• Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be taking a look into Georgios Papagiannis and why his tenure with the Sacramento Kings was cut short this past February.

    Papa G was born in Greece and made his senior men’s club debut at the age of 14, becoming the youngest player to ever play in the modern era of the Greek Basket League. He participated at the Jordan Brand Classic International Game in 2013 and then announced that he was committing to Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania in May 2013, where he played basketball the next academic school year as a high school junior.

    Feeling homesick, he then transferred to the American School in Athens, Greece, for his senior year of high school and on June 25th 2014, signed a multi-year deal with Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos B.C. There was a player option in his contract which allowed him to leave Panathinaikos for a US college during the summer of 2015 and Papagiannis, considered to be one of the biggest young European talent prospects, received scholarship offers from 17 USA colleges, including UConn, Arizona, Temple, NC State, Oregon, St. John’s and Kentucky but opted to stay in Greece and gain valuable experience by playing with one of the top teams in the EuroLeague.

    NBA material

    From the moment Papa G declared for the NBA draft there was no doubt about his qualifications to play at the highest level. He has great size and length for his position, he can set good screens and has always been an intimidating force on both ends of the floor and especially as a rim protector. What impressed teams the most during his pre-draft workout though was his surprising agility and coordination for a big man and the ability to consistently hit the mid range jump shot. He is also very familiar playing and defending the pick-and roll (even though he struggles against smaller guards) and possesses a high basketball IQ. There was still a lot to be desired obviously as Papagiannis is a good but not great athlete and he lacks lateral quickness, but NBA teams always have a place for skilled big men and he had shown enough to be considered a top prospect.

    A lot of people were surprised to hear his name in Draft day and the general consensus was that the Kings selected him too high but he has to be seen as part of the big Marquese Chriss – Bogdan Bogdanovic trade that went thought that night. It was a good deal for the Kings as they were able to acquire the Serbian guard along with two first-round picks in the 2016 NBA Draft that the team then used to select Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere.

    Entering a loaded frontcourt

    Vlade Divac was excited by what the big man could bring to the table and he described Papagiannis as a player who had the potential of becoming an All-Star. He pled the team’s coaching staff to focus on the development of his talent and to gradually integrate him into the rotation of the team but with DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, the path for meaningful minutes was not there.

    As the months passed by, Papagiannis stumbled between the G-League and the end of the bench until the DeMarcus Cousins trade happened. Before that trade he played in just four of 58 games and saw a total of 18 minutes on the court and his weaknesses were easy to detect. Even though Papagiannis has an impressive wingspan at 7’6”, his hands are pretty small and he also struggled with the speed of the game committing plenty of unforced errors every time he stepped on the floor.

    It takes time for big men to develop in this league and there was not much to see in his rookie season because we never saw him on the court for more than a few minutes in blowout losses. Still, he was able to develop a nice floater and after the trade went down, Papagiannis finally started receiving meaningful playing time, closing the season averaging 18.8 minutes per game in March and 23.5 in April.

    His numbers were pretty solid as he averaged 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in just 16.1 minutes per game while he shot 55 percent for the season from the field and 62 for the month of April, understanding his current limitations and playing to his strengths. At the same time, he dominated the G-League pulling down 8.1 rebounds and blocking 2.6 shots per game, as Papagiannis showed positive signs on the defensive end and the potential to grow into a solid NBA defender and rim protector.

    Lack of playing time continues

    After logging just 355 minutes on the court in his rookie season, Papagiannis reported to the camp slimmer and in better shape but he was still buried deep in the depth chart behind Zach Randolph, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Kosta Koufos. Not surprisingly, he failed to get on the court again as the Kings stuck with their veterans to begin the season and were not inclined to play the kids more often.

    On December 7th and after averaging a double-double in the G-League, it was announced that Papagiannis was finally back in the active team roster while Skal Labissiere was moving to the Reno Bighorns. When Joerger was asked if this move meant that the Greek big man would see more playing time, he was once hesitant to commit to playing him as he clearly wasn’t ready. “He probably won’t play much and recalling him was an organizational decision but I’m a team guy so we’ll play a little smaller.

    As expected, not much changed and Papagiannis was released after the trade deadline, playing in just 16 games for the Kings this season, leaving his future in the league up in the air.

    Papagiannis has an impressive 7’2”, 280-pound toned frame and is in better condition than more of the Europeans who come to the NBA lacking the size and stamina to compete with the best athletes in the game. He runs the floor well, he has active hands that allow him to make difficult catches in traffic and on the move and is a very good vertical leaper.

    An active rebounder, especially on the offensive glass, he can turn from either shoulder, finish with both hands and is a way better passer than most people think. Look at the following sequence that summarizes the impact he can have on the court. He is in the right position to set a screen that allows Buddy Hield to penetrate after creating some distance with his man (E’Twaun Moore), forcing DeMarcus Cousins to come out and help. Subsequently, nobody boxes him out and Papa G is left alone to roll hard to the paint scoring with the easy tip-in.

    The importance of a good fit

    What people tend to forget is that the organizations usually pick the players they want to develop after bringing them in based on what they see in them. Kings chose Papagiannis but even though Divac believed in the kid, the coaching staff was never too high on him. It’s too early to call him a bust or a bad pick in what was generally considered a weak class after the first few draft picks.

    The Blazers have a long history of developing their guys by either turning lottery picks into superstars (like Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum) or transforming second-round talent into NBA starters (Allen Crabbe, Moe Harkless and Will Barton). They were smart enough to pick him up and sign him through next season too, just like they did with another former 2016 first round pick earlier this season (Wade Baldwin).

    Papa G is very young and he needs to take major steps forward in order to prove that he belongs in the league. He is a step behind most of the times and is still adjusting to the speed of the game while I’ve noticed how he seems tentative and hesitant adjusting to the NBA rules (repeatedly being called for three seconds violations for example) and to the level of physicality that is considered legal. But he is a smart player that understands the game and doesn’t try to do too much, a throwback center with a modern skillset.

    There is no doubt that he has imperfections and needs to improve many things in his game. He has always struggled defending the pick-and-roll against quick guards and he gets pushed around too easily for a player his size. He is having a hard time finishing through contact while he doesn’t play with particularly impressive toughness or discipline. Look at this embarrassing sequence where he fails to punish Kemba Walker in a bad switch that leaves him alone in the paint against the charismatic guard.

    His defensive upside is also limited in the modern NBA as he can not guard stretch fives and that will probably always limit him against certain opponents. His shot mechanics are sound and unlike many big men he has been hitting his free throws consistently throughout his entire career (76 and 79 percent in G-League the last couple years).

    His debut with the Blazers may not have been impressive in terms of numbers (2 points, 1 rebound and 2 steals), but he was part of a furious comeback against the Rockets, after being down 17 points in the fourth quarter. The word out of Portland is that everybody has been impressed by his talent and his work ethic and better days might be in the horizon once Papagiannis gains more experience.

    As always, thank you for reading this article and please make sure you check us back again next week and throughout the offseason as more player breakdowns are coming up. Stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.

    Stats are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of April 13th. .

Fantasy News

  • Richaun Holmes
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings have announced the signing of Richaun Holmes.

    Holmes is set to make $10 million over the next two seasons. He'll push for minutes in a crowded frontcourt, but if it's a true meritocracy then he should quickly rise to the front of the pack. Last season he was able to deliver standard-league value in only 16.9 mpg, so he's someone to target late in drafts on the expectation that he gets more burn in Sacramento. It's a potentially messy situation but we have faith that Holmes will make the most of it for fantasy purposes. For the Kings, it's a straight up steal.

    Source: Sacramento Kings

  • Marcus Morris
    PF, New York Knicks

    The Knicks have announced the signings of Marcus Morris and Reggie Bullock.

    Morris is on a one-year, $15 million deal while Bullock is coming in on a two-year deal worth less than $4.7 million annually, with a second season that isn't fully guaranteed. While both players began the offseason as potential standard-league targets, there's not much to see given the sudden depth of the Knicks roster. Morris will be one of five players who should mostly be playing power forward, while Bullock will slot into a busy backcourt and is already expected to miss at least a month of the season. New York's rotations are going to be a mess and we'd steer clear.

    Source: New York Knicks

  • Reggie Bullock
    SG-SF, New York Knicks

    Reggie Bullock is expected to miss at least one month of the regular season, per SNY's Ian Begley.

    Bullock, who initially agreed to a two-year deal worth $21 million, re-worked his contract to clock in at two years (with a second year that isn't fully guaranteed) for under the $4.7 million exception. There's no word on what exactly Bullock is dealing with, though he suffered from neck stiffness and plantar fasciitis in his right foot late last season. There's no need to monitor Bullock in standard leagues to open the year.

    Source: Ian Begley on Twitter

  • Markelle Fultz
    PG, Orlando Magic

    Speaking to Sirius XM, Steve Clifford said that although there remains no timetable for Markelle Fultz (shoulder), he is making good progress.

    Clifford said, "You know, right now we don't have a timetable for when he'll be back, but he's really doing a great job." Fultz simply wasn't ready to suit up, and even though we haven't really had any concrete updates on him since his last game on November 18, we're still expecting him to be ready to start the season. Fultz will make for a late-round flier on the chance that he finally gets healthy and puts it all together.

    Source: Sirius XM NBA Radio on Twitter

  • Blake Griffin
    PF, Detroit Pistons

    Blake Griffin (left knee) has been cleared to start light basketball activities after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in late April.

    Griffin dealt with left knee soreness in the season's final games and missed the first two games of the playoffs. His issues were dealt with quickly after the season ended and he should be ready for the start of the season. Look for Griffin to come off draft boards in the early-middle rounds after he put up a career season last year, though there might not be much profit margin at that price. There's a definite 8-cat lean as well.

    Source: Rod Beard on Twitter

  • Nicolo Melli
    PF, New Orleans Pelicans

    Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli underwent knee surgery and will not participate in Italy’s training camp at the end of July, ahead of the FIBA World Tournament.

    This comes out of nowhere and the only relative information we have is that Melli will be re-evaluated on a week-to-week basis. The Italian big should be fine for the Pelicans training camp where he will compete for the backup power forward minutes as long as the surgery is not anything too serious.

    Source: Sportando

  • Bam Adebayo
    C, Miami Heat

    Bam Adebayo is envisioning himself as a better all-around player, with averages of 16.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists this upcoming season.

    Adebayo, who turns 22 on Thursday, averaged 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 23.3 minutes while playing in all 82 of the Heat’s games last season. With the Heat trading center Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers earlier this month, Adebayo is expected to be the clear-cut choice at starting center and a fantasy breakout candidate.

    Source: Miami Herald

  • Reggie Bullock
    SG-SF, New York Knicks

    Reggie Bullock has agreed to sign a two-year deal with the Knicks for less than the $4.7 million exception.

    It was reported that Bullock intitally had an offer for two years and $20 million so this is a considerable drop on the monetary terms. The two parties had to rework their agreement after unanticipated health issues that almost made the deal fall through. This is also the end of the domino that had Marcus Morris back off his initial agreement with the Spurs and sign a deal with the Knicks instead. New York seems to be loaded in the forward positions and it’s anyone’s guess who earns the minutes to become fantasy relevant next year.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Dragan Bender
    PF, Phoenix Suns

    As Dragan Bender continues to explore the NBA market, the Cavs and the Raptors are among the teams that have inquired about the former lottery pick.

    The European market also remains an option for the Croatian forward as CSKA Moscow and Fenerbache are monitoring his situation. Bender is still only 21 years old and teams around the NBA could still take a chance on him after what has been a disappointing NBA career so far with averages of 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 131 career games.

    Source: Orazio Francesco Cauchi on Twitter

  • Raul Neto
    PG, Philadelphia Sixers

    Raul Neto could end up being Ben Simmons' backup to begin the 2019-20 season.

    Right now, the two candidates to be the backup to starter Ben Simmons are Neto and former two-way player Shake Milton, a second-year combo guard who earned a lot of minutes at the point in the NBA Summer League. Neto started 53 of the 81 games in which he appeared as a rookie in 2015-16, but only started once over the past three seasons. He has averages of 4.8 points, 1.9 assists and 37.7 percent shooting from 3-point range in 14.2 minutes and it’s highly unlikely that he gains fantasy value even if he earns the backup job.

    Source: Bucks County Courier Times