The Sacramento Kings fanbase is much like a bird (for pokemaniacs who forgot what the real world looks like, a Pidgey, if you will). A bird can't fly without both of its wings. It gives the bird balance. As Kings fans, our two wings are hope and despair. We aren't Kings fans without both the utter dark hopelessness that comes with 10 straight lottery appearances, but also those purple-tinted goggles that overrate every King's contribution on the court and value around the league.
Seriously, look at some of the trade machine screenshots the StR Twitter account gets sometime. Y'all are crazy.
This has come out in Summer League. Kings fans are torn at the same time in two directions. In one corner, we have George Papagiannis' awful showing and the dismay at missing out on the other guys available at #13. We've talked enough about Big Papa here already.
And then there's Skal Labissiere.
Before going on, we all need to calm down a bit. It is still just Summer League. Skal's performance guarantees nothing for the regular season. He still has a lot of work to do, namely getting much stronger so he can compete in the paint for the duration of an 82 game grind. He still has to work on his defense and crashing the defensive glass. He needs to become a better passer from the high post, and sometimes his shot selection isn't ideal. I've heard whispers that maybe Skal should be the starting 4 next to DeMarcus Cousins next season. Lets pump the brakes on that.
With the usual disclaimer taken care of... hoooooooly crap. This kid has the chance to be something special. Skal's range of skills scoring the ball is ridiculous for a 20 year old big man. And it all comes in a 7 foot frame blessed with length, quickness, and hops.
It all starts with his jumper. Skal's shooting stroke is beautiful; he gets great rotation and releases the ball at the height of his jump. He puts terrific arc on the ball that gives it a chance to go in even if the shot is slightly off. He's proficient in midrange, but the pièce de résistance is his ability to stretch it all the way out to three point range. Because, spacing!
His shooting form makes it possible for him to get his shot off in unorthodox situations. He hangs in the air so long, he can release the ball when he's aligned towards the basket. This is a special talent that is nearly impossible to teach; either someone is blessed with this kind of coordination or they aren't. Its not an ideal shot but is a useful tool for emergency situations like, say, a dwindling shot clock.
The threat of Skal's jumper sets up his ability to drive. Skal has a solid handle for a big, but importantly he moves deliberately so he's never out of control on his drives. He uses spin moves and great footwork to get defenders off balance. And when he goes up to finish in the paint, he's usually balanced perfectly and floats up attempts at the rim with a soft touch.
Its such a common problem for young players in the NBA to move so fast they just let their momentum carry them without thinking, its incredibly refreshing to watch Skal get to his spots at just the right speed. Instead of just letting the offensive player throw up a wild attempt, defenders are forced to defend with discipline. Skal so far hasn't shied away from contact and has drawn fouls by getting into his defender's grill.
Skal's back-to-the-basket game looks promising too. He's very light so it remains to be seen if he can back down NBA power forwards, and his moves tend to be a bit mechanical instead of instinctual. But again, Skal moves at just the right speed getting to his desired spot, and his jump hook is simply gorgeous. He gets outstanding extension, the release point is unblockable because of his athleticism, and his touch around the rim is beautiful.
One of the biggest knocks on Skal coming out of college was that his personality was too nice. That, supposedly, made him soft on the court. But here in Summer League, despite some lapses, Skal has fought and scrapped hard, even showing a bit of fire and nastiness going after some offensive rebounds.
All-in-all, the sky's the limit for Skal Labissiere. He has an intriguing set of skills and enviable physical tools. His potential ability to shoot, drive, and finish around the rim make him a perfect modern power forward. That's basically the same skillset the Miami version of Chris Bosh has.
I have no idea if Skal will put it all together at the NBA level, but man, he's got a chance. It could be a huge boon for a franchise desperate for any kind of lucky break to snap this decade-long funk. There is a long road ahead for Skal to become an NBA player, but he has all the natural talent in the world to put it together. With solid work ethic and a franchise willing to nurture him, this could be the beginning of something special.