NBA draft pool is rich in forwards

FILE - Zaccharie Risacher, of Bourg-en-Bresse, dribbles during a Betclic Elite basketball game against Limoges in Bourg-en-Bresse, eastern France, Oct. 31, 2023. Risacher is among the headliners of the forwards in the upcoming NBA draft. (AP Photo, File)

The upcoming NBA draft is filled with talented forwards who either played internationally or bypassed college basketball.

French teenager Zaccharie Risacher could very well be the No. 1 overall pick and checked in at No. 2 in the latest AP NBA Mock Draft, while Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland II went through the G League Ignite developmental program for top prospects. All are positioned to be lottery prospects, along with Colorado one-and-done freshman Cody Williams as an athletic wing.

A look at the top forward prospects:

Zaccharie Risacher, France

STRENGTHS: There is intriguing potential surrounding the 6-foot-9, 195-pound forward as a developing player who could impact both ends of the court. He has guard skills and the ability to thrive as a catch-and-shoot wing after making about 39% of his 3-pointers for JL Bourg between league and Eurocup play last season. He’s active away from the ball as a cutter and can thrive in transition or off a closeout, while his roughly 6-10 wingspan can create problems for smaller ballhandlers.

CONCERNS: The 19-year-old needs to get stronger to prepare for the physical play in the NBA. He also averaged 0.9 assists and 1.6 turnovers in league and Eurocup play, highlighting a need to improve as a playmaker.

Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite

STRENGTHS: The 6-9, 197-pound Buzelis was a top-flight recruit and McDonald’s All-American who bypassed college to play for Ignite. Buzelis, who turns 20 in October, can exploit matchups by scoring over smaller defenders and being quick enough to get past bigger ones. He has shown signs of an all-around offensive game from attacking off the dribble or scoring on step-back shots, averaging 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds for Ignite while also using his length (6-10 wingspan) to average 2.1 blocks and rank fourth in the G League.

CONCERNS: He’s a willing outside shooter but he made just 27.3% on 3-pointers with Ignite. He also shot just 67.9% at the foul line. He is also still developing as a playmaker (1.9 assists compared to 2.1 turnovers) and could help himself by adding strength.

Cody Williams, Colorado

STRENGTHS: He’s a versatile wing who measured roughly 6-7 without shoes at the combine and has a 7-1 wingspan. The 19-year-old shot 55.2% from the field and showed the ability to play in transition, attack the rim and finish. He also made 41.5% of his 3-pointers to stretch defenses, while his length projects well for the defensive end.

CONCERNS: He’s has a light 178-pound frame that will need strength, which could also help him improve as a rebounder after he averaged just 3.0 boards — including a total of three rebounds in 64 minutes during three NCAA Tournament games.

Ron Holland II, G League Ignite

STRENGTHS: He has athleticism and versatility in a 6-7, 197-pound frame. Holland has shown the ability to run the floor, get downhill and attack the rim. He averaged 20.6 points and 6.6 rebounds while also making 75.7% of his foul shots for Ignite, but played just 14 games before needing thumb surgery. Throw in his length (6-11 wingspan), and there’s also a defensive upside that showed with 2.5 steals per game.

CONCERNS: He struggled with his outside shot (24% on 3s) and will have to improve his range. He also could use improvement in decision-making considering he had nearly as many turnovers (42) as assists (45).


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