Playing a prominent role on France's U20 European Championship winning roster, Paul Lacombe
has parlayed his continued maturation as a player into a role off the bench for Tony Parker
's team, ASVEL Villeurbanne, despite being slowed by mid-season injuries. The 1990-born Lacombe is still getting his legs back this season, but was named MVP of last season's Espoirs Trophée du Futur competition in 2010, showed well in a brief appearance in the Treviso EuroCamp, and has displayed some unique abilities as an over-sized combo guard in junior play.
Much of Lacombe's intrigue as a prospect revolves around his athleticism and ability to push the tempo and make things happen with the ball in his hands. These things that haven't been as readily apparent when playing in Pro A France against older players this season, but are surely still bubbling underneath the surface waiting for him to feel more comfortable with his role. Standing 6'5 with very nice leaping ability and good speed in the open floor for a guard in the European game, Lacombe is at his best in up-tempo situations, sparking the break with his quickness and capacity for finishing above the rim.
When the game slows down, Lacombe shows the ability to get to the rim off the dribble with a nice array of crossovers and a solid first step looking more like an American player than a European one in the process. More of a finesse player around the basket, Lacombe struggles to get all the way to the rim against quicker defenders and has a hard time finishing in a crowd on the senior level, but got the job done regularly on both fronts in U20 competition and was extremely impressive slashing to the rim against Spain in the semifinals. Prone to force the issue at times, Lacombe will need to learn to pick and choose his spots better to be effective against more athletic defenders.
In addition to his ability to score off the bounce, Lacombe is also a fairly good passer for his size. Showing good vision in drive and dish situations, the Venisseux native did a fine job running the point on the Espoirs level. If he can tighten up his handle, continue to add bulk to his frame, and cut down on turnovers, he could emerge as a quality secondary ball-handler down the road.
In the LNB, Lacombe's role, and perhaps the most promising aspect of his offensive repertoire, revolves around his perimeter jump shot. His mechanics are pretty impressive, as he has an extremely high release point, very good touch, and the ability to pull up off the dribble. With little wasted motion in his mechanics, the name of the game for Lacombe moving forward will be consistency and shot selection. He's shot just 2-16 from distance in the French League and Eurocup this season and forces some tough attempts from way beyond the arc.
Defensively, Lacombe shows a very good activity level, constantly moving his feet and trying to take his matchup out of rhythm. However, he's a bit over-aggressive at times when closing out, and allows penetration unnecessarily. If Lacombe can continue to work on his body, he could emerge as a solid defender in the European game since most of his mistakes are correctable.
Moving forwards, Lacombe is a player who is very much worth keeping an eye on. His biggest issue at the moment is that he is not terribly consistent and still hasn't translated his game to a higher level of competition, but the tools are there for him to emerge as an interesting prospect as he continues to make strides in those two areas.