The Suns drafted Kentucky's Skal Labissiere with the No. 28 pick of Thursday's NBA draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Labissiere is headed to the Kings as part of the reported trade in which Sacramento dealt the No. 8 pick in the draft, used to select Washington’s Marquese Chriss, for Bogdan Bogdanovic, the No. 13 pick and the No. 28 pick.
Labissiere is coming off his freshman season at Kentucky, where he averaged 6.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.3 assists.
The Haitian native survived the country’s devastating earthquake in 2010 before moving to the United States to play basketball. Once stateside, however, he played against some dubious competition at a dubious prep school, and he failed to show much improvement as a prep player. He may not have meshed well with John Calipari's system, but scouts have noted his potential.
Strengths: Labissiere could be an ideal modern center, with the ability to hit jumpers, finish at the rim and protect the hoop at an elite level. A lot of this is more conceptual than anything else right now, but he’s a good athlete and a fairly fluid big man. These tools once had him at the top of his high school class, and projected as a potential top–five pick. It takes a little extra squinting, but there’s reason to buy in. When you extrapolate his Kentucky numbers on any per-minute basis, they leave much more room for optimism.
Weaknesses: There’s a reason why his playing time was so limited at Kentucky: Labissiere arrived in Lexington unprepared for the pace of the college game and the demands that were placed on him. He is the quintessential high-risk, high-reward project, and despite being a one-and-done freshman, he’s already 20 years old. He has not had a great deal of success against strong competition and will be thrust into yet another, much more physical game. That said, it’ll likely be a few years before you see him contributing, anyway. “Whoever takes him, they’re going to have their work cut out for them,” one scout says. “He hasn’t shown you any NBA ability other than defensively to contest shots.” Another scout was even more skeptical. “It’s really hard to play in the NBA not knowing how to play basketball.”
Grade: A-. Labissiere’s long wait came to an end as the Kings netted some nice value. He’s a lottery-level talent, but is so far off at an advanced age that many teams were left wholly unconvinced. The Kings love their Kentucky guys, and while bigs aren’t a need for them, they take a worthwhile chance at this spot. If he becomes a passable shooter and rim protector, he has a chance to really help — it’ll just be awhile. Their three first-round picks have gone in reverse order of logic.