Alex Sarr, projected top-3 pick, declares for 2024 NBA draft

Alex Sarr officially declares for the NBA draft (1:50)

Alex Sarr joins "NBA Today" and announces that he is declaring for the 2024 NBA draft. (1:50)

Alex Sarr, the projected No. 2 pick, has declared for the 2024 NBA draft, he announced Friday on ESPN's "NBA Today."

"I had a great year playing professional basketball in the NBL," Sarr told ESPN. "There was a lot of growth in my game and as a person. I'm ready for the next step, so it was obvious for me to declare for the draft. I'm grateful for the year I spent in the NBL with the Perth Wildcats."

Sarr is coming off a productive season in Australia, helping Perth reach the NBL playoff semifinals and averaging 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 17 minutes per game.

"Being part of the NBL Next Stars program was a great experience," Sarr said. "I had great teammates in Perth, good vets to teach me about the NBL game. The NBL is a really good platform for improving. You play meaningful games where winning games is everything. That's how you really improve. "

Sarr put NBA scouts on notice of his candidacy as a potential No. 1 draft pick in September with a memorable two-game series against G League Ignite in Las Vegas, posting 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.0 blocks per game, including a barrage of 3-pointers and highlight-reel dunks.

"It didn't surprise me, what happened in Las Vegas," Sarr said. "It was a product of the work I put in every summer. I know what I am able to do, so this is what I was expecting, to showcase how much improvement I've made."

Sarr is one of the most physically gifted prospects in this class, standing 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-4½ wingspan and outstanding athletic ability. He covers ground fluidly, is quick off his feet as a finisher and rim-protector, and has the potential to emerge as one of the best defenders in this class with his ability to guard smaller players on the perimeter. Sarr can also stretch the floor from beyond the arc, converting 18 3-pointers in 27 games this season.

Sarr has taken a unique pathway to the NBA draft, leaving his home country of France as a 14-year-old to sign with European powerhouse Real Madrid in Spain, where he spent two seasons. He then moved to Overtime Elite in Atlanta for two years, which was seen as a controversial move at the time. He spent this past season in Western Australia with Perth as part of the NBL's Next Stars program, and he is hoping to eclipse LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 pick in 2020, as the highest player ever drafted from that league.

"My versatility on the court went to another level this season," Sarr said. "My consistency got better. On offense, being able to play inside out. Making good reads on defense in pick-and-roll coverages."

Sarr's father, Massar, emigrated from Senegal to France as an 18-year-old and played professional basketball in the lower categories as well, while his older brother Olivier is currently under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Sarr's primary competition for the No. 1 pick in the draft is former French national teammate Zaccharie Risacher. Last year's No. 1 pick, Victor Wembanyama, also hailed from France.

"Zaccharie and I were teammates three summers in a row," Sarr said. "It was a great experience. We had fun. I don't think either of us were thinking at the time about meeting again in the NBA draft. It shows the level of talent that young French players have. There is so much potential over there. It's only going up from here. Young French players have guys to look up to in the NBA."

Sarr is in Santa Barbara, California, working out in preparation for the NBA draft.

"It's an exciting time for me to get to know more of NBA basketball," Sarr said. "I already watch a lot of games. Guys like Jokic, Giannis, Kevin Durant, but really all over, I watch the entire NBA to understand the game better.

"From what I see, I can fit in pretty easily. There's a lot of switching on defense. You need to be able to guard everywhere on the floor. Big guys need to be playmakers, make the right pass out of short rolls, and also create for themselves. That's something I can do. This summer, when I really get time to work on my 3-point shot, I'll take that to another level, too."

The NBA draft will be held over two days in New York City on June 26 and 27. The first round will be conducted at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, followed by the second round the next day at ESPN's studio in lower Manhattan.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA Draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.