• 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

  • Blake Griffin - F - Detroit Pistons

    Blake Griffin (left knee) underwent successful arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday night.

    Griffin's knee obviously dogged him during the final stretch of the regular season and throughout the Pistons' brief playoff run. The Pistons said that he isn't expected to miss any off season training and should be good to go for the start of the 2019-2020 season.

    Source: Mark Stein on Twitter

  • Clint Capela - C - Houston Rockets

    According to head coach Mike D'Antoni, Clint Capela (illness) is feeling much better ahead of Wednesday's matchup against the Jazz.

    Clint Capela has been struggling ever since he came down with this virus. He seems to be close to 100% according to his head coach. If Capela can get close to his season averages of 16.6 points on 64.8% shooting while grabbing 12.7 rebounds and blocking 1.5 shots per game, then the Jazz will have an even tougher to task to take down the Rockets on Wednesday in order to force a Game 6 back in Utah.

    Source: Tim MacMahon on Twitter

  • JaMychal Green - F - Los Angeles Clippers

    JaMychal Green will remain in the starting lineup in Game 5 on Wednesday.

    Green logged 22 minutes in the same role in Game 4, though it's not surprising that the Clippers will stick with the same group considering Ivica Zubac's tough fit in this matchup and Montrezl Harrell's fit in his current role.

    Source: Andrew Greif on Twitter

  • Nate Tibbets - Team - Trail Blazers

    The Suns have been given permission to interview Blazers assistants Nate Tibbets and David Vanterpool for their vacant head coaching position.

    The Cavs have already been connected to the duo from Portland, and Tibbets interviewed for the Hawks' gig last summer. The Suns reportedly fired Igor Kokoskov so they could make Philadelphia assistant Monty Williams their top target before the Lakers got too deep into talks, but Phoenix will be looking at multiple candidates. It's a nice roster to work with but we can't imagine anyone will be too eager to work with the team's ownership group.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Draymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green admitted that his right wrist has been hurt for "a while."

    Green added that he got hit there in Game 4 and "it pissed it off" and said that he's going to play through any pain in the postseason. It's not like teams weren't sagging off Green on the perimeter already, but if his wrist continues to hamper him in any way we may see opponents get very aggressive in their defensive efforts on Golden State's other players. Green is going to have lots of open jumpers presented to him for the rest of the postseason.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • Jarrett Allen - C - Brooklyn Nets

    Jarrett Allen will work on extending his range to the 3-point line this summer.

    Him and every other big man. Allen went 6-for-45 on 3-pointers this season, so he's got some work to do. He's a quality young player who can protect the rim, but Allen isn't quite strong enough to crash and bang with the league's true behemoths and not quite gifted enough offensively to be anything more than a threat on the roll. It's a great base from which to work, however, and it's good to know that Allen is going to be putting in the work to make himself more of a weapon as the Nets look to build on a nice campaign.

    Source: Bryan Fonseca on Twitter

  • Marcus Smart - G - Boston Celtics

    On Wednesday Brad Stevens said that Marcus Smart (torn oblique) is "doing great."

    That's nice, but it's not much of an update. Smart was able to do some light shooting and treadmill work yesterday but we're still not expecting to see him until the tail end of the second round at the earliest. His tenacity and perimeter defense will be missed dearly in Boston's matchup with the Bucks.

    Source: Jay King on Twitter

  • Kyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors

    Kyle Lowry suffered a dislocated finger on his right hand in the first half of Tuesday's Game 5 but was able to pop it back in and return to the game.

    Lowry swiped at the ball and ended up hitting Evan Fournier's leg with his hand, which caused the injury The fact that he was able to return to the game, even in a blowout, bodes well for his status for the second round. It may affect his shooting to some degree but Lowry has been playing facilitator more often anyway, and we wouldn't expect his performance to suffer. After a scoreless Game 1, Lowry was all over the floor for the Raptors as they locked in and simply outclassed Orlando.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Jeff Hornacek - Team - Sacramento Kings

    Sam Amick of the Athletic is reporting that former Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek had an interview with the Kings for the lead assistant coach job.

    Sacramento has already hired Luke Walton to be their new coach but the news about the sexual assault allegations he faces might put his status in danger. Walton should be able to assemble his coaching staff once he is out of the woods but we should know more once the NBA concludes with their investigation of the matter.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Luke Walton - Team - Sacramento Kings

    Sam Amick of the Athletic is reporting that Luke Walton still has the Kings’ support, despite the sexual assault allegations the newly-hired coach is facing.

    The Kings are working with the NBA to investigate allegations made against Walton by his former colleague at Time Warner Cable, Kelli Tennant. The report adds that the two sides are moving forward with their working relationship and there doesn’t appear to be any momentum toward firing Walton, who was hired earlier this month just three days after he parted ways with the Lakers. The Kings confirmed that they were not aware of the accusations until TMZ reported the news and that they will wait for the facts before making a decision on Walton’s future. The investigation has been delayed because all parties haven’t been able to access Tennant’s lawsuit so more information should merge soon.

    Source: The Athletic