Heading into the season, Skal Labissiere was thought to challenge Ben Simmons for the number one overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. While Simmons has dominated his opponents, Labissiere has yet to find himself at Kentucky. In the article, I will take a look into what is holding Labissiere back, and discover if he has the skills to live up to his hype.
After Karl-Anthony Towns got off to a slow start, everyone got a little nervous about him as a NBA prospect, but at about this time, Towns exploded, leading to his eventually number one selection. Although this is possible for Labissiere, he is clearly less talented than Towns, and although their stats are similar at the same point in the season, Towns nearly doubled his rebounds, and added another block per game, while averaging less minutes. Towns also had to deal with a much more crowded frontcourt. Labissiere has the pain of a backcourt of Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis, and Isaiah Briscoe, who are the top three shot takers for this team. Jamal Murray has expressed his displeasure with the frontcourt play this season, but he has not shown great ability to incorporate them into the offense.
Labissiere is a very raw player, and his skill set is not being exploited by John Calipari. Labissiere is excellent in the pick-and-roll, and he is currently being forced to create his own shot, or get clean-up baskets. Labissiere is only 225 pounds, and it is clear he cannot bang with the other big men in college basketball, as he gets pushed around on defense, and struggles to gain position for rebounds. Weight is an easier fix for NBA teams, as they can have him in the gym until his body fills out.
Labissiere has a lot of things going for him in terms of upside. He has shown flashes of a deadly offensive arsenal, with the ability to finish with either hand, and having a good touch from mid-range, showcasing his inside-outside ability. On the defensive end, Labissiere combines his size, length, and basketball IQ to have great shot blocking instincts. He has also shown good foot speed to guard the faster players at the next level. Labissiere needs to keep giving 100% effort, and beaming with confidence against his opponents, and as long he does that, Labissiere will become a focal point of the offense, and be able to showcase his defensive potential. By doing these things, he will knock off all these naysayers, and show why he was a five star recruit.
Labissiere may not be the instant franchise pillar he was thought to be going into the season, but with a couple months of basketball to play, Labissiere still has plenty of time to win over scouts and front office personnel before the draft. His draft range currently sits around the 5-12 range, and in all honesty, if Labissiere continues to play at his current level, another year at the college level would be the best thing to happen in his development, which would not be the worst thing, as Labissiere would still only be 20 going into the 2017 NBA Draft.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17