The lengthy Haitian has been liberated from the bench.
DeMarcus Cousins was traded by the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans on Feb. 20. The Kings have gone 1-3 in the four games (as of this writing) since the blockbuster deal, losing by 14 points twice and nine points at home against the league-worst Brooklyn Nets. It’s safe to say things are not looking up in Sacramento.
However, there are positives to be drawn from the situation—first and foremost of which is that a crowded frontcourt full of young players in need of experience has been freed from the 34 minutes per game and 37.5% usage rate (second in the league) Cousins was consuming. While Willie Cauley-Stein will have an even bigger role and first-round pick Georgios Papagiannis continues to mire away on the bench, Haitian-born Skal Labissiere has been liberated from a limited bench role.
The 6‘11 rookie has played almost 66 minutes in the last four games, basically half of his entire season total of 118 minutes. In those four games, he’s been quite productive, averaging a team-high 57.7% field goal percentage to go along with 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Those aren’t jump-out-of-your-seat numbers, but they are encouraging.
In terms of his offensive value, his length and bounce are going to be the keys to his success. According to Basketball Reference, Labissiere’s season-long offensive rating is an impressive 117. His offensive rating in the past four games is much lower, according to NBA.com, at 100.2, and is probably more indicative of where his production is right now. But the 117 rating serves as an indicator of what his offensive ceiling could be.
In the above video, you can see a number of his offensive moves: a slow but fluid midrange jumper, the ability to finish in a crowd, and a left hand that looks more than reliable. He put it on display with his emphatic putback dunk which followed two offensive rebounds.
Offensive rebounding has been where Labissiere has excelled the most. He’s averaged 2.5 offensive rebounds per contest over the last four, and is the team leader in rebound percentage, including a healthy eight percent cushion over Sacramento’s next best rebounder in offensive rebounding percentage.
What is absolutely bonkers is that, in the past four games, Labissiere has collected 83.3% of all of the Kings’ offensive rebounds when he is on the floor. That is more than 30% better than any other player on the roster. For reference, two of the best offensive rebounders in the league, Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard, grab 58.4% and 60.4%, respectively, of their team’s offensive rebounds.
Clearly his size and length allow him to be a great rebounder despite having a slighter frame, as he put on display in the below clip.
First of all, Labissiere creates an opportunity in transition by corralling a Kemba Walker turnover and outletting to Ty Lawson up the court. Then he sticks with the play, running the floor and positioning himself around the basket. Though he seems to be boxed out, his length and hustle allow him to create another possession for the Kings.
His defensive rebounding is solid as well. Take a look at how the Kentucky product corrals what appears to be an easy rebound.
(Video via 3ball)
There’s something ferocious about the way he grabbed and secured that basketball. And I didn’t just cherry pick that video out of a bunch of otherwise disappointing footage. There are another four or five from that game alone just like that.
Defensively he’s been very good since Boogie’s departure. NBA.com says his defensive rating is a stout 98.5 over the past four games, and when he’s chasing down blocks like this one on Minnesota’s Kris Dunn, you can see why.
The thing is, though four games is a small sample size and his production should therefore be taken with a grain of salt, advanced measures saw this coming. Labissiere, before the Cousins mega-deal, was the second best player in terms of wins produced per 48 minutes—behind Cousins. He was also right behind Cousins in player efficiency rating, is currently third on the team in terms of true shooting percentage, and maintains a sizable lead in wins produced per 48 minutes, according to Box Score Geeks.
What we’ve seen so far from Labissiere has been very good. Head Coach Dave Joerger needs to continue playing the youngster a healthy amount of minutes in various positions so as to understand better how to optimize his potential. Now’s the opportunity for Labissiere to shine. And like all those rebounds, he just has to grab it and secure it.
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