The first European playing for G-League Ignite, Sidy Cissoko caught almost everyone by surprise in last year’s Nike Hoop Summit. A sturdy 6-7 wing, who can handle the ball and defend at a high level doesn’t come around that often and that makes Cissoko so intriguing. He was a big part of both exhibition games between the Ignite team and Metropolitans (if you count out Wemby and Scoot) and scouts will be interested in what he can do in the G-League, on a more secondary role. So, let’s take a look at some tape!
Cissoko’s physical tools are really impressive. Stocky young player, can move really well and has the size and strength to play some 4 at times. His lateral quickness is his calling card on defense, as are his instincts coming off the ball. On the ball, he creates a barrier with his low stance, forcing players to usually go to side steps before trying to go by him. And even then, they usually can’t.
Cissoko is a slasher and that will probably be his main role on offense with Ignite. Attacking quickly off the catch, Sidy’s long steps help him to get to the basket and avoid defenders in quick time.
Coming from the perimeter, if given space, Cissoko will create a finishing opportunity. When coming off a screen, he usually gives up too much space to the defender to stay with him, but compensates with long strides and the ability to read and improvise a solution near the basket. His leap off one foot is really good and gives him an advantage over defenders trying to recover. Being able to protect his dribble better and initiate his layup closer to the rim is the next step, as he is usually finishing too far from the basket.
On the opposite spectrum, Cissoko struggles when he has to be the one bringing the ball up and initiate. He struggles with ball pressure, even if his defender isn’t particularly quick. His dribble is too high and he stands up too many times, having to look at the ball and with no great protection of the ball.
With his ability to play up a position and his prowess as a rebounder, having Cissoko initiating transition is a good weapon to have. He can circumvent defenders getting in his way, going past them and eating miles with his dribble. We will see more of this with Cissoko in the US and with the quick way that Ignite play.
Pick and Roll
His reading is there, the execution not so much. Getting quicker into a stance, ready to attack the screen and go from there, while also getting close to the screener. He can sometimes counteract that by reading the way the defender is positioning himself and attack the other side quick, but the attack of the screen is still lacking.
Especially when playing against smaller or weaker guards/wings, Cissoko can go to this part of his game. With great lower body strength, he can back up defenders like it’s nothing. He could be doing a better job at establishing his initial position, to receive the ball closer to the basket. Sidy has good footwork and knows how to use his body to his advantage, but needs patience and time to attack off the post. Time that on occasion won’t be there.
The swing skill for Cissoko. To be fair, it’s the swing skill for every draft prospect with a not-so great shot. He has made strides as a shooter, for sure and there’s hope of him becoming a good enough shooter.
Cissoko leaving his left hand too soon is probably the main problem right now. When he does that, he ends up shooting with only one hand, losing direction on the shot. Cissoko can also shoot going forward instead of up sometimes, with the shot coming out flat and barely reaching the rim. Despite that, as I mentioned, there’s been a clear evolution. He gets his legs into his shot, usually shoots at the highest point, shoots in one motion and, when he is able to correct the issues we sometimes see, the shot actually looks good. He also has started working on some self-creation and the step back 3 is a really big part of that. He can win a lot of space after the dribble, getting enough time to shoot. He stays balanced and doesn’t fall backwards on the shot and can go up from there.
Patient with the ball and looking for the best option, having Cissoko receive at the top, wing or low post and secondary actions on the other side, with shooters and cutters looking to get open is a great way of using him. Sidy is a really good passer and a creative one. He will usually try the simple, more efficient pass but isn’t afraid of trying some risky ones. More of a stationary passer right now, there’s some passes on the move that he will try, but with much less efficiency. The next step will be for him to be able to discover the open teammate on drives, with one handed passes off the dribble, especially with his slashing becoming a bigger part of his offensive arsenal.
Cissoko is a really great weapon to have as a rebounder, coming from the perimeter. At his size and strength, combined with his instincts and ability to read where the ball will fall and how the defenders approach plays, Sidy is able to come away with rebounds and create new opportunities for his team. Even against taller players, he can dispute the rebound by calculating the timing of the jump and figuring out where the ball will fall.
On ball defending
We reach Cissoko’s calling card. The French wing is a tenacious defender, both on and off the ball. As a primary defender, he can put pressure on the ball and bother ball handlers full court. Even more important, his ability to navigate and avoid screens is impressive and give him an edge over attackers trying to get free. It’s pretty much impossible to escape him, even with screens, since his physical tools and early read of plays is so advanced.
Off ball defending
Off the ball, Cissoko offers so many options to his team, with his ability to cover so much ground and trick attackers into some bad passes. He’s always looking for a mistake, lurking near the ball to steal a pass. His anticipation and long arms allow him to be farther from his man and still be in a position to return, occupying more space and reducing that same space to the offense.
Sidy is good at coming from the help side to check rollers and force them to stop, as the defense recovers, guarding 2 guys and waiting for his teammates to get back. He’s physical and forces rollers to make mistakes or not go to the apparent mismatch, do this activity on the ball. He is also an expert on tricking attackers into doing what he wants and waiting for the last second before stealing the ball on drives or handoffs. He reads the play before it is even happening and strikes right as the attacker starts his move. Does a great job of preparing himself and being sharp on the court, knowing player’s tendencies.
Cissoko does a lot of work off the ball, helping on a lot and guarding a lot of people on the same possession. That means he’ll spend times on closeouts a lot. He is usually really good at pointing an attacker to where he wants him to go, arriving in a low stance that occupies a lot of space. He rarely goes for body or dribble fakes and can stop on a dime and accompany the attacker with his lateral movement, before forcing him into a bad shot/pass/turnover.
Playing for the G-League Ignite, Sidy Cissoko will have a glance at what his NBA career will look like. A position less defender, covering a lot of ground, who will be asked to make quick decisions on less time with the ball in his hands, on offense. Turning into a competent shooter will be ideal, but his slashing and passing, with an unusual offensive rebounding prowess already put him in a great position. If the shot comes – and there’s reasons to believe it will – that’s a new level he will be unlocking.
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