Charlotte Hornets select France’s Tidjane Salaun with No. 6 overall pick in NBA Draft

Tidjane Salaun poses for photos with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected in Wednesday’s first round by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2024 NBA Draft at Barclays Center in New York.

A touch of France is headed to Charlotte.

In what seems like an annual June ritual, the Hornets added another young player to their roster, taking Frenchman Tidjane Salaun with the sixth overall selection in the NBA Draft on Wednesday night in New York.

“He’s the guy who we had organizational alignment and conviction in from the very beginning,” Hornets vice president of basketball operations Jeff Peterson said. “And you heard what (new coach) Charles (Lee) was saying (Tuesday). We want guys to give it an effort, night-in, night-out, guys who compete.

“He’s the youngest player in the draft, has a ton of upside, a great frame. I was fortunate I got to go to Europe a couple of times this season to see him and spend some time with him, and he’s an amazing, amazing human being. And I know he’s going to do everything in his control to maximize himself.”

Salaun, 18, is a power forward who most recently played for Cholet Basket in France. He stands at 6-foot-9 and has a 7-2 wingspan, and is said to have a good shot that still needs some polishing. He averaged 9.7 points and 3.9 rebounds for Cholet in 2023-24, and became the third player from his country taken among the initial half dozen selections.

Atlanta selected Zaccharie Risacher No. 1 overall and Washington picked Alex Sarr second.

Peterson was approached about possibly trading the pick and he said he also pondered moving up. But ultimately, the Hornets settled on staying put where they were.

“We considered a little bit of everything,” he said. “I made some calls, had some incoming calls. So that’s my job, right? Even though you don’t act on it, you’ve got to be prepared for everything.”

Salaun said he worked out once for the Hornets and wasn’t overly surprised he ended up with the same organization that a well-known Frenchman suited up for in 2018-19: Tony Parker. Salaun knew it was a real possibility he could be donning the purple and teal.

“I expected it a little bit because the coach was honest with me,” Salaun said. “I feel a trust relationship with them and now I’m with the Hornets.”

Passing is also one of Salaun’s strong suits. The ball doesn’t stick when it’s in his hands. He is adept at keeping it moving, which assists in making the right play. He said he believes one of his strengths is his motor and thinks he can help the Hornets in several areas.

“I shoot the three when I’m open every time and bring my help defense for multiple positions,” Salaun said on a Zoom call from New York. “And, for sure, bring all the energy for my teammates and the coach and crowd.”

Peterson couldn’t stop raving about Salaun and what sticks out most.

“His competitive spirit,” Peterson said. “Every single play, he’s an urgent competitor, especially on the defensive end. He’s flying a round, he’s athletic so he can alter shots. He is getting loose possessions, creating deflections, And he’s very selfless, which that’s going to fit well with what we have here as well.”

Particularly alongside LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller.

“I’m encouraged with that fit,” Peterson said. “I think with LaMelo and Brandon, they are both young and, of course, with Tidjane he’s very young. So, I think it’s going to be exciting to see them grow together. Obviously, all different positions.

“The couple of things they have in common, though: they all want to be great, they work, they put the time in. Again, I’m really encouraged to see what those three can do over the course of their careers in Charlotte.”

Apparently, Salaun has a ways to go before he’s well-known, however. ESPN introduced him on the draft broadcast as former University of Tennessee wing Dalton Knecht prior to NBA commissioner Adam Silver starting the clock. Salaun won’t be complaining, though. He’s just excited to be in the NBA.

“I’m very happy and ... glad to be here,” Salaun said. “And now I’m ready to work.”