LAS VEGAS — Summer League is the first real answers to the test GMs around the league took on draft night. They can watch film, have private workouts, interview players and their college coaches (and high school/AAU coaches), but it’s all still a gamble. Drafting is far from an exact science, teams don’t know what they’ve got until a guy gets out on the floor.
After watching Skal Labissiere for a few games, the Kings think they have passed that part of the test.
Watch him in Summer League play and you see the potential for a quality modern NBA four — a guy who can space the floor on offense and still protect the rim inside on defense. Someone who would complement DeMarcus Cousins far better than anyone currently on the Sacramento roster.
“I’m really excited about Skal’s future,” said Kings’ Summer League coach Bryan Gates said after the Kings’ loss Wednesday. “Maybe it wasn’t just today, it was watching him. When you go through an NBA season you don’t get to watch a lot of college games. I hadn’t seen Kentucky play…. Just seeing him, it’s been cool. I think he has a good future.”
Labissiere — a former elite high school recruit who fell to No. 28 in the June draft — had 9 points on 3-of-6 shooting Wednesday, plus he had three blocks. In the first half he seemed to find his spaces and was making plays, but he faded from the picture more in the second half.
He is clearly working on his feel for the NBA game, but people within the Kings basketball operations praise his instincts on the court. It’s a matter of learning to trust them. He just needs time on the court, they say.
“I’m learning how to pick my spots, where to be when the ball is there, and just how to play,” Labissiere said.
He’s going to need to get stronger for sure — he said after Summer League he will spend the rest of the off-season in Sacramento working out with team trainers — but he has finished through contact a couple of times in the last few games.
“I’m fine (with the physicality), just got to learn to play low, and that’s what I’m doing out in Summer League,” Labissiere said, adding he’s seen this before. “Guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, they came back and played pickup with us (at Kentucky). I learned from that. And here in Summer League I’m kind of used to it.”
Like rookies in every sport, Labissiere is adjusting to the faster pace and increased athleticism across the board that comes with the professional game. But he doesn’t lack for confidence.
“I’m adjusting to it,” Labissiere said. “It’s fast, but I can run the floor really well, it’s not a problem for me.”
He’s not likely to get a lot of run early in the season for Dave Joerger, but don’t be shocked if you see more and more of him as the season goes on (and maybe after he gets a little early run in the D-League). The Kings have struggled to find a way to play Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein together, if that continues and Labissiere develops, he might insert himself into that mix.