The Sacramento Kings traded the 8th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft to the Phoenix Suns for the 13th pick, the 28th pick and the rights to Serbian sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic. Once this deal went through, fans were held in suspense wondering which direction then rookie General Manager Vlade Divac would go in with the 13th pick.
Commissioner Adam Silver arrived at the podium and announced the Sacramento Kings had chosen Georgios Papagiannis, a center from Greece. At this very moment, a collective “what the hell” was uttered throughout the entire Sacramento region as people quickly realized their team’s front office had just selected a 19-year old that no one had ever heard of. Pegged as low as a late second-rounder in some mock drafts, to say the pick was a surprise would have been an understatement.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 2016-17 season, and Georgios Papagiannis was right where he should have been…….in the D-League. With Demarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and others already patrolling the paint, there was no need to rush the youngster into meaningful minutes with the big club.
And then, it happened. On Feb. 20, 2017, the Twittersphere was set on fire as multiple NBA insiders reported that Demarcus Cousins had been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, a 2017 first-round pick (Top-3 protected) and spare parts. Most Kings players were deflated and confused as the team was on the fringe of playoff contention and had been told repeatedly by the front office that their prized big man wouldn’t be traded. One particular rookie saw an opportunity.
With Demarcus Cousins gone, minutes opened up, and lots of them. But with a coach in Dave Joerger that had a reputation for not playing youth, what would happen? The Sacramento head coach eventually decided with Boogie gone, it was time to embrace the full youth movement which meant floor time for Papagiannis.
In 22 games with the Kings, “Papa G” averaged 12.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting almost 55 percent from the field, according to Basketball Reference. The rookie showed great touch and creativity around the rim, and even showed off his ability to make the mid-range jump shot.
But the start of the 2017-18 NBA season is right around the corner, and it appears the path to playing time for Papagiannis may again be blocked, albeit for a short time. In the offseason, the Sacramento Kings acquired grizzled veteran Zach Randolph, a former player and favorite of head coach Dave Joerger while the two were in Memphis. Last season, Joerger basically had no choice but to play the rookies because who was going to stop that from happening? Players like Anthony Tolliver? I don’t think so.
With Z-Bo now in the fold alongside Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein and fellow second-year player Skal Labissiere, there seems to be a log-jam in the frontcourt as those four will likely get the bulk of the minutes.
Papagiannis also struggled mightily in 2017 Summer League play so don’t be surprised if he starts out the season in Reno once again. But as the Kings’ roster stands today, they have an average age just north of 25 years old. With that much youth and inexperience, the 2017-18 season could be one with few wins for Sacramento. This means veterans, including Randolph, could be on the move by the trade deadline.
It appears Papagiannis’ development and time in Sacramento in the upcoming season will once again be contingent on a trade and the number of W’s.