Sacramento Kings second-year player Skal Labissiere was expected to play more minutes this season once DeMarcus Cousins was traded.
Labissiere has made a significant impact on his squad when he is on the court. According to NBA Math and his team’s on-off factors, the Kings would have a 55.4 winning percentage based on how they’ve played when their 6-foot-11 big man is on the court.
But with him off the court, their winning percentage would be closer to 18.4 percent based on the metric.
Though the correlation may not be exact, when Labissiere is on the court, rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox has scored 19.0 points per 36 minutes. When Labissiere is off the court, though, Fox averages 12.9 points per 36 minutes.
His plus-minus and net rating are both the third-best on his squad and the best among players on Sacramento who have played significant minutes.
Looking in deeper context, Labissiere leads all players from his draft class in field goals made between eight and sixteen feet. He ranks Top 5 among sophomores in mid-range field goals made. The only second-year player with more field goals made in the non-restricted area of the paint is Jamal Murray.
So why has he played a smaller role for the Kings recently? Here is one explanation provided by team insider Jason Jones (via Sacramento Bee):
“Matchups have made it tough to find time for Labissiere with teams using small forwards in the power forward spot … It’s not the only kind of mismatch that could be problematic for Labissiere, who at 6-11 can struggle against bigger power forwards, too.”
Even though he has a nearly identical usage, his splits have been fascinating when comparing his starting position. As such, it may be best to keep him in the spot-matchup role that he has provided.
When he comes in to play, he often provides a quick and necessary spark for Sacramento.
For example, his assist rate off the bench (9.7 percent) is higher than when he is a starter (5.6 percent) while his turnover rate in the second-unit (19.4 percent) is better than when he plays with the first unit (28.6 percent) as well.
As a defender, he has had a more effective steal rate and block rate when he comes off the bench.
Even though his plus-minus makes it seem like he could be best suited as a starter, a deeper dive can sometimes show why coaches make the decision that they do. It maximizes production while also allowing him to develop his confidence.