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Who will be the breakout star of 2024 NBA Draft?

Nikola Topic, Alexandre Sarr, Zacharie Risacher and Ulrich Chomche
Frenchmen Alexandre Sarr and Zacharie Risacher (centre left and right) could be top pick in the 2024 NBA Draft while Nikola Topic (left) and Ulrich Chomche (right) are ones to watch [Getty Images]

The 2024 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft contrasts sharply with last year’s selection, which introduced several players who became vital for their new teams.

The draft process starts in New York on Wednesday with the first round of 30 picks and culminates on Thursday with the second 30.

Leading the charge last year was Victor Wembanyama, the first overall pick, who earned a spot on the All-Defensive Team - a rare achievement for a rookie player.

Wembanyama's performances with the San Antonio Spurs have validated his position at the top, seeing him named Rookie of the Year and marking him out as a future NBA superstar.

However, the 2024 draft is seen as one of the weakest in years and general managers looking for talent will have to dig deep to find impactful players.

We spotlight four sparkling prospects who could be the ones to watch in the draft.

Ulrich Chomche (Centre)

The youngest player in the draft is a Cameroonian, and the 18-year-old could make history by becoming the first player from the NBA Academy Africa to be directly drafted into the NBA.

Chomche moved from his village of Bafang in western Cameroon to join the elite centre in Saly, Senegal, when he was just 13 - although he was only allowed to go after promising his parents that if his school marks slipped he would quit.

Late to basketball, Chomche had only started playing the game shortly before being scouted. In Cameroon, football dominates, and many players switch to basketball in their teens when their height becomes an advantage.

This was the case with Joel Embiid, a fellow Cameroonian and 2023 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), who has said he wished he could have been a professional footballer.

At 6’10” tall (2.08m), Chomche showcased his defensive skills in the Basketball Africa League qualifiers, averaging three blocks and one steal per game for Rwandan side REG this year.

Ulrich Chomche wearing a white basketball jersey while in action for Rwandan side REG
Born on 30 December 2005, Chomche is the youngest player in this year's draft [Getty Images]

Unlike Embiid, who was picked third back in 2014 and expected to become a star, Chomche is not rated as highly by NBA scouts.

However, Pascal Siakam, another Cameroonian, provides a great template.

Siakam was drafted 27th by the Toronto Raptors in 2016 and then spent some time in the G-League, the NBA’s development league, where players can compete and hone their skills to get NBA-ready.

He led his G-League team to a title and won Finals MVP. Siakam then secured a spot in the Raptors’ rotation, winning Most Improved Player and an NBA title in 2019. Now 30, the power forward is a key player for the Indiana Pacers and a two-time All-Star.

Chomche is expected to be a second-round pick, likely starting in the G-League to refine his skills. However, if he follows Siakam’s path, his career could be equally fascinating to watch.

Zacharie Risacher (Forward)

Zacharie Risacher wears a red basketball jersey and prepares to shoot during a match
Risacher's former club in France have links to San Antonio Spurs [Getty Images]

Risacher is one of two Frenchmen thought to be in the running for number one pick this year and basketball runs in his family, with his father Stephane a silver medal-winner with France at the Olympics in 2000.

He is 19 but made his debut in Europe’s premier basketball competition, the EuroLeague, for French team ASVEL at the age of just 16 in 2021.

The ASVEL president is Tony Parker, a former NBA point guard who won four championship rings with the San Antonio Spurs, and the Texan outfit has forged some long-running connections with France.

Last year, the Spurs made Wenbanyama the first ever Frenchman to be drafted number one - and Risacher will be hoping to follow suit.

Heading into this season he was already seen as a promising prospect, before transferring to another French team, JL Bourg. There, he has really worked on his shooting and scouts will be hoping to see this continue.

Risacher could potentially become a player who fits seamlessly into an NBA offence, able to score from anywhere on the floor, without needing the ball in his hands too much.

He is also a good perimeter defender. But despite his 6’8’’ (2.03m) height, his lack of athleticism means he is not considered a great finisher at the rim, nor is he a strong rebounder yet.

However, he is still young, and there is a possibility that these skills could improve as he develops physically.

Nikola Topic (Guard)

Nikola Topic dribbles with the ball and holds off a defender while in action for Crvena Zvezda
Topic (right) is one the youngest players to feature in EuroLeague [Getty Images]

Topic is also the son of an Olympic basketball silver medallist, with his father Milenko a runner-up at the 1996 Games when Yugoslavia were beaten by the USA.

When you read his name a fellow Serbian comes to mind - three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.

They have both played for the same team in their home country, Mega, a team known for turning out NBA prospects.

However, Topic has a very different style to Jokic. The 18-year-old guard is already an excellent passer and a tricky finisher at the rim, who has scored well over the past season for Crvena Zvezda.

Topic was one of the youngest players to ever play in the EuroLeague when he made his debut in the competition at 16.

In fact, he was only 5 days younger than Slovenian star Luka Doncic was when he debuted in the same competition for Real Madrid. Doncic has become one of the best players in the NBA, featuring for the Dallas Mavericks in this season's Finals.

Rather like Doncic when he entered the NBA, there are some concerns about Topic’s ability to defend.

His performances in Europe have been nowhere near as dominant as those of the Mavs forward, who was drafted third in 2018.

Topic also suffered a knee injury in January, which he reaggravated in April, meaning some NBA teams may have concerns about drafting him in a high spot.

Alexandre Sarr (Centre)

Alexandre Sarr dribbles during a basketball game for Perth Wildcats
Sarr's father Massar was a professional basketball player in Senegal [Getty Images]

Sarr is another Frenchman who could well be the top pick in this draft.

His father, Massar, was a professional player in Senegal and his brother Olivier already plays in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

At just 19 he already has an impressive basketball CV. He played for Real Madrid’s youth team before moving to the Overtime Elite League (OTE) in the US at the age of 16.

The OTE was set up to give young players the opportunity to play professionally and develop their skills in preparation for the NBA. Ausar and Amen Thompson played in it before both being picked in the top five in the 2023 draft.

Last year Sarr left OTE to sign for Australian side Perth Wildcats. He played off the bench for a team that finished second in the regular season and proved to be a good, impactful player.

The centre averaged just 17 minutes per game, but managed to average 1.5 blocks in that time.

He is an impressive defender. Standing at 6’11’ (2.10m) he is not only able to use his size to block shots, but also leverages his quickness to stay in front of smaller players.

Versatility in defence is a crucial skill at the NBA level which should attract team managers.