Sacramento Kings: The next step for Skal Labissiere

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 18: Skal Labissiere
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 18: Skal Labissiere /

After showing flashes of brilliance late in the season last year for the Sacramento Kings, where could Skal Labissiere’s play go in his sophomore season?

The regular season now stands less than a month away and for the Sacramento Kings, the mood surrounding the team is unlike anything they have felt heading into recent seasons.

Many challenges obviously lie ahead with the significant changes made this offseason, but that doesn’t diminish the excitement and hope that will likely be on display as the Kings fully entrench themselves in their rebuilding situation.

While the Kings’ youth movement will go to greater lengths and depths with a surplus of young pieces added to their core through the draft and free agency this summer, the second half of last year served as the template for what will define the team’s next few seasons.

With that being said, trying to differentiate what was real and what was enhanced through the effects of how teams treat the final stretches of the season will be an interesting test for the few holdover players that flashed potential. Case in point, the promise that Skal Labissiere showed throughout the second half of his rookie season.

Before the All-Star break, practically all of Labissiere’s meaningful minutes came in Reno playing for the Bighorns, the Kings’ G League affiliate. With that, the Haitian native’s brief taste of the NBA was limited to just 52 minutes of play up until mid-February, coming all when games were clearly out of hand.

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Then, after the All-Star break and more specifically, the DeMarcus Cousins trade, Labissiere’s role was one of many to change.

In becoming a more featured player in every way manageable, Labissiere showcased the potential that has long been associated with him since coming on the scene as a prospect.

Not only that, but the multiple ways Labissiere managed to make an impact on a given night ran counter to the general concerns that many considered would dog him upon making the jump to the NBA after his lone season at Kentucky.

The most memorable performance of Labissiere’s during this stretch came against the Phoenix Suns on March 15 when he exploded for 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field (as well as going 1-for-1 from deep) while also hauling in 11 rebounds.

Of course, Labissiere experienced his fair share of bumps along the way as well as he got his first true test on the NBA level. But overall, Labissiere finished his rookie year on a high note, averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game on 54.1 shooting percent from the field (as well as 3-for-8 from deep) in his final 25 games of the season.

Now heading into his second year, Labissiere’s play can go under the role he was thrust into late last year, but spread out throughout the entire year.

The Kings added another mentor in the frontcourt through free agency with Zach Randolph in order to help the likes of Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein and teach them the ropes of dueling with starting-caliber bigs across the league.

But as much as the addition of Randolph will go a long way on the court, in practice and in the locker room for a player as green as Labissiere is, the onus will be on Labissiere to rise up to the challenge and further acclimate himself to the NBA level. There’s no doubt growing pains will be in store for the 21-year-old as he goes through the rigors of developing and playing in an extended role throughout a full season.

Next: Sacramento Kings 2017-18 season preview

No matter the case, the future remains bright for Labissiere, whose potential ceiling is tailor made for today’s NBA. Where his play will go this season can only determine whether he’s closer to realizing said potential or more work will have to be done to get to that point.