Digging for Diamonds: Skal Labissiere
I’ll concede that Kings’ rookie big man, Skal Labissiere, was not really on my radar until recently. (Am I even spelling his name right?) While those who cling to WARP projections and CARMELO forecasts (such as myself) can claim to have “seen coming” Nikola Jokic before others, over reliance on such metrics can lead to blindspots. That’s particularly true of projectable prospects such as Labissiere, whose age-adjusted production as a collegiate prospect may have lagged behind his actual upside based on his size and athleticism.
The question begs following his career night on March 15th (32 points and 11 boards in 30 minutes) – you buyin’ it?
Let’s start with the bad news – CARMELO considered him a “marginal” prospect and Kevin Pelton’s rookie WARP projection of 0.4 is lower than some undrafted free agents, such as Ron Baker. (It’s also above Dejounte Murray’, which is why I’m more pessimistic about Murray than most.)
The good news? If he can develop his game enough to consistently get on the court, Labissiere has some seriously fantasy-friendly skills. His block rate in college was in the 95th percentile in college. It’s been 2.7% n the pros (for reference, Draymond hovers in the 3’s), but that could improve the more time he gets at the center position where he’ll be asked to protect the paint more and close out on Ryan Anderson stretch fours less. As a pick-and-pop big with three point range, Labissiere has the tools to become a modern stretch five, but it seems more likely he’ll get minutes at the four due to the presence of Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos in Sacramento.
In under 250 minutes in the NBA, the 20-year-old (he turns 21 on 3/18) has a 22+ player efficiency rating (15 is league average) with a sky high true shooting percentage more commonly found in post-up-only bigs. It’s too early to say that those numbers have stabilized such that we know that he’s a true talent 20+ PER player (that would be an All-Star), but it’s just enough to get excited.
Conclusion: Cover up the names and the draft pedigree and you might confuse Labissiere with a more productive, slightly older Thon Maker. Given the lack of talent in Sacramento and favorable fantasy profile (three point range and blocks from a potential center? Yes please), I’d be willing to rank Skal among dynasty basketball’s top 100 assets despite the poor collegiate success and draft pedigree. That’s not bad for a late 2016 first round pick who seemed irrelevant and buried behind Demarcus Cousins just a few weeks ago.