Sleeper Deep Dives: Sidy Cissoko
Sidy Cissoko has broken out in the last few games, but the French 18-year-old has shown impressive flashes all season long in the G League. He might have done enough to sneak into the first round.
Sometimes, when you’re scouting a prospect, you see something that astonishes you. Occasionally, it’s a crazy dunk from a point guard, like Scoot Henderson posterizing some innocent defender. Other times, it’s a big man breaking someone’s ankles on the perimeter and going into a stepback three, like Victor Wembanyama annihilating some poor sap who was forced to switch out onto him beyond the arc.
The two prospects at the top of the 2023 NBA Draft class have been destroying people and taking names all season long. However, there’s another 18-year-old Frenchman, and another teenager for the G League Ignite, who has been quietly playing solid all-around basketball in the second-toughest league in the world. He’s gotten some love from the No Ceilings crew, including a film breakdown with our own Corey Tulaba two weeks ago, but he hasn’t turned many heads in the public discourse until recently—and now people are starting to wonder if one of the top talents in this draft class has flown under the radar for too long.
It’s time to talk about Sidy Cissoko.
Cissoko has put up four straight 20-point games for the G League Ignite, dropping 23 points, six rebounds, and six assists against the Memphis Hustle and following up that game with 24, six, and four the next day. He kept the momentum going with 22, six, and three in his next outing, followed by 22, two, five, and four steals in the second of his squad’s back-to-back wins over the Iowa Wolves.
Those performances pushed his season averages to 13.3 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game on 49/37/70 shooting splits—not the most spectacular numbers on the surface, but astounding marks for an 18-year-old playing against grown men. The numbers only tell part of the story, though; Cissoko has been very efficient inside the arc while showing clear shooting growth from three-point range. He’s also been rock-solid defensively, averaging 1.2 steals and nearly a block per game while switching across multiple positions on the perimeter and providing stout defense and shot-blocking in the paint.
Remember what I mentioned earlier, though, about being astonished? Sidy Cissoko has a good all-around skill set, but his passing is what elevates his game to another level. His versatile game gives him a pretty solid floor, but his incredible passing is what makes him special. Cissoko is one of the best live-dribble passers in this class, and at 6’8” he can hit basically every passing window that you could imagine. He can improvise on the fly, often literally improvising in the air on his plentiful jump passes, with the best of them.
Cissoko’s stock might be trending toward the first round, especially after his last three games, but he’s not quite there yet. His stock price was 38th in the class according to our most recent $DRFT rankings. However, Cissoko is clearly on the rise. People might have been sleeping on his game up to this point, but they are starting to wake up. Even if Cissoko falls back to Earth a little bit after his recent hot streak, he’s already proven more than enough this season to be worthy of first round consideration. So…let’s dive deep!
Offense: Developing Scoring and Sensational Passing
The recent hot streak from Sidy Cissoko has been primarily driven by his scoring uptick. While he did reach 20 points in back-to-back games in mid-January, those were his only 20-point outings this season prior to his recent stretch. Cissoko’s 13.3 PPG seems somewhat middling when taken out of context, but his scoring in recent days is a continuation of some very promising offensive trends for him this season.
The place to start with those positive trends is his shot, particularly from beyond the arc. While his size, passing gifts, and athleticism were all clear to see last season, Cissoko struggled mightily with his shooting. He shot just 24.8% from deep last season on 3.4 3PA per game across all competitions and only knocked down 62.8% of his free throws. The tools were definitely there for him, but the shot was a work in progress.
That developmental project has proceeded much faster than anyone anticipated. Cissoko is now up to 36.8% from deep this season on 4.0 3PA per game, and he’s also up to 70% from the line. He has gotten particularly comfortable with spotting up, taking advantage when the defense leaves him space from beyond the arc:
Cissoko’s most common play type is spot-ups, per Synergy, and he ranks in the 80th percentile on those looks, averaging 1.134 points per possession. While he does still have some work to do as a shooter off the dribble, he’s already gone from a question mark as a shooter to a very solid catch-and-shoot threat. He ranks in the 72nd percentile on catch-and-shoot looks, cashing in to the tune of 1.16 PPP on those attempts.
Although he could bolster this even further with some shooting improvements off the dribble, Cissoko’s impressive leap as a shooting threat has really opened up his interior game. Cissoko’s scoring inside the arc has always been solid, but he’s now up to an impressive 59.0% mark from two-point range on the season—up from a good but not spectacular 53.7% clip last season. He is a savvy cutter who picks his spots well on the interior:
Cissoko is also a serious threat in transition, where he ranks in the 76th percentile, per Synergy. He uses his long strides and long wingspan to get to the basket quickly and work around the defense when he gets there:
Cissoko does have some craft around the basket, but he does his best work around the basket when he can elevate. If the defense gives him too much space, he can throw down some monstrous dunks:
When you put that scoring package together with his passing gifts and excellent handle for his size, you get a player who can take advantage of open looks from deep and who can also make defenses pay if they try to force him off the line:
When talking about passing skills for a prospect, evaluators often break it down into multiple different areas. Our own Tyler Metcalf likes to refer to the difference between passing and playmaking, where passing is simply keeping the ball moving and hitting open teammates, while playmaking is more along the lines of actually generating those looks for your teammates. There’s also a decision-making breakdown, where some players are good at making the right read without risking too much in terms of wilder attempts, while other players will try for more ambitious looks. Then, of course, there are the highlight-reel passers, the Nikola Jokic and LeBron James types who throw passes that you have to rewatch multiple times to understand how they could possibly have thrown such an audacious dime.
Sidy Cissoko has all of those passing gifts, and he has them in spades. He has a legitimate argument for being the best live-dribble passer in this class—and he’s not a veteran college point guard but an 18-year-old 6’8” wing.
As he himself pointed out in the aforementioned film breakdown with Corey, Cissoko didn’t have his major growth spurt until about two years ago. He spent the early years of his basketball education as a point guard, and it shows. His exceptional playmaking and ability to read the floor would be impressive even if he were 6’2”, but the playmaking opportunities that his growth spurt afforded him makes him all the more intriguing.
I put together a highlight reel of Cissoko’s passes when I last wrote about him in the first edition of Editor’s Notes. One of the many pluses of Sidy Cissoko’s game, though, is that you only need a handful of games from him to get some slick feeds that would top the charts of the highlight reels of plenty of other prospects:
The numbers certainly support Cissoko’s passing brilliance—he sports an assist/turnover ratio of nearly 2:1 and an Assist Percentage of 14.9%, despite not being the primary playmaker for the G League Ignite. He averages 1.145 points per possession plus assists, per Synergy, further highlighting his effectiveness at running an offense.
The supporting evidence is nice, of course, but in Cissoko’s case, it’s almost missing the point. All you need to do to understand his passing gifts is watch him sling the ball all over the court.
The numbers are certainly impressive, and Cissoko clears the statistical hurdle as a passer. He’s done more than enough to prove himself just based on the raw production.
When it comes to the eye test, though, Sidy Cissoko passes with flying colors.
Defense: Switching Brilliance and Defensive Playmaking
While his preternatural ability to read the floor certainly shines through on the offensive end, Sidy Cissoko also shows his high-level basketball IQ on the defensive end.
Cissoko has the size and quickness to cover multiple positions as a switch defender and the tenacity to fight through screens. He uses his length well in the passing lanes to disrupt opposing offenses and generate turnovers:
Cissoko’s basketball education as a point guard doesn’t just shine through on the offensive end. He moves his feet like a guard on the perimeter, staying with much smaller players with apparent and locking them up. He clearly takes pride in his defense, and it shows every time he makes someone’s life miserable when they try to score on him:
Cissoko’s perimeter skills are notable for his size, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t play up to his size as well. He is stocky enough to deal with most forwards at the G League level, and he makes plenty of plays when defenders make the mistake of challenging him around the basket:
While most of the attention that Cissoko has garnered in recent days has been due to his scoring outburst, he has also played some stellar defense during this recent run. He may have put up his fourth-straight 20-point outing in his last game against the Iowa Wolves, but he also showed off his defensive playmaking ability by nabbing four steals and disrupting their offensive flow all night:
The offensive part of Cissoko’s game might steal the show, but you shouldn’t sleep on his defensive output either. When he sticks to his man, runs in transition, and knocks down spot-up looks from deep, he looks the part of a 3-and-D role player. When he gets going as a playmaker on either end, though, he can be a devastating force.
Sidy Cissoko has certainly made some noise in the last week with his spectacular recent stretch. Fortunately for him, he’s playing his best basketball of the season at the best time, showing just how much he’s developed since the start of the season and just how incredible he can be at his best.
Unfortunately for him, the runway of the G League season is about to run out. With the G League regular season ending on March 25th and with the Ignite four games behind the sixth-seeded Salt Lake City Stars for the last playoff spot, Cissoko and his squad may only have three and a half more weeks to show what they can do.
Sidy Cissoko may have more fans in the draft community this week than he did last week. However, even though the spectacular peaks have not carried through all season, Cissoko is a very impactful player on both ends, even without putting up 20 points per game. He has done more than enough to earn first round consideration despite his stock sitting in the second round, as he’s a solid two-way player who’s proven himself in one of the toughest leagues in the world.
Every once in a while, though, Cissoko will astonish you. For teams looking for a home run swing in the first round, they would be hard-pressed to find a better choice than Sidy Cissoko.
Do you have his pick n roll numbers ?