With training camp and the preseason quickly approaching, I thought this would be a good time to give my expectations and projections for Skal Labissiere’s 2017-18 season.
The second-year forward became a fan favorite after finishing his rookie campaign averaging 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 53.7 percent from the field.
Although the excitement for Labissiere is understandable, it should be noted that when we witnessed his progression, the team was facing the lower end talent from most of their opponents.
The state of the Kings had just been blown up as they traded away their franchise centerpiece of seven years in DeMarcus Cousins. Following the trade, the bar for the Kings was set pretty low and even just a small glimpse of talent gave fans enough hope to hold on too, as the team finished the season at the bottom of the standings.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some solid moments last season for Labissiere that should keep fans optimistic about his future.
Before we can give our projections for this upcoming season, let’s go over a few of those pros and cons from the 2016-17 campaign.
Motor: Labissiere showcased his motor every time he stepped on the floor. The big man used his speed and athleticism to sky over the defense for rebounds. Even with his lack in size, Labissiere was able to use his length and basketball I.Q. to stand toe-to-toe with his opponents.
Composed: Even though Labissiere was a rookie, the forward did not play to that title. No matter the situation the forward was put in, he never seemed out of his element.
Even during his big game against the Phoenix Suns, where he scored a career-high 32 points, Labissiere never looked to force the issue. He continued to find his shots within the offense and rarely ever seemed rushed. He knows what he wants to do and works within the team’s game plan to find his offense.
Grinder: One thing you can’t teach is a hard working mentality. Everyone you talk to about Labissiere will tell you the same thing, “this guy puts in the work.”
After speaking with one of Labissiere’s trainers, Packie Turner, it was evident that the two had a game plan of how they were going to attack this offseason. It wasn’t about getting good at one specific skill, but more of refining each of the skills that he was able to showcase at the end of last season.
“We are working on making sure there are no wasted movements while on the floor,” Turner said.
Boxing Out: The size of Labissiere will continue to be a problem for him given the position that he plays. However, boxing out his opponents should help him fight for rebounds.
That wasn’t the case for Labissiere last season. Multiple times during a game we would see the opposite team claim an offensive rebound with relatively no problems.
This issue is not primarily on the shoulders of Labissiere, as the entire roster seemed to have an issue finding the ball after it hit the rim. However, you can tell that Labissiere was more of a read and react type of rebounder.
He would fly in from the mid-range area, grab the rebound out of the air with a force and land hard on two feet. While that is definitely a solid rebounding habit, knowing how to hold your man to claim a board is just as important of a skill. Especially when you have the thin body frame of Labissiere.
Unknown Potential: This could be considered both a pro and a con, depending on who you are asking. For me, this is definitely a con. When we finally got to see Labissiere get the minutes, there was nothing there to identify what type of player he would (or could) actually become.
He showed footwork and the ability to knock down an open jumper, but nothing that complimented those two attributes.
For example, he mainly used his footwork to attempt a turnaround jumper that was inconsistent. We saw him have trouble even against smaller stocky defenders, such as Jared Dudley, and he was forced to take a bad shot.
Adding a postgame, or even more moves with his back to the basket to go along with his footwork would help go a long way as a finisher. There have been signs that Labissiere could have the potential of a Chris Bosh type of player, but he could also very well become a Meyers Leonard type. Tapping into his potential will need to be addressed by the end of next season. We need to see some type of identity.
Labissiere is someone that almost everyone is going to be keeping a close eye on. He could see himself fighting for minutes in a somewhat crowded front court with Willie Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos and potentially rookie Harry Giles.
Unfortunately, his stint in the Las Vegas Summer League left more to be desired. Multiple people I spoke to while in Vegas thought the same thing. They thought he wasn’t giving his full effort while on the floor, or he assumed this time around it would be easier and it wasn’t.
It was just Summer League and no one is suspecting a regression in his game for this upcoming year, but it would have been nice to see those small steps forward after what we all got to see at the end of last season.
The expectation for Labissiere this season is to see a more aggressive and polished player. Even with the disappointing showing in Summer League, the Haitian sensation did earn the opportunity to compete to become a starter once training camp starts.
As a second-year player, I’m not looking to see high numbers, but I will be looking for some consistency game-after-game. As far as numbers, I’m probably going to be one of the few that think Labissiere won’t see a big bump in his stats. I see him producing right around where he did last season post All-Star break.
Projected stats – 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 24 minutes per game, while shooting 53.8 percent from the field.
Now we want to hear from you. What are your projected numbers for Skal Labissiere? Do you think we will see major progression from year one to year two? Comment below.