Grading anything as subjective as an entire NBA season is always a tough gig. Different people have different goals for an individual as well as different techniques for assessing a seven month long journey. To keep things moderately simple, I will be using the expectations we had heading into the season for each player as the barometer for how well their season went. These grades won’t necessarily tell us where they rank among their fellow NBA players or what their career trajectory may be, but rather it will help assess where we stand with that prospect today compared to where we stood in October.
Player: Skal Labissiere
Reasoning: Skal Labissiere failed to show significant growth in any area during the 2017-2018 campaign. He struggled to stay healthy and was unable to establish himself as a trusted member of the rotation. The organization had high hopes after a strong start to our young forward’s rookie year, but his lack of improvement is a major cause for concern moving forward.
Areas of Strength
One of the few areas in which Skal did show some advancement was in his defensive awareness. He flashed a bit of potential as a rim protector, blocking 1.4 shots per-36 minutes, which led the team. His opponents shot 0.8% worse than their season average within six feet of the rim when guarded by Labissiere, not Clint Capela numbers by any means, but still better than his first season where he allowed opponents to increase their field goal percentage by 3.9%.
Skal also demonstrated that he can use his length and quickness as a tool on the defensive end of the floor in certain situations. He was able to effectively guard pick and roll situations, as well as isolation plays. He ranked in the 90th percentile in pick and roll, allowing opponents to score just 0.69 points per possession, holding them to 26.2% shooting from the floor. That was easily the strongest mark on the team, especially among big men, as Koufos allowed 1.05 PPP (39th percentile), Willie allowed 1.06 PPP (36th percentile), and Randolph allowed 1.10 PPP (30th percentile). In isolation, he placed in the 85th percentile, with opposing players shooting only 29.6% from the field and scoring 0.71 points per possession.
Areas of Opportunity
The most frightening aspect of Skal’s sophomore season was the level of stagnation that occurred from his first to second year. Here are the side-by-side stats:
That lack of maturation is a huge red flag heading into his third year in the pros. When opportunity was given, even when it wasn’t necessarily earned, he didn’t step up and take advantage. As a starter he averaged 9.2 points, 5.8 boards, and 1.3 assists in 22 minutes played. On the same 22 minute scale, he put up 9.5 points, 4.6 boards, and 1.3 assists as a reserve: very little difference. There was no variation in his contributions dependent on his situation. He was simply below-average.
Labissere was also much worse in his second year in one key area: shooting. A highly encouraging aspect of Skal’s rookie season was his ability to knock down jumpers, especially from the midrange; however, that shooting spark disappeared in his sophomore year. As a rookie, he nailed 54.5% of his shots from 10-15 feet and 53.8% of his attempts from 15-19 feet, both team-leading metrics. Those numbers looked especially appetizing considering Dave Joerger’s high-post heavy offense, but Labissiere wasn’t able to keep up that impressive shooting stroke this year. His 2017-2018 campaign saw those percentages drop all the way to 38.3% on shots from 10 – 14 feet, sixth best on the team, and down to 33.8% from the 15-19 foot range, 9th on the team.
Final Thoughts: Although I didn’t have as high of expectations for Skal as many folks did, in no world did I expect him to perform this poorly. He made no real impact when Dave Joerger granted him minutes and often looked completely lost on both sides of the floor. There isn’t any rush to make major decisions regarding his future as he still has a couple of inexpensive years left on his rookie contract, but his place in the rotation is in real danger heading into next season with Harry Giles returning, Zach Randolph still on the team, Willie Cauley-Stein showing promise, Kosta Koufos possibly opting in, and a first round draft pick that could be spent on a big man. Even if Skal never becomes anything more than a solid backup power forward, that would still be good value for the 28th pick in a weak draft, but it certainly would be a disappointment from the flashes we saw late last year.