The Denver Stiffs will be covering all of the top prospects in the 2016 NBA draft in our Stiffs NBA draft series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of all of the projected first round prospects.
Stiffs Draft Series
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Physical tools and upside: At 7-feet tall with a 9-foot standing reach, Skal has the length to be a rim protector. He is very mobile for his height and length and that mobility translates in the open court, down on the block, and out on pick and roll coverage. He also has a fluidity to him that provides a great base for a young prospect.
Smooth jump shot: He has excellent balance on his jump shot and his form is consistent and smooth when he is able to catch and shoot in space. As with most of his game, his shot becomes a bit more inconsistent under pressure and when he gets sped up. His shot looks like the type of shot that could extend out to the three-point line with a bit of practice.
Good offensive skills: Skall has a very nice jump hook that he can use over either shoulder, although he prefers going to his right hand over his left shoulder. He has a nice spin move and is very fluid in all of his movements. He has very good touch on his shot around the rim, especially when he is able to avoid contact.
Strength: Although he stands 7-feet tall, Skal is just 216 lbs. His wiry frame doesn't appear to be able to hold a lot of weight so it is likely that he'll always have a slender build. However, it is very unlikely that he will be able to get by his rookie season with his body as light and as weak as it is right now. He'll likely take a year of consistent work in the weight room before he is able to handle the physicality of the NBA.
Rebounding: Most of the biggest holes in Skal's game stem from his lack of strength, especially his defensive rebounding. In college he would routinely get shoved under the basket and out-muscled for rebounds. That alone will make him unplayable for long stretches early in his career.
Instincts: Skal has only been playing organized basketball for a couple of years so it's understandable that his game would need a lot of polish. Defensively, his instincts are a mixed bag of excellent anticipation on blocked shots and help side, and completely missed assignments and falling out of position. Offensively, he is great when the game slows down and he is able to anticipate things a step ahead. However, whenever the game speeds up and he is forced to make quick reads, he often falls a step behind.
Passing: This goes along with instincts but from watching him play, it is clear that his passing instincts deserve their own category. He had one of the lowest assist rates among players in the draft. This issue is especially noticeable in his post game where he rarely reads when and where the defense is doubling in the post. Help would come off of a shooter or cutter and he was no where close to reading it in time to make the proper kick out. For bigs in the NBA, low post passing is an essential skill to have.
Pro Comparison (best to worst)
Serge Ibaka - Skal's jumper could extend to the corner three very quickly and, alongside the right lineups, he could become an excellent floor spacer on offense. Defensively, with a lot of bulking up and some refining to his instincts, he could also develop into the increasingly valuable multi-tool defender that can protect the rim and contain pick-and-rolls.
Marcus Camby: It might be blasphemy to have former defensive player of the year, Marcus Camby, below Serge Ibaka, but for today's game, Serge is more versatile defensively. Skal has Camby's frame. Camby also had a nice shot from the free throw line although he wasn't as effective of a floor spacer as Serge. If Skal's range stays at 15-feet and if he doesn't develop into a more nuanced passer, he probably won't provide enough offensively to stay on the floor.
Nikola Tskitishvili: There really wasn't a great comp for his downside so I'll shoehorn the ultimate Nuggets bust here. Tskita was more of a Dirk clone (but much worse) than an Ibaka clone but if Skal doesn't develop defensively, he'll be a skinny jump shooting big that isn't strong enough to grab rebounds. Sound familiar?
Fit with the Nuggets
Skal is a two or three year project so his immediate fit with the Nuggets roster probably shouldn't be too much of a factor. If he can develop a consistent shot in years to come, he'd fit very nicely offensively alongside both Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. He also has the height and coordination to be a very good roll to the basket guy and/or pick and pop player.
Skal arrived in the United States in August of 2010, shortly after his home country, Haiti, was hit by a devastating earthquake. Before arriving in the U.S., Skal hadn't played much organized basketball. He became a top college recruit after his freshmen season but injured his back before his junior year of high school and missed that season. He was later ruled ineligible for his senior season.
So given the fact that he has played such limited minutes of basketball at any level, Skal's skill set is impressive. However, time and experience are going to go a long way for him and he's probably best suited to either getting minutes right away or playing minutes in the D-league. The Nuggets still don't have their own D-league affiliate and that means there are fewer things that the Nuggets can do to develop his game the way that they feel is best. In that regard, he probably isn't a perfect fit in Denver.
Projected Draft Spot
NBADraft.net - 13 (Suns)
Skal is projected to go in the 15-19 range, a range where the Nuggets have two picks. He's a very intriguing prospect for a guy that has barely played much basketball in his life at all. Sometimes guys are natural talents and Skal might turn out to be one of the three or four best players in this draft if he is able to overcome his weaknesses fairly quickly. It's rare for a guy his height and with his experience to have such a smooth looking shot, solid footwork in the post, and so mobile around the court.
However, if he does turn out to be a great prospect, he'll likely come around very slowly. The Nuggets already have very few roster spots available and no d-league affiliate with which they can send Skal to build his confidence, strength, timing, and all-around game. He'd likely fall 6th on the Nuggets' depth chart in the front court, seeing extremely limited minutes as a rookie. So as intrigued as I am by his potential, he probably isn't a great fit in Denver right away. I'd be somewhat surprised if he is putting on a Nuggets cap on draft night.