For all the promise Skal Labissiere flashed late in his rookie season, the Kings should not be content with their situation at power forward entering the NBA draft.
Labissiere at 6-foot-11 showed a natural ability to play freely from multiple spots on the floor, one of the reasons he enamored scouts who projected him as high as the top pick in 2016 before a difficult season at Kentucky. He also displayed an edge that will make it tough for him to be pushed around once he gets stronger. His court savvy at times is beyond his years.
The Kings got him as a bargain at No. 28 overall, but it’s premature to say they’re set at the position.
He averaged 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds and shot 54.1 percent in 25 games after the All-Star break, but many of those contests amounted to glorified exhibition games between teams in a race to tank. The grind of a full season is much different and Labissiere will have to show he’s built for the marathon and can regularly handle teams at their best.
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Behind him, the well is dry at power forward unless the Kings use center Willie Cauley-Stein, who ideally would be able to defend the perimeter. Or they’d be limited to small lineups.
So selecting a big man Thursday wouldn’t be a crazy concept – especially after the team waived Anthony Tolliver – despite the Kings taking three in the previous two drafts.
Cal’s Ivan Rabb, who worked out for the Kings on Friday, is projected as a late first-round pick and would be a defensive complement to Labissiere.
“I think I can bring some athleticism, rebounding, running the floor and finishing around the basket,” Rabb said before his workout. “I think eventually I’ll be able finish and score with the ball in my hands and create plays.”
Labissiere’s versatility would be tough to match, and that’s increasingly important in today’s small-ball NBA. It has forced players like Rabb to expand their game on both ends of the floor.
“I’ve been showing teams I can stretch the floor (with outside shooting) a little bit better than I thought I could, so that’s kind of what I wanted to do,” Rabb said. “I wanted to show them I could defend on the pick-and-roll, switching on to guards. I’m doing a good job of that, too.”
Or the Kings could consider a player like Gonzaga’s Zach Collins or Arizona’s Lauri Markannen, both of whom are listed as a center by some but could provide outside shooting and depth. Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac could play either forward spot and would be worthy of consideration with the Kings’ fifth or 10th overall pick.
Oregon’s Jordan Bell, who could be available with the Kings’ second-round pick (34th overall), would be an energetic addition who would fit with coach Dave Joerger’s desire to load the roster with skilled defenders.
Kings draft glance: Power forwards
Need level (scale 1-10): 7
Five prospects who could be available: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, 6-11, 205), Zach Collins (Gonzaga, 6-10, 232), Lauri Markannen (Arizona, 7-0, 225), Ivan Rabb (Cal, 6-10, 220), Josh Collins (Wake Forest, 6-10, 225).
Perfect fit: Markannen is best equipped to replace Anthony Tolliver as a 3-point threat from the position. The Kings need to continue to upgrade their perimeter shooting and Markannen allows them to do that while adding depth.