U18 European Spotlight: Sidy Cissoko (FRA)

As the first European-born prospect joining the G League Ignite program, Sidy Cissoko could go down as one of the more unique evaluations in the 2023 NBA draft class. 

Measurements: 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, 7-0 wingspan

The oversized French guard distinguished himself through strong showings around the world:

  • 2021 European Challengers (France U18): 7.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.4 steals in 21.7 minutes over five games
  • Spanish second division, LEB Oro (ISB Iraurgi): averaged 10.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.8 steals in 23.3 minutes over 32 games
  • 2022 Nike Hoop Summit (Team World): finished with 3 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in 23 minutes
  • 2022 European Championships (France U18): 10.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.0 steals in 17.2 minutes over 3 games so far

He’s now set to join an Ignite team that includes prospects like Scoot Henderson (guard; likely top 5), Leonard Miller (forward; likely first round), and Efe Abogidi (forward; likely top 45). The backcourt 1-2 punch of Henderson and Cissoko should be lethal on both ends and is the best backcourt on paper in Ignite’s history.

Cissoko stands out physically. His positional size is clear as a true combo guard that can play on or away from the ball, but his lateral and vertical pop don’t lack behind like they might for other oversized guards like Luka Doncic.

As far as his overall scoring package, Cissoko is a mostly downhill player, using his strength to finish through defenders.

He shows some promise in the post; his rebounding and boxing out are so helpful positionally, and he has the beginnings of a back-to-the-basket game.

You’d be correct in guessing that the reason I haven’t mentioned the shot yet is because it isn’t good. To avoid mincing words, Cissoko’s jumper needs mechanical improvements. He currently has a hitch in his shot prep that includes dipping the ball in front of him, where defenders can reach into the cookie jar at a higher level. 

The numbers are, admittedly, even worse. Here’s how he shot at each step:

  • 2021 Euros: 5-19 (26.3%) from three; 4-10 (40.0%) on free throws
  • ISB: 24.8% on 3.5 attempts per game from three; 62.8% on 4.3 free throws
  • 2022 Euros: 2-5 (40.0%) from three (0-2 over the first two games before a 2-3 third game); 11-15 (73.3%) on free throws

When he catches the ball ready to shoot, he’s able to get a relatively quiet, clean look at the basket. With touch apparently improving over time, it will be imperative to track the shot’s accuracy over his time at Ignite next to Henderson, who has a lot of the same problems.

However, Cissoko’s calling card offensively is his playmaking and setting the table for teammates, and he does this at all levels, including:

Lookaheads in transition:

To the rim:

To the mid-range:

When you have the needle-moving size, athleticism, and IQ that Cissoko boasts, defense is all but sure to follow. Even in the few games of this tournament so far, he’s had a few standout moments, like here where a screen pushes Cissoko off course, but he’s still able to recover and block the shot:

And his strength is a real asset in a pinch as he’s able to provide occasional rim protection while staying fundamentally sound and not fouling:

Cissoko has a strong case to be a lottery pick in 2023 both on paper and in his accomplishments thus far in his young career. It’s a solid jumping-off point that gives him a great opportunity to build even further – starting with that iffy shot. 

There are a lot of great newly eligible prospects in the 2023 draft, so it’ll be tough sledding for sure, but Cissoko has the talent – and situation at Ignite – to be heavily involved in lottery consideration.

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