As NBA scouts follow this season of French basketball with particular interest, an interesting development happened just last week. A decision that might have future lottery implications and, surprisingly, it doesn’t have anything to do with Victor Wembanyama.
After being an early season stand out in the French Espoirs U21 league while playing four years up in age, ASVEL decided to give consistent minutes to Zaccharie Risacher with the senior team, in a Euroleague game against Baskonia, no less. Risacher did extremely well in those minutes, going 2-for-5 from the field, with five points, six rebounds and one assist in 21 minutes of play.
Risacher, born in 2005, has made a name for himself during the past two years in different events, including a productive performance in France’s bronze-medal run a the FIBA U17 World Cup this past summer, where he showed his versatility and two-way impact while averaging 10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 blocks per game on an efficient 66.4% True Shooting.
Still not draft eligible until 2024, here are some of the reasons why Risacher should be one of the top ranked international prospects at the beginning of that draft cycle.
Standing at 6-foot-8 with long arms, Risacher utilizes his tools extremely well in order to make an impact on both ends of the floor, as his combination of size, length and standing reach help him to contest shots, finish at the rim and rebound the basketball. Despite having the size and length of a forward, Risacher moves more like a wing, being quick, coordinated and extremely fluid for his size.
Although he has a skinny frame which makes him match up better against perimeter players than against true centers, Risacher has a high level of awareness when he’s near the rim, which allows him to rotate for blocks, defensive rebounds and to just be a disruptive presence to break up plays in the paint.
In the perimeter, he’s at his best staying in front of opponents, using his size and lateral mobility to smother smaller ball-handlers and to stay in front of drivers all the way to the rim.
Despite having to improve some aspects of his defensive technique (such as him being too upright in his stance as a perimeter defender), his ability to make plays both as an on-ball and off-ball defender, combined with his optimal tools are all good indicators of his potential as a multi-positional defender who can create defensive events such as steals, blocks and deflections on multiple levels of the court.
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Versatile Shooting Potential
Risacher has attempted nearly 300 three-pointers across multiple competitions, making over 32% of them. Beyond the numbers however, there’s a more impressive aspect which is the versatility, as he is able to convert shots off movement at an impressive rate considering his size and age.
With his ability to prepare and get his shot off quickly, Risacher is effective in shots that require him to relocate or to catch on the hop. This allows him to shoot coming off screens and against heavy defensive pressure. His most impressive moments, however, come off the dribble, where he’s able to utilize his combination of size, fluidity and footwork to create his own shot in the perimeter and release over smaller defenders.
Continuing to become more consistent will be the key for Risacher in this area, as well as making his shot more repeatable. He is still prone to not hold proper followthrough at times, which makes him miss shots long or short. Considering the versatility of his shot, it’s easy to envision him becoming a solid shooter at the next level of competition with enough reps under his belt.
Attacking the Rim
The big limitation for Risacher has been a lack of ability to create his own drives against a set defense. The French prospect is certainly fluid for his size and shows some dribble moves, but he’s not really quick or explosive enough to beat defenders one-on-one and so far in his career, he has rarely been put in situations where he’s assisted by screens as a driver.
With the ball in his hands, Risacher does really well in situational slashing, as his shooting ability allows him to draw hard closeouts which he exploits, being fast with the ball in his hands. His ability to finish at the rim is impressive, as he’s able to use his combination of length and hangtime to finish around the basket, getting nice extension finishes and converting layups against contact and in awkward angles.
Considering his level of touch and fluidity, there’s clearly some untapped potential in this area and he has shown flashes of advanced finishing with floaters and other long range lay-ups. It will be interesting to see how much ASVEL puts him in situations where he’s able to exploit his above average fluidity for his size, taking on slower, bigger forwards off the bounce.
NBA Questions and Projections
Risacher has almost two full seasons ahead of him before being draft eligible, but he already shows intriguing aspects which could make him a lottery pick in 2024. If he continues to shoot the ball at his current clip, the prospect of a wing with excellent tools who can shoot the ball with versatility and play multiple positions on defense make him a fairly high-floor 3-and-D prospect who is able to mix in some moments of slashing in closeouts.
Risacher’s ceiling might just depend on how much he’s able to develop as an on-ball creator; if he takes the leap and becomes someone who is able to create drives consistently against a set defense, you’d have a multi-level scoring wing who is also able to defend multiple positions: an extremely valuable archetype at the NBA level.
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