Skal Labissiere is a 20 year old 7’0” center, out of Kentucky, with a 7’3” wingspan. Skal is a Haitian, who moved to the United States in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquakes of 2010, and played his high school ball in Memphis, Tennessee, for a couple of different programs. During his junior season in high school, a stress fracture in his vertebrae occurred causing him to miss the rest of his junior and entire senior season. Skal then spent a year playing for the Gerald Hamilton’s Reach Your Dream Prep Academy, before arriving in Lexington.
Labissiere came into his freshman season at Kentucky expected to fight for the #1 pick in this year’s draft with Ben Simmons. He quickly fell down draft boards to the back end of the lottery after struggling to start the season. He showed flashes of the potential that led most analysts to expect a big impact from him throughout the season, with athletic above the rim dunks, big blocks, and making the net rip with an outside jay, but he really never put a stream of good games together.
He may have struggled for most of his freshman season, but he only has a few years of organized basketball under his belt, and John Calipari is known to limit his centers games to force them to work on their weaknesses in preparation of the NBA. Karl Anthony-Towns’ hype was hurt by playing his freshman season essentially without his jumper. By the end of the college season, most expected Jahlil Okafor to go #1 in the draft, but as soon as NBA scouts started to see just how good KAT’s perimeter game was, Towns was the #1 pick.
I do think Coach Cal allowed Skal to play to his strengths more than Towns after he struggled and lost his confidence, so expecting the same leap out of Skal once hits the association is naïve, but hopefully he shows more once the floor opens up a little, and perhaps his tameness is still based on his stress fracture in the back.
-Rim Protection: Skal has all the physical potential to be a great rim protector. Although his 7’3” frame isn’t elite, he shows a good amount of athleticism to get off the ground, put his arms up, and make it tough for the offensive player.
-Outside Shooting: Man, when he hits the shot, it sure is pretty. Skal has a pretty looking, big man stroke from deep. He wasn’t a great shooter at Kentucky, but with every aspect of his game right now, it’s all about his potential. In the future he has the chance to provide the league another center that blocks shots at one end and hits the trey on the other.
-Soft Touch: A huge positive to his game is his soft touch from all three offensive level. In the post, he shows the ability to use a right hook, or a turnaround jumper over his shoulder going left or right. When he hits the top of the rim, he has a good chance at seeing the ball bounce gently into the net.
-Speed: Skal has no trouble getting up and down the floor, another example of his potential. With his speed, he’ll be able to outrun many post players in the league being in position to make plays for us on both sides of the floor. To say the least, Skal would beat Moose in a foot race.
-Strength: The frosh only weighs 216 pounds and did it ever show at Kentucky. Being sealed off so easily in the ncaa, does not bode well for the kid entering the NBA. Many thought Larry Sanders was skinny at 230, imagine the corny stickman jokes coming our way if we draft Labissiere.
-Basketball IQ: Due to his limited years with his craft, Skal finds himself dazed and confused playing defense at times. Becomes too ball hawkish, and not as successfully as Charles Woodson, makes a play at the ball, leaving his man for an easy dunk off the feed or missed shot.
Rebounding: Considering he needs to work on his strength and basketball IQ, it’s probably no surprise he really struggled to rebound last season. If the ball didn’t’ fall in his lap, the rebound was very unlikely to be his. He was either out of position or being sealed and moved out of the paint. Hard to dominate the boards when you’ve been moved a solid three feet away from the ball.
Rookie Year for Milwaukee:
Labissiere is a lottery pick because of his high potential. He’s a boom or bust pick that’s not quite ready to contribute at the NBA level. With that in mind, the same thing was said about Giannis, so I’d really like to see him in the preseason before I was sure of that. But that’s my current vibe anyway. I’m very concerned with his basketball IQ right now. He falls asleep on defense far too often for me to feel comfortable giving him heavy minutes on a team hoping to make the playoffs. Maybe the D-League is the best place for him to get comfortable with NBA schemes to start the season, should he exceed there, than absolutely give him minutes for the Bucks. That makes sense right?
He has the offensive talent to regain his confidence at any time, should he listen to the right podcast and get his own goat, “Skal, Sally isn’t going to love you unless you shoot 35% from 3 this year, because she believes in you, no matter what. And Skally-man, there’s no way you can let her not believe. 35%, for Sally.” If something like that happens, he’ll be a very important cog to our bench, helping us win games here, and probably attributing to some losses over there. At the end of the day, his offensive game is better suited for the NBA, he’s quite the mystery.
Future for Milwaukee:
He might not be ready to take over the league his rookie season, but give him time and who knows what this cat’s capable of. Remember he was heralded in the same class as Ben Simmons, the talent is pure, it’s just his head and strength are getting in the way, right now. Dude can out run most centers in the league, finish strong and swat shots above the rim, hit shots from midrange or three point range, and score with his back to the basket. That’s a pretty incredible center prospect on paper. Obviously if he gained strength and figured out defensive rotations, we’d be hard pressed to find a player better suited to play alongside the core. In fact Skal might even become right there with Giannis as our most important player. He has that kind of upside.
Of course, the boom’s there as well. Due to his lack of strength, he played a very finesse game at Kentucky. It’s very hard for him to do everything a center needs to do at his playing weight, at the college level. I imagine it’ll take a year or two to get him up to 230-240 pounds, where he won’t automatically be thrown away from the ball in the chase for a board. With Jabari playing the four, I truly think we need a player that can consistently hold his own on the defensive end. If we go ahead and draft Skal, perhaps Dwight Howard becomes a smart signing to help us become a playoff team, waiting for Skal to develop.