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.
August 25, 2019, 11:25 pmCaris LeVertSG, Brooklyn Nets
The Nets and Caris LeVert have agreed to terms on a three-year, $52.5 million contract extension, as per Adrian Wojnarowski.
This makes sense for the Nets, who have long extolled their love for LeVert's long-term outlook. This sounds like they're fully committed to making him a core player. Enjoy his upside this season, as he will likely take a usage hit when Kevin Durant returns to full health and takes the floor.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
August 25, 2019, 11:18 pmEvan FournierSF, Orlando Magic
In an 82-80 win by France over Italy on Sunday, Evan Fournier posted 29 points in 19 minutes of action.
This was nice showing for Fournier, who is coming of a relatively lackluster 2018-19 campaign. He will have to fend off an emergent Terrence Ross for those minutes at the wing this season and will need production-per-minute on this level if he wants to stay on the floor for the Magic.
Source: Orlando Magic Daily on Twitter
August 25, 2019, 8:29 pmVictor OladipoSG, Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo had little to say about his rehab process (ruptured quad tendon) at his basketball camp in Indiana.
We weren't expecting earth shattering details while Oladipo was busy overseeing his basketball camp, but more information about the Pacer would be most welcome. It is hard to know what you will get from Oladipo on draft day, but you have to figure someone in your league will be interested in taking a gamble on him. He is still not scrimmaging with other players, and whenever he does return to game action this season, it is unlikely he will resume being a top player in the early going.
Source: The Athletic
August 25, 2019, 8:08 pmBriante WeberPG, International
Briante Weber, after spending the end of last season with the Greek club Olympiacos, is joining the Metropolitians 92, based in Boulogne-Levallois, France.
Weber attended free agent mini-camps in June with the Raptors and Wolves, and spent time in the G-League last year, but has never been able to catch on long-term with an NBA team. He has had brief stops with several NBA squads over the years, so it is possible he could return to a roster at some point this season. There is nothing to see here in terms of fantasy though.
August 25, 2019, 7:54 pmRui HachimuraPF, Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura showed off his scoring prowess with 31 points in Japan's comeback victory over Germany on Saturday.
After a nice string of Summer League performances, Rui Hachimura is continuing his strong play in FIBA World Cup exhibition games for Japan. He can clearly get his own look in the mid-range, and the rookie should get a chance to perform for the Wizards this year. Keep an eye on Hachimura's preseason opportunities, as the competition for the Wizards' power forward minutes isn't fierce. He could be worth a late-round flyer in standard league-drafts.
Source: Mike Schmitz on Twitter
August 25, 2019, 6:50 pmRobert CovingtonSF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Robert Covington (right knee) is not expected to have any limitations heading into training camp.
Covington had arthroscopic surgery in April after missing 47 games last season due to a bone bruise on his right knee.
Source: Chris Hine of the Star Tribune
August 25, 2019, 6:32 pmJeff TeaguePG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jeff Teague (left ankle) is not expected to have any restrictions for training camp.
Teague had a left ankle debridement procedure in April to help alleviate inflammation. Teague's ankles have given him trouble throughout his career and he only played 42 games last season. With a clean bill of health Teague will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing season.
Source: Chris Hine of the Star Tribune
August 24, 2019, 11:09 pmDerrick WhitePG, San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White has reportedly passed the first concussion test after taking a nasty fall in Team USA's tuneup game vs. the Australian Boomers on Saturday.
This is good news. White has worked hard for his Team USA roster spot and should provide some guard depth for them once he clears concussion protocols. He was an eye-opener last season and should still hold some fantasy value despite the return of a now-healthy Dejounte Murray.
Source: Tom Orsborn on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 10:27 amKyle KuzmaPF, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma (sore left ankle) will not take part in the FIBA World Cup as Team USA announces its final roster.
Kuzma sat out Team USA's final tuneup against Australia on Saturday as Marc Stein reports that he is flying back to Los Angeles to get treatment. We should still expect him to be ready for training and congrats to Mason Plumlee for making the team as many speculated that he would be the final cut.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 8:58 amKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four rebounds with two assists as USA Basketball had it's 78-game winning streak in tournament and exhibition games snapped on Saturday.
Walker continues to assert himself as the team's best player but USA losing to Australia was the much bigger story in this one. Harrison Barnes also played well as he chipped in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. USA will take on Canada on Monday in their last exhibition before taking on the Czech Republic in the first official match of the tournament on September 1.