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Re-Skalibrating Expectations

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A different perspective on the Skal Labissiere playing time quandary.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

One of the brightest spots in the post-Boogie world last year was the emergence of Skal Labissiere late in the season. After the All Star break, our rookie power forward put up a solid statline of 11 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 54% from the floor and 38% from beyond the arc.

Although there’s always a question of positive performances at the close of the NBA regular season calendar, a hope emerged that we had found a diamond in the rough with the 28th pick in the draft. Unfortunately, while he hasn’t been abjectly terrible to start the year, he has struggled to make an impact while on the court and has lost his spot in the rotation.

Skal has played fewer than twenty minutes in 19 of the past 20 contests, and has been a DNP-CD for three games running. His gradual departure from meaningful minutes has been one of the hottest topics among Kings fans this season, and has also developed into a conversation surrounding Dave Joerger and his hesitation to let the kids, especially Skal, get out there and just play.

I believe some of those frustrations are absolutely valid. For example, Labissiere didn’t see the floor in the Kings blowout loss to the Clippers on Tuesday, and I can’t see how it would have been counterproductive to let your second year player gain some court experience in garbage time.

Beyond the time or two that Skal hasn’t been given any minutes in a blowout, taking a different perspective on his development has alleviated most of my concerns with Joerger’s treatment of the sophomore big man.

Here are some facts that everyone knew walking into the season:

  • The Kings had 10 players signed to rookie contracts.
  • Eight of those guys had been drafted in the last two years.
  • $89 million was invested in veteran mentors in the offseason.
  • $40 million of that was spent for this season alone.
  • Another $16 million was allocated toward Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos.

Due to those factors, it was readily discussed and widely accepted that several members of our youth movement would likely fall out of the rotation once Dave Joerger had a chance to see everyone play and establish a pecking order. Even with Harry Giles out for an extended amount of time, there was still too much inexperience to find everyone minutes on a nightly basis.

Many expected Frank Mason III, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, and possibly Justin Jackson to make up that crew of end-of-the-bench, G-League candidate players. And while Papa G has certainly proven part of that hypothesis to be true, the others in that group have proven to be more ready to play, and fill positions of greater need, than Skal Labissiere.

Is it possible that the issue isn’t a personal beef between Joerger and Skal, or that we have a coach who refuses to play the youth; but instead it’s simply a matter of minutes distribution and need?

We all expected young players to fall out of the lineup eventually, but maybe our expectations and predictions were incorrect, rather than the decisions currently being made.