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Skal Labissiere Gives the Trail Blazers Small Improvements

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The Sacramento forward is an interesting prospect, but has a ways to go.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers traded forward Caleb Swanigan to the Sacramento Kings for Skal Labissiere at the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline. The swap involves two power forwards who barely play. It’s not expected to “move the needle” much, but Labissiere brings incremental improvements, plus a bit of potential, to Portland’s roster.

Labissiere is a 6’11 power forward, the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Coming out of Kentucky he was touted for his wingspan and shooting ability, two qualities which have not changed in the NBA. In his three seasons, he’s averaged 35.7% shooting from the three-point arc. A little over a third of his shots have come from that range this season. He does not get inside often for a near-seven-footer and he’s not a sure finisher close to the basket.

The knocks on Labissiere also remain unchanged: he’s added muscle, but he’s not considered strong. His quickness is suspect, as is his defensive intensity. Though their frontcourt is loaded, power forward isn’t Sacramento’s strongest spot. Labissiere still fell out of the rotation this season, appearing in only 13 games.

Labissiere adds height, offensive range, and potential for a little shot-blocking...all of which he has over Swanigan. His contract runs guaranteed through 2020, a rookie-scale deal that pays him $1.5 million this year, $2.4 million next before he hits the qualifying offer stage. That’s a slight savings for the Blazers this year, a small extra payment next season. The salaries mirror the on-court analysis: small improvement, not terribly significant.

Greg Wissinger of Sactown Royalty offers the following on Labissiere:

He’s shown flashes of greatness but hasn’t been able to earn consistent minutes. He struggles with being too passive. He’s got a nice shooting touch for a guy his size. I wouldn’t be shocked if a new situation helped him blossom. I also wouldn’t be shocked if he never makes a leap.

Labissiere was very raw when he entered the league. He had only been playing a few years.

Skal was a fan favorite in Sacramento...a good guy that everyone wanted to see succeed.

Almost every point outside of “flashes of greatness” could also apply to Swanigan. That brings hope to, but also puts perspective on, the deal. He could be better down the road, but he’s not guaranteed to play any more than Caleb did now or in the future.