NBA Position: PF/C
General Information: 20-year-old freshman, played at Kentucky. From Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.
Measurables: 6'11.75", 216 lbs, 7'2.5" wingspan, 8'9.5" standing reach, 31' no step vertical, 35' max vertical.
2015-16 Season Statistics: 6.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 0.9 TOPG (36 games played, 15.8 minutes per contest) - 51.2% FG, 66.1% FT, 0% 3P
Skal Labissiere entered the season with near-equal hype to Ben Simmons thanks to his athleticism and size, but he massively underperformed. There's a lot to like about Labissiere's physical build and his basic skillset, and the latter got lost in his poor season; he's got a capable jumper on offense, decently improving footwork in the paint, and good instincts as a shot blocker. Potential aside, there's no denying that he's been held back by his lack of basketball experience and court awareness. Any team that drafts him will making a huge bet on their ability to develop him, both physically and mentally.
While still much a work in progress, Skal's jump shot is his most intriguing offensive potential. 70% of his shots were two-point jumpers, and he sank a respectable 45.6% of them, mainly from the top of the key. Given his limited collegiate resume, teams shouldn't expect that his jumper is an NBA ready weapon early in his career. His camp is sending the word out that he's making threes in summer workouts, and while there's no reason he can't become a solid three-point shooter, he never made one in college. With his excellent length and high release, he's tough to block, and as his shot becomes a consistent weapon he can use the threat of his range to blow by set defenders with his quick feet.
Labissiere's post buckets are fairly limited to transition attempts and lobs. Having a big man with his foot speed and ability to run around without the ball could pose interesting off-ball options, especially if his shot develops quickly. He's going to need to add serious strength before he's a threat as a post-up player. While he showed good touch down low, he doesn't have many go-to moves (a half hook is about it) and looks far less comfortable with the ball in his hands in the post.
As expected for such a raw, undeveloped player, his offensive awareness is limited, and he's not a threat as a playmaker. His 3.6% assist rate is to be expected for such a low-usage player, but it also doesn't speak well of his immediate impact in an offense. He's a complete project player who will have to spend a lot of practice time learning an offensive playbook, but given a patient player development coach, there's no reason why he can't be utilized across the offense in a few years. His timidity overshadowed the fact that he actually does have skills.
It's clear what value a speedy, lengthy, athletic big can have in the modern NBA; despite limited minutes, he finished with 1.6 blocks a contest (4.2 per 40 minutes) and a 10.3% block rate. He's got good timing on his rejections, and it's the one area of his game where he should provide immediate impact. Despite Skal's size, his light frame didn't help against the SEC big lineup, and many had significant muscle on him. He never showed great aggression in bodying up to tougher players, and he committed 7.6 fouls per 40 minutes.
There's major emphasis on the p-word again, but his potential versatility as a defender can't be ignored. If he can fill out and gain the necessarily muscle, his quick feet, great burst and length are going to protect a lot of ground. He doesn't have great defensive instincts yet, but he can help learn to negate pick-and-rolls. He's nowhere close to Willie Cauley-Stein as a natural defender, but he can fit that same mold in the future.
On the glass, Labissiere was a disappointment. He was constantly outmuscled against bigs who had little business competing with his height and length. His 14.6% defensive rebounding rate is significantly low for any big, even with his inconsistent minutes. His ability as a rebounder will likely dictate when he'll get significant NBA minutes.
Labissiere was born in Haiti and immigrated to the United States after the devastating 2010 earthquake. He didn't begin to consistently play basketball until high school, and even those years were derailed by injury and ineligibility issues. While he showed improvement as his freshman year went on and finally got consistent minutes in March, it's hard to tell how dedicated he'll be to the craft in the NBA. He's got to show much more toughness and ability to play through rough stretches.
Skal is another homerun shot in a class full of high-potential, high risk players. The best situation for Skal would be to land with an established team that has a clear vision of how to develop him and minimal distance between their headquarters and their D-League program. As he adds on hours and hours of basketball experience, there aren't many limits to how a smart team could utilize a growing big man with elite length, quick speed, and above-the-rim skills. Getting Labissiere to shed his deer-in-the-headlights look is the first step; his future team should glue him to their most competitive, confident veteran big man and hope Skal can remember that playing basketball is fun (when you're not coached by John Calipari), especially when you're a seven-foot freak of nature
I'm about to write something I'll almost certainly regret in a few years - if an NBA team made me a GM today (seriously, though - call me), I don't see much of a difference between Skal and Marquese Chriss as project players. On one hand, Chriss had infinitely better offensive stats and never had the deer-in-the-headlights look Skal did (and is a year younger - bonus points for a project). On the other, Skal was playing in the hardest place for a high-profile player with limited basketball experience. I think he'd have performed much better in a Washington sized program with a non-Calipari coach that didn't crush him every time he messed up. Both were very disappointing on the glass, but Skal had better rebounding numbers than Chriss (14.6% defensive rebounding rate to Chriss' 11.6%). Both players are hyper athletes, but Skal's gifts beat out Chriss' ever-so-slightly, and he'll be able to guard a wider range of NBA bigs when he fills out.
At this point in their developments, I don't see much of a difference in the inherit risks between Chriss and Skal. Probably going to regret writing this in a few years when Chriss becomes a star, and then I'll add this paragraph to Reasons_I'm_an_armchair_scout_and_not_a_paid_professional.docx. It'll be right below "I honestly though Thomas Robinson was good" and "I thought Steph Curry was overrated in college".
Fit with Sacramento:
On pure mold alone, Skal would be a great potential fit in Sacramento, with a massive 7'0 emphasis placed on that middle word. A 7'0 rim protector who can run, run, run, and who can help spread the floor? Beautiful fit next to DeMarcus Cousins. A big man who should be able to guard both bigs (when he fills out) and who wants to develop his offense both inside and outside? Great fit next to Willie Cauley-Stein. Honestly, the sheer potential of the Kings bigs with those three in the lineup would be mind boggling on both ends... but again, the Brad-ego-sized key word here is potential. And Sacramento needs to consider how patient they'd be willing to be or how capable they'd be at handling such a raw project, let alone one who looked as timid on the court as Labissiere.
We see raw project players enter the league every year; we have Anthony Randolph flameouts, and guys like Hassan Whiteside and Bismack Biyombo who after four/five years of development end up being worth a high selection. Labissiere is one of the riskiest lottery tickets in recent years, with the body of a #1 selection and the instincts and skills of a early second rounder. It's up to him (and his future team) to find out what he can offer in today's NBA.
As always, check out the DraftExpress breakdowns.