With Zaccharie Risacher joining the Atlanta Hawks, the winds might finally be blowing in their favor.

Though the Hawks finished 10th in the East standings last season and lost by 15 to the Chicago Bulls in their sole play-in tournament match, they aren’t actually as bad as their results last season might suggest.

Atlanta was plagued by injuries all throughout, with Trae Young (28 games), Jalen Johnson (26), De’Andre Hunter (25), and Onyeka Okongwu (27) all missing significant time. A healthy Hawks team could have realistically challenged for the fifth or sixth seed in the East, but their misfortune suddenly turned into a blessing.

Despite entering last month’s NBA Draft Lottery with a 3% chance of securing the top pick, Atlanta managed to move up from 10th to first overall. This marked just the second time that this franchise owned the first pick of the NBA Draft, with the previous instance occurring almost 50 years ago in 1975.


With all eyes on him, the Hawks’ general manager Landry Fields made a bold decision to draft 19-year-old Risacher over his countryman, center Alex Sarr, whom many believed was the top prospect among this year’s class of aspirants. Fields chose Risacher with the top pick, making him the second consecutive French player to be selected first overall, following Victor Wembanyama’s selection by the San Antonio Spurs last year.

The feat achieved by Wembanyama and Risacher also marked the first time in history that a player who did not play in an American high school or college was the number one pick of the NBA Draft in back-to-back years.

The 6’9 Risacher, who plays small forward, brings with him length and skill set that is much-needed in Atlanta. Most importantly, he is an excellent shooter. He hit 54.1% of his field goals and 45% of his three-pointers in 23 games with JL Bourg in France’s top division last season. This makes him a perfect fit for a Hawks’ roster that is rather devoid of perimeter shooting.

Furthermore, he has shown a strong feel for the game with his off-ball movement and cutting which should make him a favorite target of passes from Young, Dejounte Murray, and even Johnson.

Risacher has the potential to be a top tier defender as well on the other end of the court and this two-way upside of his was a major reason why Atlanta drafted him first overall.

With all of this working in his favor, there is a high chance that Risacher wrests away the starting small forward spot from Hunter–if he remains on their roster that is–who has been largely underwhelming over his five-year NBA career. Risacher should fit right in alongside the rest of the Hawks’ existing starters, provided that they do not make a major trade this offseason.

Atlanta’s ball-dominant backcourt of Young and Murray needs all the spacing that they can get and Risacher is the type of player whose gravity will give them more than enough room to operate. His presence is also likely to open up interior opportunities for Johnson and whoever is their starting center come opening night, whether it be Clint Capela or Okongwu. In a nutshell, having Risacher on the floor is only going to make things easier for the rest of the team.

Though Risacher might not be a franchise-changing first pick like Wembanyama, the silver lining of this situation for the Hawks is that it might have saved them from the lengthy process involved with a full-on rebuild. Many speculated that Young or Murray would be dealt during this offseason, but now that Atlanta has landed a prospect who complements this partnership, it would not come as a surprise if they run it back for at least one more season with this team.

After all, they are only three years removed from their surprise run to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals and if this Risacher pick turns out to be successful, a repeat performance is not entirely out of the question. While Young and Murray are the team’s present, the front court of Risacher, Johnson, and Okongwu holds immense promise and should eventually allow this team to gracefully transition into their next era.

The best is yet to come for these Hawks and it is about time that this franchise gets a chance to spread its wings.