The first G League Ignite alum to be featured in an At The Hive scouting report for the 2023 class is not the presumptive number two overall pick, Scoot Henderson — more on him in the coming days — but rather Sidy Cissoko, the 19-year-old wing from France. After coming up in the youth ranks of the Spanish club Baskonia, Cissoko spent last season with Iraurgi ISB of the Spanish second division before opting to join Ignite for the 2022-23 season, thus becoming the first European player to sign with the NBA G League’s developmental affiliate team.
Playing alongside Henderson and Leonard Miller, Cissoko averaged 11.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 28.9 minutes per game, shooting 43.5 percent from the field, 31.4 percent from distance and 64.6 percent from the stripe. Though his draft stock may not be as high as his Ignite counterparts at this stage, the Frenchman holds significant upside with his NBA-ready frame, natural court vision, raw passing skill and ability to hold his ground and eat up space as an on-ball defender. Currently mocked as a late-first to early-second round selection, a range in which Charlotte holds multiple draft picks, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to hear Cissoko was brought into the Spectrum Center for a pre-draft workout in the coming weeks.
Wingspan: 7’0″ (estimated)
Weight: 200 pounds
Use of athleticism and frame defensively, playmaking, downhill finishing
The first thing that stands out when watching Cissoko operate on the court is his sheer size. At 6-feet-8-inches and 200 pounds, he looks every bit the part of a strong, mobile, vertically explosive wing that can leverage that athleticism to make an impact on both ends of the floor. Though he lacks elite first-step burst and has average top-end speed, there are few prospects at his position in this class that will enter the league with a frame as NBA-ready as Cissoko’s.
All of that positional size and athleticism goes to waste if it’s not utilized properly, though, which many teenage NBA prospects struggle with — not Cissoko. As an on-ball defender, he uses impressive lower body and core strength to wall-off opponents and prevent them from reaching the rim. He has a strong tendency to force wings into tough pull-ups and small guards into off-balanced floaters. Both in the halfcourt and transition, he has the quickness and foot-speed to stay in front of the ball, fully extending his arms to cut off angles and staying upright through contact. Off-ball, he isn’t always on time with his rotations, but when timed well it’s a highlight-reel block. However, he doesn’t struggle whatsoever to rack up blocks as an on-ball defender, tallying 40 total blocks in 43 appearances with Ignite.
The combination of strength, verticality and awareness lends itself to secondary rim protection at the next level. He’s not quite consistent enough to fill that role yet, but there’s potential for that with further development and experience as a weak-side help defender. Until then, Cissoko is going to make hay on that end as a human brick wall that can halt the momentum of a downhill drive upon impact. Where things get interesting is his ability to turn those plays into scoring opportunities on the other end.
Cissoko could settle and rely on his athleticism to make a living as an offensive player, flying out in transition for dunks and cutting hard off-ball for easy looks in the halfcourt. While he’s capable of doing those things, his upside lies in his innate court vision and natural talent as a passer. Though he was a wing with Ignite and projects as one in the NBA, he actually came up playing as a guard overseas, laying the foundation for him to grow into a jumbo initiator that can make plays on the move, command a pick-and-roll and spray accurate kick-out passes to open shooters.
With four bodies in his line of sight in the clip above, Cissoko rifles a pinpoint bounce pass at a full sprint with one hand off a live dribble — that’s a lot of descriptors for one passing highlight. Not only can he make flashy passes, but he’s also a very fundamentally sound passer out of ball-screens. It doesn’t take long to notice the chemistry he developed with Eric Mika in pick-and-rolls, with Cissoko almost always hitting him with a perfect pocket pass on the short roll and making some really nice drop-offs like the one shown in the first clip. Even as a teenage wing with a raw skillset, Cissoko is already an adept, multifaceted playmaker with plenty of room to grow.
One of the main reasons Cissoko has success finding open teammates is the fact that he’s leaving his defender in the dust in the process. He does lack that potent first-step burst, but it’s nearly impossible to slow him down without fouling once he gathers a head of steam.
The functionality of his handle affords him the leeway to just put the ball on the deck and drive straight to the rim, and he can use his broad shoulders to muscle through defenders and carve out space in the paint. In the G League regular season, Cissoko shot 62.4 percent on 117 field goal attempts within five feet of the rim, a formidable mark for a non-big man, and was near the top of the league in total dunks for a wing. He does not have any trouble loading up and exploding towards the rim in traffic, and his supreme length and strength will get him through just about any defender — or cause them to make a business decision and get out of the way altogether.
Shot creation, shooting consistency, decision-making consistency in the halfcourt
Right now, the area most in need of improvement is Cissoko’s second and third-level scoring arsenal as a whole, but more specifically his shot creation and consistency as a shooter. Without the ability to accelerate past a slower defender, his scoring package within one-to-three dribbles is limited. There are a few things that he’s good at, though not quite good enough to consistently create advantages, such as ball-handling, creating space off the bounce and adding touch on short and mid-range jumpers.
As a ball-handler, he’s like a 2011 Toyota Camry — more than serviceable in getting from point A to point B, but doesn’t have the bells and whistles that put it over the top. Cissoko can get around the court comfortably with his handle but isn’t advanced enough to frequently pull off dribble moves that create open looks for him. He’s obviously got the lower body strength to cover ground on step-backs and side-steps as well as the length for a high release on fadeaways, but the off-the-dribble creation flashes have been few and far between. As the kids say, his “bag” is not very deep yet. Still, the flashes of mid-range one-on-one scoring like the one below inspire confidence for the future.
Part of why his scoring package has yet to blossom is the noticeable inconsistency in his catch-and-shoot mechanics. His footwork is solid, even if he keeps his feet a bit closer together than most players with similar lower-body strength, but the touch comes and goes and he threw up an inordinate amount of airballs, which makes me think he just needs repetition more so than an overhaul of his form. A 31.4 percent mark from three on the season is subpar, but on threes between 23 and 24 feet (essentially any three with his feet on the line), he shot 43.5 percent on 23 total attempts. Compare that to 26.9 percent on attempts from 25-29 feet, and it becomes clear that Cissoko struggles much more with deep threes than simple catch-and-shoot looks right outside the arc. It’d go a long way if he could consistently find a rhythm from long range early in games like in the clip below, because he’s going to need to be treated like a shooting threat to fully utilize his downhill finishing and playmaking vision.
If the Hornets hold onto the 27th pick they received via Denver, an upside swing on a strong, athletic wing with potential as a two-way playmaker in Cissoko could make sense. Regardless of the team’s plans for Kelly Oubre Jr., Charlotte has enough depth on the perimeter that Cissoko could continue to play in the G League, get more reps as an initiator and iron out his shooting and decision-making. Every NBA team needs to accumulate big wings that can shoot, pass and defend; Cissoko is a supreme athlete and can pass already. Should the other swing skills come around, he could slot in as a high-end rotation player on a competitive team and provide an extremely valuable skillset. Though his potential floor might be lower than older, more productive and established prospects, the upside offered with Cissoko’s youth, unteachable athletic traits and inherent ability to find open teammates.