May 1, 2018, 6:26 pm
2017-18 averages: 60 G | 28 GS | 20.7 MP | 8.7 PTS | 4.8 REB | 1.2 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.8 BLK | 1.2 TOV | 44.8 FG% | 35.3 3P% | 80.5 FT% |
Skal Labissiere entered the 2017-18 season with plenty of expectations following a promising start to his career. Few players selected at the end of the first round are thought to be high-ceiling prospects, but Labissiere was different – his inability to find playing time at Kentucky caused him to slide, but there were still flashes of skill and tremendous athleticism that made him intriguing.
He was initially billed as a long-term developmental project, but strong performances in the second half of his rookie season made his struggles in college look like a fluke. Adjustments needed to be made before he was a finished product, but he was regularly making meaningful contributions on both sides of the ball. His seemingly accelerated development left many thinking he would be ready to take a big step forward in his second year.
At this point, it’s clear that he did not progress the way that some had expected. Without a clear go-to scoring option on the roster, Labissiere had every opportunity to take on a large role on offense. However, for many reasons he wasn’t able to take advantage. His lack of strength kept him from operating effectively in the post on either end of the floor, and his struggles guarding on the perimeter made head coach Dave Joerger hesitant to play him against smaller lineups. These deficiencies could have been mitigated on the right team, but Joerger’s system was not a good fit for his skill set early in his second season.
After a rough start, Labissiere seemed to find his footing but injury issues and inconsistency kept him from truly solidifying his spot in the rotation. Even late in the season when he seemed to be on the right track, a shoulder injury ended his season prematurely and kept him from truly building on his successes.
One of the biggest issues for Labissiere was his inability to hold his position in the post. His lack of strength allowed larger defenders to push him off his spot before catching entry passes, leading to plenty of bad looks and turnovers. Labissiere finished the season shooting just 33.9 percent on 3.8 post-ups per game, according to NBA Stats.
Even without a solid post game, there were some reasons for optimism later in the season. Without adding any strength or weight to his frame, Labissiere will need to primarily operate on the perimeter, but his development as a passer after the All-Star break allowed him to operate with his back to the basket more effectively. In the videos below, you can see that he is at his best when he’s decisive with the ball and has space.
Despite having deep post position, Labissiere hits Carter on a cut for a much easier look.
He doesn’t have quite as good of a position in this one, but the spacing allows him to be patient and find Buddy Hield for a wide-open 3-pointer.
Part of this improvement was also the Kings’ renewed focus on finding good looks from behind the arc in the second half of the season. Passing out of the post doesn’t require Labissiere to get deep position, and surrounding him with shooters gives him much more room to operate and allows him to make quick decisions with the ball.
Improving his ability to score in the post will make him easier to play in Joerger’s system, but the key to unlocking Labissiere’s full potential is his 3-point shooting. With a high release on his jumper and the athleticism to finish on straight-line drives, Labissiere could be one of the most dangerous stretch bigs in the league.
Shooting became a much larger part of Labissiere’s game in the second half – he took 28 3-pointers in 18 games after the All-Star break after taking just 32 in the 42 games he played before the break.
A lot of this can be attributed to the adjustments Labissiere made to his shot as the season progressed. Labissiere has always had nice form on his jumper, but he struggled to shoot effectively off the catch. As the season progressed, he managed to speed up his release and take these shots with more confidence:
The shot above isn’t as fast as it could be, but with plenty of space he takes his time and knocks it down with ease.
This look against the Celtics required him to catch and shoot quickly, and shows just how effective he can be when he speeds up his release.
Beyond the shooting ability, Labissiere will need to become more effective attacking closeouts. He didn’t see many hard closeouts in his first two seasons in the NBA, but he is sure to see them on a regular basis if he continues to improve as a 3-point threat. From there, he will need to improve his handle and his ability to make decisions on the move, but simply being able to punish hard closeouts should make him dangerous from the perimeter.
Defensively, Labissiere’s struggles were primarily on the perimeter. Despite having well above average athletic ability, moving his feet and staying in front of smaller players was a consistent issue for him.
Fixing his defensive posture would make him much more effective in these settings. Labissiere often finds himself bending over when he engages defensively – something that keeps him from moving his feet well laterally and allows players to bait him into fouls. In the video below, you can see how these posture issues allow Robert Covington to easily draw a foul when Labissiere is defending him:
Cleaning this up won’t be easy, but sitting back instead of hunching over will make a massive difference for him on the perimeter.
With that said, Labissiere did add quite a bit of defensive value as a rim protector, finishing the season third on the team in blocks per game just behind JaKarr Sampson and Willie Cauley-Stein with 0.8 per game. As the season went on, Labissiere found himself playing as the primary rim protector defensively on a more regular basis and those numbers climbed even further.
Becoming a more effective rim protector will be key for Labissiere, who likely profiles best as a stretch five. He will need to add more strength to take on some of the more punishing defensive assignments that he’d be likely to see in that role, but with a more established perimeter game he should be able to create mismatches that will be tough for other teams to deal with.
Many have pointed out that the NBA is moving toward smaller lineups, but the truth is that the league is just prioritizing skill over pure size. Size alone no longer presents the advantages that it once did, but it is still a huge advantage for players if they have the right talent. While still rough around the edges, Labissiere has all the tools necessary to be a nightmare matchup in the modern NBA. There’s no guarantee that he reaches his sky-high potential, but he did show quite a bit of progress late in the season. If the organization can stay patient with him, he has the talent to be one of the Kings’ best players in the next few seasons.
June 5, 2020, 10:31 pmKyrie IrvingPG, Brooklyn Nets
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Kyrie Irving (right shoulder) could conceivably join his Nets' teammates in Orlando when they return to play later this summer, albeit as an inactive player.
There was really never much of a possibility that Irving would return to action in 2019-20 unless the season got pushed back severely. After the arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in late February, the Nets tentatively said they expected to have him back in time for preseason workouts in the fall (which will now likely take place in November or later). That still seems like the likely scenario, even given the long pause the league was forced to undergo. Caris LeVert had shown flashes of brilliance again this season after he returned from injury, so he and Spencer Dinwiddie will evidently be shouldering the ball-handling duties when the Nets take the floor in Orlando.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowksi on Twitter
June 5, 2020, 10:09 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Durant (right Achilles) confirmed on Friday that he will not take the court for the Nets when they return to play in Orlando in late July and early August when they close out the 2019-20 season.
Given the extended pause to the current season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there were many who believed the Nets could plausibly try to bring back both Durant and Kyrie Irving from their respective injuries in order to make a push for a championship later this summer. Evidently, Durant will remain out of the equation for the Nets as they look to close out the season on a high note. "My season is over," Durant said. The Nets currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and will have to maintain that position in order to avoid the planned play-in bracket to decide the eighth seed after the initial eight final "regular season" games. Durant has never seemed likely to play, even with the pandemic disrupting the season, and it seems as though he won't be playing for the Nets in Orlando. Much crazier things have happened, though.
Source: The Undefeated
June 5, 2020, 9:38 pmKelly Oubre Jr.SF, Phoenix Suns
Kelly Oubre Jr. (torn right meniscus) will be able to take the floor for the Suns when the NBA returns to play in Orlando on July 31, the team's owner Robert Sarver said on Friday.
This is phenomenal news for the Suns, as Oubre had really been having a breakout season for the Suns (18.7 PTS, 6.4 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.7 BLK and 1.9 threes per game in 34.5 minutes) prior to going down with a torn meniscus in late February. He was originally expected to miss the rest of the 2019-20 season, but due to the pandemic he has recovered and will evidently be fully functional for a team that currently sits in 13th place in the Western Conference. They will have quite the uphill battle to force their way into the playoff field in August, as there will only be eight regular season games played before the playoffs are set.
Source: Arizona Sports
June 5, 2020, 9:22 pmJonathan IsaacPF, Orlando Magic
The President of Basketball Operations for the Magic, Jeff Weltman, said Friday that the team does not expect Jonathan Isaac (left knee) to return when league play resumes, but that they will also be letting his rehab program dictate his timetable.
Isaac has been sidelined since the beginning of January after a serious injury to his left knee.
He was scheduled to be re-evaluated in 8-10 weeks but the impact of the coronavirus has muddled things up with many players, Isaac included. The Magic don't want to risk Isaac's immediate future, as he is under contract for one more season and is eligible for a qualifying offer prior to the 2021-22 season. With the Magic sitting in eighth place in the East and looking a (potential) fight for the right to face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs as the eighth seed in August, the Magic brass may opt to keep Isaac out until the beginning of next season. That seems likely, at least.
Source: 96.9 The Game on Twitter
June 5, 2020, 5:37 pmKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Marc Stein is reporting that the NBPA has agreed to continue negotiations with the league for a 22-team restart to the season.
Stein also noted that not everything is settled at this point, and more items need to be agreed upon before the NBPA is ready to sign and proceed forward with the resumption of games. It sounds like we're still on a path to an agreement, but the NBPA still has a few points to clarify before it is all said and done. Stay tuned.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
June 5, 2020, 5:29 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Shams Charania is reporting that the NBPA informed players that they will be tested on a nightly basis for COVID-19 and a positive test will result in quarantine for a minimum of seven days.
The resumption of play will also include 2-3 preseason games and a bubble of 1600 total people. Players will not have tracking devices on them but they are expected to stay in the bubble for the entire period. Everything is gradually coming together and the schedule for the return to play is becoming more and more clear for all parties.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
June 5, 2020, 4:34 pmNikola JokicC, Denver Nuggets
According to head coach Mike Malone, Nikola Jokic has been staying in great shape during the lockout.
Jokic has never been known for staying in shape, especially during the offseason, and it will be a legitimate surprise if he returns lighter than he was at the stoppage in play. He started the year on the slower side and was clearly looking behind out of the gate, but he was back to his usual first-round value by the time games came to a stop. He should be ready for action when the lockout comes to an end. His teammate Jamal Murray is claiming that Jokic now has a "little four pack".
Source: The Athletic
June 5, 2020, 3:31 pmDejounte MurrayPG, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were dealing with injuries to LaMarcus Aldridge, Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl and Lonnie Walker IV before the season was halted, but all four are expected to be "good to go" when the NBA resumes action.
Poeltl (MCL sprain) was dealing with the most significant injury of the bunch, and if he's ready then everyone else will be as well. Aldridge was day-to-day with a shoulder strain, while Murray and his strained calf were the biggest headache for fantasy GMs before the season stopped. Initially given no timetable for return, he's ready to go and will split the PG work with Derrick White as the Spurs try to extend their playoff streak.
Source: The Athletic
June 5, 2020, 3:26 pmDarius BazleyPF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Darius Bazley has recovered from a right knee bone bruise that he suffered in February.
We're going to say that he's healthy after he was spotted playing pickup games this past week. Bazley was set to be re-evaluated 4-6 weeks after sustaining the injury and is good to go. He's not a lock to receive minutes in the postseason but more depth options never hurt anybody.
Source: The Athletic
June 5, 2020, 3:25 pmAndre RobersonSG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Andre Roberson (left knee) may be able to play in the NBA's eight-game regular season, per The Athletic's Erik Horne.
Roberson has been out since January of 2018 thanks to a ruptured patellar tendon and some subsequent setbacks, but he said back in April that he's past the rehab stage of his recovery. It would be tough to envision the Thunder granting Roberson a big role considering the severity of his injury and the length of his layoff, but there's a chance that the defensive stopper can make some impact for the team down the stretch. Either way, it will be great to see him back on the floor again.
Source: The Athletic