performer in the NBA. He doesn’t shoot it well and turns it over too much, and for flash you see in terms of the athleticism and eye-popping plays, there’s just as many plays leaving you thinking, ‘Is this guy good enough?’

Great question (about his defense). I don’t know if it’s a product of him just being so weak physically, or that he’s not trying. … But he’s long, he’s athletic. In terms of if he can do it without getting touched. But he’s just weak. He turns the ball over when people get physical. It’s a two-year project, I think, for him to get his body right. If he goes to a bad team and he gets to play minutes while he grows physically, that could be a really good setup for him. Because it’ll give him the reps. I watched him in AAU and thought this guy was pretty good. But when he got out there with adults and more physically gifted players, the weaknesses started to show.

Western Conference executive No. 2: Maybe my glasses may be a little bit colored, because I’ve seen him so much. I’ve seen him in high school, AAU, at Colorado. He’s gotten better and better and better, and his body has filled out. And he’s shown more in his game at every step. No question this kid, I see him as a starter. In 16 to 24 months, I think he will be a full-time starter. Where are guys that are close to 6-9, that can (be) unselfish, see it, can deliver it, can handle it, can score it, and can defend now anywhere out on the floor? What am I missing here? And he’s a phenomenal, phenomenal human being. You’re preaching to the choir on this one, with him. You’ll note two or three instances in his games where you’re like, ‘I see that in an NBA game, every night, what he just did.’

Eastern Conference executive No. 3: I saw him a couple of times this year. Saw him at McDonald’s (All American Game), at the Hoop Summit. He’s never played well when I watched him play. I see the skill set. I see the shooting ability. I don’t see an alpha basketball player. His body is very thin and it’s going to take time. He could be very good because of his ability to shoot the ball. But when I saw him, there were times when I didn’t even realize he was on the court.

Western Conference scout No. 2: He’s very talented. I think he’s one of those kids, just his instincts and his feel, he was one of those guys where, he was born to play basketball. I think the problem is, he’s just not an aggressive, tenacious type of competitor. He doesn’t have a lot of competitive energy, competitive juice. That’s why, when people see him, they’re like, ‘Ah, his size and length is intriguing, he can do so many different things.’ But from a competitive standpoint, he’s kind of lacking a little bit in that area. But he’s very talented. He is. There’s no question about that. And he’s still very young. So I’m not one to say I hate him. I do like his talent. I just wish he gave you a little more as far as the competitive motor and the competitive energy.

College assistant coach No. 1 (his team played Colorado): The talent is there, but he doesn’t display it enough. He’s not aggressive, like really just take over a game and be dominant. The size and the potential is there. He knows how to play. He reminds me of (Denver’s) Peyton Watson, but Watson didn’t really know how to play at the time. This kid knows how to play. He’s young, and he’s lanky. He’s still growing. You look at that stuff and it’s all good. But he needs to get in the weight room and get stronger. If you’ve got a team that’s willing to wait for him, he’s a good pick. If you’re trying to win … it’s kind of like (former Kentucky forward) Brandon Boston. I don’t know what his future is.

Tidjane Salaun | 6-9 wing/forward | 18 years old | Cholet

Eastern Conference executive No. 1: He’s a little bit of a late bloomer. He’s switching from being a post player into a wing. He’s really progressed at a very, very fast rate. He was very interesting in European competition as kind of a tweener four/five. Now he’s playing more like a four/three. He shoots this 3 and it’s like a moon ball. It looks like it’s going to come together, because he’s shooting a decent percentage. But when he shoots it, you’re like, damn. He gets a lot of air under it. But it looks good. He holds his followthrough. You can tell he reps it out. It’s not like it’s some broken shot. He guards. He has a motor. He wants to sort of dominate his competition. When he hits shots, he has a little more emotion.

Risacher is more flat-line, no real emotion, just does his job. This kid wants to dunk on you, scream at you. He wants to block your shot; he wants to talk s—. He’s got a little juice. For him, it’s developing consistency as a full-time wing player. But he’s grown, too. This dude is 6-10, a legit 6-10 wing. When you see it, these aren’t highlights. This is who he is. He comes in transition, he’s trying to dunk it. You throw a lob to him, he’s trying to do a chin-up. And he wants to play NBA basketball. Risacher, he’s going to be a European-style player playing in the NBA. Tidjane, he’s going to be like an NBA player playing in the NBA.

Western Conference executive No. 2: I have him, if it hits, in my opinion, he could be a lesser Tobias Harris. If it doesn’t, Kevin Knox. Somewhere in that ballpark, between those two. That 6-8 1/2, 6-9, rather float to the perimeter, shoot some jumpers, looks the part. You hope he has that nasty, that grit, that edge.

Western Conference executive No. 1: It’s not like college players, where they build on all these great games during the year. These young guys in Europe, you have to kind of pick and choose your spots when looking at them. I saw him in Atlanta at the NBA Academy games. He can score at all three levels. He can shoot 3s, he can get to the rim, he can get to the mid-range. Handles the ball in the open floor. Stats aren’t unbelievable, but he does have shooting. I’ve seen 7-1, 7-2 wingspan measurements. His sister is a pro player in France. Parents both played. I look at guys like this, I think he would have started for anybody in college, if he’d have been here. Can face you up, shoot, jab off the dribble, got a good offensive package, can spin in the lane. Defensively, needs a great deal of work. He can get in the passing lanes and he’s active, but he has to clean up his footwork. Will probably struggle defensively early on. But I think he’s moved to the late lottery. Salaun could be better (than Risacher) down the road. That’s not outside of the realm of possibility.

Eastern Conference executive No. 3: One, he plays harder (than Risacher). Two, his body is more ready. Salaun plays both ends of the court better than Risacher. Salaun is a power forward-type who can spread the floor. He’s got lift. He’s going to get a lot better (shooting) than he did this year. The French kids are a little more athletic than the kids in other parts of Europe. They can get used to the speed and quickness faster, because they have it. And they’re getting better coaching than they used to.

Tristan da Silva | 6-8 forward | 23 years old | Colorado

College assistant coach No. 1 (his team played Colorado): Good size, 6-7, maybe 6-8. Knows how to play. Can shoot it. Would be a good guy off the bench. Those types of guys are really needed in the NBA, especially during the playoffs. A kid like him, I’d use him in the playoffs for sure. He can play defense. He can guard bigger guys, 6-10 guys. He can do it all. He can dribble. He’s very skilled. You can’t miss on a guy 6-7. I don’t know his work ethic, I don’t know how much he loves the game. But everywhere he’s been, he’s been successful. We saw him and we were like, he wasn’t aggressive enough at the time, and all of a sudden he came out of nowhere. He’s skilled. You put him in the corner, he hits 3s, and can guard. He’s just got to get bigger and stronger. He’s a sleeper, I think.

Kyshawn George | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Miami (Fla.)

College head coach 2 (his team played Miami): He was a f—ing handful. Tremendous length to get his shot up over you. And has this skill level, I’m not telling you he’s a point guard, I don’t even know what that means any more. But he can really handle the ball. And he can create his own shot. Now, he’s a little thin. Physicality, I think Bub (Carrington’s) a more physical guard than he is. When I saw him, I was like, ‘Holy s—, who is this guy?’ He played really, really well. I would be more concerned about his physicality. I don’t think he’s a tremendous athlete. But I think he’s pretty good. But they’re looking at size and skill. And he can shoot it, and he’s young.

College assistant coach 2 (his team played Miami): I ain’t sold on him. I get the upside. He played well in the U-19 championships. I didn’t see it this year with Miami, but a big guard, big wing. He did nothing (against) us. A little soft. Got the skill set. He’ll make it all on potential and upside. He’s got good size. Positional size. He’s a very skilled but soft wing. Can shoot the 3 and has legit size.

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Johnny Furphy (Rob Gray / USA Today)

Wings and more wings

Kansas freshman Johnny Furphy got on people’s radars with his play at the NBA’s Academy Games in 2023, and continued to gain notice during his one season in Lawrence, making the Big 12’s all-Freshman team. Baylor Scheierman was a leader in all ways for Creighton; the senior topped the club in scoring and rebounding and never came off the court (nearly 37 minutes per game) during the Bluejays’ Sweet 16 run, and showed in-the-building range all season. There are whispers that Dayton forward DaRon Holmes has a first-round promise from Denver, which has the 28th pick overall; Holmes had a monster season for the Flyers, winning the Atlantic 10’s co-Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Johnny Furphy | 6-8 wing | 19 years old | Kansas

Western Conference scout No. 3: He’s young and he’s got size. I think he’s an overrated shooter, which bothers me a little bit about him. But he’s interesting.

Eastern Conference executive No. 4: He’s shown he can shoot it. I think he’ll end up, he shot mid-30s this year at Kansas. He’ll improve that. He’ll get stronger. Good feel for the game. These Australian kids, they get taught well. Young body. He needs to grow into it. Pretty high upside. I think he got better as the season got along. Early in the season, he was a non-factor, even in games he played quite a bit. He wasn’t really scoring. I would say mid-season on, I felt like he kind of figured out his role. At the end, it felt like he tailed off a little bit. He started to feel his way, which he’ll have to do at a higher level wherever he goes. Ideally, he’d go to a better team where there’s no rush to get him playing, and he could figure it out. He’s probably not ready to play 30 minutes.

Eastern Conference scout: I’m a big fan. But I’m a realistic fan. He’s a year away from being able to help an NBA team. He’s just so weak. It all came really, really fast for him. But the things I love about him are the things that are gonna get him drafted. He’s a great cutter. They talk about the UConn players being really smart, like (Connecticut’s Alex) Karaban. Johnny’s like that. I think he’s got more of a mid-range game than (Bill) Self let him do this year. Good size. He’s gonna get picked on defensively because he’s not a great defender yet. But he doesn’t have to be a negative defensively. He’s really bright. If he gets with a good coach, with patience, he has a chance.

Baylor Scheierman | 6-6 wing | 23 years old | Creighton

College assistant coach No. 3 (his team played Creighton): I thought he was tremendous. They hid him defensively. They would put him on the worst shooting perimeter player, a lot, and kind of have him hover. There would be times where I thought he was kind of disinterested in guarding. …But, he’s an incredible shooter. Incredibly smart. Great size, great feel. Better athlete than people think. He had some transition dunks against us that raised my eyebrows a little bit. I think he’s really good. Defensively, at his size, the player he has to guard, he would have to, with his size, have to be better on-ball and be able to bang with the 6-7, 6-8, Devin Bookers, Kyle Kuzmas, the players of that mold. And I think that’s better for him than guarding jitterbugs and playmaking guards who are in ball screens a ton. I don’t think he has that ability defensively. But offensively, he has unlimited range. Elite level confidence. Really good feel. The gravity he creates in half court and in transition, he got (Ryan) Kalkbrenner wide open dunks a ton, because people were so afraid of him shooting a 25-footer in transition. That was a legitimate shot for him, a really makeable shot. He’ll have to be better defensively. At Creighton, he kind of plugged the gaps, sat in the paint. And he got away with that a ton.

College assistant coach No. 4 (his team played Creighton): The argument in our office all year was ‘Who would you take; Scheierman or Karaban?’ I’m taking Scheierman. He’s wacky enough mentally to just not care. He’s got swag, he talks s—. I’m a huge fan of his. The way Creighton plays, they hide those guys defensively. You never know if they can do it, because they sag off and help and don’t guard certain guys. But I can see that as well; is he going to be able to defend? The way he plays, it seems like he’s a step slow. Vertically, he can jump.

DaRon Holmes | 6-9 wing | 21 years old | Dayton

College head coach No. 3 (his team played Dayton): The only question on him is he has kind of a weird gait when you watch him run. Early, he showed the ability to make 3s, which was the question mark. As the year went on, Anthony (Grant) told him, I guess, you have to get back in the paint and dominate. Playing a passing, playmaking big, I think he’s capable of that. I think he’s good. But he does run weird. The first year we sat in the lane and felt we could plug the lane, and if he wanted to launch a few, fine. But you couldn’t do that earlier this year. When you would fly at him, he’d make one or two dribbles and get to the rim.

College head coach No. 4 (his team played Dayton): Great competitor, a winner. Keeps his cool on the court in tight situations. You never, he’s like (Tim) Duncan, the emotions are never going to get to hm, one way or another. Very steady. He’s not as athletic as I anticipated. He is sneaky physical for his stature. He’s crafty in terms of the way he creates fouls. He lives at the free-throw line. They’ve done a good job with him stretching the court and being comfortable shooting 3s. You have to be able to pass, dribble and shoot at that level. He’s proven he can make standstills. When he’s rushed, dribbling the ball, we just started trapping him, because he’s not ready to dribble like that. But he’s got the ability to handle, and it’s only going to get better.

Defensively, he blocks shots and he’s giving an effort. No major negatives there other than the athleticism factor. Physicality, is going to be able to get low enough? The NBA likes skill and size and he certainly has those. They tried to move him around (at Dayton). They’d run plays to get his 3s and plays to use ball screens for him. They probably didn’t get out of it what they hoped to get out of it; it was more ‘We’re doing this for you.’ His bread-and-butter was on the block, and you had to decide if you were going to double him. He’s not fluid like you think he would be; he’s not gliding up the floor like (Obi) Toppin.

Eastern Conference executive No. 4: A month ago, he was probably a 50-to-undrafted guy. All of a sudden, at least publicly and media-wise, it was like, ‘Does he have a promise in the first round?’ He’s an athletic kid. He’s started to shoot the ball well at his size. He’s never been a real physical player. Shied away from physicality. But he has tools. He’ll probably be able to switch and defend multiple positions, because he’s athletic enough. His offense has kind of blossomed. A little undersized, but versatile. If he can play more of a four than five, he becomes a little more intriguing. Maybe that’s what it is, if it’s real. The last couple of years, he’s toyed with coming out, and the feedback hasn’t been great. It’s interesting to see how all of a sudden he’s skyrocketed up. I guess he got it up to eight rebounds this year, which is pretty decent, and two blocks. He’s done it all, to me, with athleticism, which maybe you can do (more) nowadays than you used to be able to do. He’s strong, but not super-strong. He averaged 20 points, eight rebounds, two-and-a-half blocks. Two years ago, he shot 14 percent on 3s, and he got it up to almost 39 percent this year. He’s efficient.

240623 Ryan Dunn scaled e1719191704242


Ryan Dunn is excellent on defense, but needs to improve his offense. (Rob Kinnan / USA Today)

Waiting in the … wings

The 6-10 Bobi Klintman played a year at Wake Forest before leaving the Deacons to play for Cairns in Australia’s NBL last season as the latest participant in the country’s very successful “Next Stars” program. Yet another French wing, Pacôme Dadiet, who played alongside another NBA prospect, guard Juan Nunez, for Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany, made an impression with a strong outing last February in a EuroCup game against Risacher’s Bourg-en-Bresse team, scoring 15 points in 16 minutes. Serbia’s Nikola Djurišić stayed in the draft this year after withdrawing last year, playing for the same team (KK Mega Bemax) that produced Nikola Jokić, among others who ultimately got to the NBA. Virginia’s Ryan Dunn hopes to follow in the 3-and-D NBA footsteps of recent Wahoos like Trey Murphy III and De’Andre Hunter, but has a lot of work to do both behind the 3-point line (20 percent) and foul line (53 percent). Tyler Smith won’t turn 20 until next season begins; the G League Ignite forward could have real upside for a team that can afford to be patient with his development. Baylor’s Jalen Bridges was third-team All-Big 12; he started 59 straight games for the Bears the last two seasons after transferring from West Virginia.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: there’s a French wing prospect available. This one is Melvin Ajinça, who played at Saint-Quentin, in the same French league in which Risacher and Salaun played. Given that he’s represented by veteran agent Bouna Ndiaye, who also reps Victor Wembanyama and Washington forward Bilal Coulibaly, Ajinça likely has good reason to expect he’ll be taken at a favorable spot in the second round. Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro teamed with guard Tyler Kolek to take the Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16, but Ighodaro has a Plan B if this NBA thing doesn’t work out; he already has a finance BA and a Master’s in Business Administration from Marquette. North Carolina’s Harrison Ingram led the ACC in rebounding (10.9 per game) after two years at Stanford. 

Bobi Klintman | 6-9 wing/forward | 20 years old | Cairns Taipans

Eastern Conference executive No. 2: His body has really, really improved since last year. That year in Australia playing against men, he’s big. When you have him come into your building, you’re like, damn, this dude is like, 6-10-ish, 6-9 1/2. He’s a fluid, smooth athlete, runs the floor, like a wing. He’s not a big trying to masquerade or transition into being a wing. He’s a wing. Still needs to be more consistent with the 3. But good IQ in terms of pushing the ball in transition and making the next play. If you run him off the 3-point line, he actually is a facilitator. He can get into the paint, come to a two-foot stop, find a guy, relocate. He’s a second-action, third-action guy. His swing skill is going to be, how consistent will his catch and shoot 3 be?

Western Conference executive No. 3: I would not draft him in the first round. There is not enough there there. … didn’t do it for me. I started watching him later, and he showed no predisposition to dominate. Doesn’t compete hard. He just sort of coasts along in a game. And he doesn’t have enough talent to make it work for him. He doesn’t have that kind of special talent. He’s a big kid that’s not a great athlete, that has decent skills. The hope was that he’s young and he’s going to play every day in Australia, and that’s going to make him a better player. Maybe he sneaks into the end of the first round.

Ryan Dunn | 6-6 wing | 21 years old | Virginia

College head coach No. 5 (his team played Virginia): I love Ryan. He’s a freak athlete. He’s really strong. He can be versatile defensively. When he switched, our guards were able to get by him, get to spot. It made me a little bit (like), ‘Is he that good a defender?’ Because on the tape, it’s like, ‘Holy s—.’ It’s there. I just don’t know if it’s what everybody says it was. In (high school), he could shoot. He was a better offensive player in HS than he was in college. I don’t know if he got the yips. Because his s— was broke, unless he was dunking, which was odd to me. I do think that part is there. I don’t think he’s as bad an offensive player as people say, and I think he’s a really good defender, but I would question some of that, too. He doesn’t have the offensive package like (Murphy). But the same type of pop, the same type of athleticism. I think Ryan’s a better defender, but Murphy’s a much better offensive player.

College assistant coach No. 2: He’s going to get reps at the next level. Because (Mavericks wing) Derrick Jones couldn’t shoot coming out of college, and now he’s shooting 3s left and right. His athleticism is off the charts.

College assistant coach No. 5 (his team played Virginia): He’s just solid. I think he’s going to have a role. Virginia was just so bad this year. I thought he was a better guy on a really bad team. I don’t know how they gave them the respect they gave them at the end of the year. They couldn’t shoot. Other than defense, I’m not sure what he’s giving you. He’s not the dude in the corner. He’s not playing off the bounce. So what is he doing? PJ Washington can guard, make a shot. You’ve got all these dudes between 6-5 and 6-10 that can guard and make a shot. The team was just so bad. You have to guard more than your yard in the NBA. At Virginia, you don’t really have to guard in space. Maybe he can develop like (Luguentz) Dort did.

Nikola Djurišić | 6-7 wing | 20 years old | Mega

Western Conference executive No. 3: Liked him at the combine. One of those Serbian, hard-bodied (guys), and he’s athletic, too He’s kind of a scorer/shooter, but he plays sort of upright. I like him as much as (Nikola) Topić, who everybody tells me is going to be great. …Djurisic is more of an offensive scorer type. He can shoot it. He has a little wiggle to his game. It’s that kind of upright game. He plays hard, he’s tough as nails. I’m a bit of a fan. I don’t think Djurisic gets (taken) in the first round, though.

Tyler Smith | 6-9 wing/forward | 19 years old | G League Ignite

Eastern Conference executive No. 1: I think he’s going to be damned good. Long, active, and can shoot it. Athletic. He’s a year or two away, but he’s improved every year. He’s going to be a hell of a player.

Western Conference scout No. 1: He’s 19 years old right now. Good size, can really shoot the ball. Again, I don’t know what the work ethic is. He seems like a really nice young man. If you’re talking about NBA potential, he’s got great NBA potential. We talk about Dallas and Boston. In three years, if he’s 6-11 and 255, and can rebound, and you put him on the floor with Luka (Dončić) and Kyrie (Irving), now the floor is wide open for those dudes. Now, you’ve got a problem. His ability to shoot the basketball, his size, he’s still not 20 yet, gives me hope that this guy has a chance to be a really productive NBA player. Lefty shooter. If you compare him to (Duke’s) Kyle Filipowski, he’s a year younger, and he shot a higher percentage on 3s on a shot that’s a foot deeper than the college line. Strictly a pick-and-pop guy, ball mover. He’ll catch it, reverse it, run into a ball screen. But I don’t remember them posting him. But, still, you had to respect his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter, respect the ability to pick and pop and even roll a little bit.

Pacôme Dadiet | 6-8 wing | 18 years old | Ratiopharm Ulm

Western Conference executive No. 3: Legit 6-8 and shoots the s— easy. He’s not a handler/scorer type; he’s a catch-and-shoot, two-dribble kind of guy. Shoots it with range. He shoots the ball like he falls out of bed. Good dude. Good athlete; not elite. But in today’s game, guys will love him for his ability to make shots from the wing with size, defend a couple of positions, and be that sort of stretch guy. I do think next year you could put him on the floor, shoot some 3s and let him try to guard his guy.

Eastern Conference executive No. 2: Shot the ball really, really well in Treviso. I haven’t been all that high on him because a lot of the French kids that go to Germany, sometimes I think that’s kind of a red flag. But I don’t want to hold it against the kid. … toward the end of the year, he was playing more consistent minutes, against men. He was making shots. Not a lot after the catch and shoot. He’s got a little bit of game, can put it on the deck a little bit and create for himself. But not a great rebounder. Not a great defender. But he can score the ball. And he’s super young. So people are wondering, he’s not a finished product. If his defense improves, can he be an upside guy?

Jalen Bridges | 6-7 wing | 23 years old | Baylor

Western Conference scout No. 3: He’s gonna be all right once he gets player development, once he goes around and sees how this s— it. He can score, he’s athletic. … He got married to his high school sweetheart, and then she moved down there with him (to Baylor). I wondered if he loved the game. And he does. I’ve been to their practices when he was at West Virginia, when (former coach Bob) Huggins was giving him s—. I thought he picked things up good. He needs to continue to work on his shooting. Hits open shots. That’s gonna come. I’m not worried about that. He’s athletic. He can guard twos and threes for sure, and probably some ones. And, he’s (close to) 6-8. So, eventually, he’ll be able to guard some stronger fours, once he gets stronger.

Melvin Ajinca | 6-6 wing | 20 years old | Saint-Quentin

Eastern Conference executive No. 2: Melvin finished the season well. I stopped in Treviso for that international combine (earlier this month) and he shot the ball well. Had good interviews in terms of being a serious kid, a solid professional. He’s young, but he already has a professional mentality. When you see him, you forget that these 18- and 19-year-olds change throughout the year. When I saw him in Treviso, he was ripped up. He looked like a 22-year-old in great shape, not an 18-, 19-year-old in great shape. He’s a physical 3-and-D guy. The upside will be will he be able to develop any secondary playmaking skills. He’s someone you’ll be able plug and play early. I just don’t know what the upside is, because he’s never shown the ability to put it on the deck and create for others.

College head coach No. 5 (his team played North Carolina): I was really impressed with him. I thought he was as big a reason (as anyone) for Carolina being good this year. I thought he gave them an edge. He gave them a toughness. I just thought he was a winning player. I don’t think he does anything great, except he competes. I don’t think he’s a great defender, but he’s a good defender. I don’t think he’s a great offensive player, but he’s a solid offensive player. He’s gonna figure some s— out and figure out how to get into a rotation, and how to help a team win. … he just does winning stuff. He doesn’t look like it, but he’ll go in and get three offensive rebounds, and it may lead to seven points. He may score a couple of baskets, and then he’ll kick it out and somebody’ll hit a 3. I think he can guard multiple positions because of his strength. He can guard bigger guys, because he’s strong as hell and he has that competitive edge. But he can sit down and switch out on guards and guard them, too.

One team, one shot

There are mid-to-late second-round grades on these forwards: San Francisco’s Jonathan Mogbo; Arizona’s Keshad Johnson and Pelle Larsson; Kansas’ Kevin McCullar; Kentucky’s Justin Edwards; Australian forward Trentyn Flowers, who decommitted from Louisville to go down under, and Washington State’s Isaac Jones and Jaylen Wells. But we’ve seen lots of forwards drafted in the second round turn into special players, from Draymond Green and Khris Middleton to Dennis Rodman and Paul Millsap. It just takes one team to believe in you and give you an opportunity. To quote Mr. Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller: One never knows, do one?

College assistant coach No. 6 (his team played San Francisco): He had a really good preseason, and I thought he kind of plateaued a little in conference. Very good passer. Very good feel in terms of when to attack the basket, find the open guy. He’s a push four. He rebounds well, and he can bring it and start the break. One thing he doesn’t do is shoot it. By the time conference came around, he was forced to score a little bit more. People played off of him a little bit, so he didn’t really show the ability to shoot from the outside. But he did get to the rim when he wanted to, because he’s big and strong. He knows how to get angles. He knows how to play. At the next level, because he doesn’t shoot it, I guess he could be like a poor man’s Draymond Green. Not as big or physical. But because he can really pass the ball from the high post, with cuts and splits and those things. You almost play four on five because of his inability to shoot it. His shot doesn’t look bad. He just doesn’t shoot it. It isn’t like it’s bad form.

He can defend 1 through 4 because he moves his feet really well. The way San Francisco used him (offensively), obviously everyone wants to switch 1 through 5. He did a good job of slipping screens, ghosting screens, to get you confused. He was good getting to the short pocket. He understands angles, when to pick and pop, plays well in the dunker’s spot. Any time he set a ghost screen, or slipped, you weren’t worried about him popping, because he wasn’t going to shoot it. But you’d be worried about him getting downhill. You may not be in a hurry to get back to him, but because he was so quick and could dribble so well, you had to get back to him. He moves like a guard but he plays like a power forward because he doesn’t shoot it. He’s strong enough to guard you in the post.

Keshad Johnson | 6-6 wing | 23 years old | Arizona

College assistant coach No. 1 (his team played Arizona): Keshad’s a monster. He proved he could shoot the 3. Probably 30-something. (Aldridge note: 38.7 percent!) He’s doing his thing. It seems like he plays with a good motor, grabbed a lot of offensive rebounds if he’s not scoring, dives on the floor. My scout was ‘let him shoot,’ and he buried it. He’s just got to get better with shooting, but he’s got the total package. I think his upside is going to continue to grow.

Trentyn Flowers | 6-7 wing | 19 years old | Adelaide

Eastern Conference executive No. 2: Had a rocky go in Australia. He’s aggressive, he’s big. A lot bigger than people remember when he left high school here. He’s aggressive. … He had to deprogram himself from AAU-type basketball. … he went to Chicago and he showed some things. He showed he’s athletic enough to play in the NBA. He showed he’s big enough to play in the NBA. But what is going to be his future position? Is he going to be a small forward-type slasher or is he a guy you’re going to be able to play extended minutes with others? He hasn’t shown that at the pro level yet. He does play with a little bit of a chip. When he’s playing in his age group, he’ll attack dudes. I hope, for his sake, that he gets into a nice fit. Anything they put in front of him (in Australia), he’d do it. He’ll work. He doesn’t think he’s bigger than that, or above that.

Kevin McCullar | 6-5 wing | 23 years old | Kansas

Eastern Conference executive No. 4: I think you know what you’re going to get with him, a guy that’s going to fit into a team and hit a shot. It’s documented defensively how solid he is. You’re not projecting him to be an All-Star or anything like that, but you’re going to get a good rotational player who isn’t going to dominate the ball. In this draft, that’s valuable. Again, if you’re a better team and you’re not looking for a star, you’re going to get a good player.

Eastern Conference scout: He’s coming off an injury and it’s probably dropped him 10 spots. He’s not a great player to begin with; he’s a utility player. And he’s not a very good shooter. Then, you add the injury, and he’s had some injuries off and on throughout his career. As far as a player, I would think he’s in the 40 to 50 range, ‘cause he’s older and not a great shooter. He’s a jack of all trades. He gets a good reputation for being a good defender. He’s a big, strong guy, so I don’t think he’ll have a problem guarding big, strong guys. I know he can’t guard guards. And his shooting is suspect, and finishing is real suspect.

College assistant coach No. 1 (his team played Arizona): Tough dude. He hit some tough shots. We posted him a few times, to see if we could get something out of it, and he played solid defense on the post. But he can get rebounds? Can he help you somewhere else?

Isaac Jones | 6-8 wing/forward | 23 years old | Washington State

College assistant coach No. 7 (his team played Washington State): Interesting. Hard for me to say with him. We trap the post. When we watched him, he had a bunch of post touches. They didn’t throw it into him a ton; they tried to isolate him. The film we watched, he looked like a great second jump rebounder. Looked like he did a lot of work inside.

Justin Edwards | 6-6 wing | 20 years old | Kentucky

College head coach No. 1 (his team played Kentucky): Could be a solid player down the road but has a ways to go. Strong body and good positional size. Doesn’t really have an offensive identity. Defensively, he improved as year went on, but needs to make another big jump to be a plus-defender at the next level.

College assistant coach No. 7 (his team played Washington State): Shot maker, good size. I went in and challenged our guys: get up in this dude. And he struggled. 3 and D, I don’t know how much you’re going to need him to pound it. Good size, good athlete. I can see why people like him. He seemed very efficient in his game. When we pressured him, he wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to show you how much I can dribble; I’m gonna get it out of here.’ Which is pretty mature.

(Photo of Zaccharie Risacher: Glenn Gervot / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)



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