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30Q: What would be a successful season for Georgios Papagiannis?

Measuring success for the Kings’ rookie will come with time.

Kings fans have heard it all since the team selected Greek big man Georgios Papagiannis with the 13th pick of this year’s draft. On the one hand, Big Papa’s selection is evident of a myopic Vlade Divac draft strategy, one infatuated with a big man who does not clearly complement the team’s best player. On the other hand, it may be emblematic of a franchise building for the future, not tethered to the assumption that DeMarcus Cousins will remain long-term.

Admittedly, the latter perspective only matters if Papagiannis turns out to be a good NBA player. If he does not, the narrative on the 2016 draft will likely write itself around the Kings’ asset mismanagement during the DeMarcus Cousins era, a proverbial cherry on top of a Jimmer Fredette, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas sundae (sorry for the visual).

To this end, the Kings have stumbled themselves into a situation they have not seen since Spencer Hawes’ rookie season: The first-round draft pick is not expected to contribute. In fact, that holds for all of the Kings draft choices. The question, then, considering how much may actually be at stake, is how does the team measure early success this go-round, specifically for the team’s lottery pick?

Despite summer league being an inconclusive barometer for NBA success, the early returns on Papagiannis were not great. He displayed a lack of offensive awareness in the post, failing to record an assist when he was not backing down his man until he had no choice but to loft an ineffectual half-hook. He was surprisingly mobile for his size when sprinting end-to-end, though he clearly lacked the kind of conditioning and foot speed to move laterally with guards and recover back to roll men in pick-and-roll coverage.

Again, all of these come from a small sample size, though they point to things we already knew about Papagiannis. He has good physical tools (7’2’’ with a 7’6’’ wingspan), though his conditioning could stand to improve (noticeably doughy mid-section, for a lack of a more academic term). He has an exciting offensive skill-set (soft touch around the basket and decent form on his jumper), though he lacks the offensive awareness to put those skills to good use.

What works for Papagiannis and the team is his development in those areas will come behind the scenes, likely away from the big-league roster and the stressful environment of what could be the last half-season of DeMarcus Cousins’ career as a King. It is almost impossible to conceive of a likely scenario where Papagannis usurps any of the big men ahead of him in the rotation, which means he will likely make his mistakes, learn his lessons, and get his less doughy midsection through play with the team’s D-League affiliate.

The Kings just exited a situation where their D-League club operated as an experimental training ground, while the NBA club acted as the place those hypotheses, or just dreams in general, went to die. As such, philosophical continuity between new Kings head coach Dave Joerger and Bighorns head coach Darrick Martin will be key for the development of any of the team’s prospects.

For Papagiannis, success will come in the form of increased conditioning, from getting his feet wet in an NBA context, finding his spots to contribute offensively, and learning an NBA defensive scheme. For Kings fans, success might just come in the form of knowing how in the world to understand Papagiannis’ place on the roster. Whether it might be due to the inherent mystery surrounding international talent, I genuinely have no idea what kind of player he could look like in 5 years. This is exciting in a way compared to the situations surrounding more conservative previous draft choices, though it also inspires horror where the others might have inspired plain indifference.

Regardless, both of these ends will come with time, with exposure of any kind, and with throwing Papagiannis into a less consequential fire than the one which always seems to be encircling the NBA squad. It truly is ground-up for the Kings’ newest project big, and thankfully the team has the ability to be patient with his development. At least for now.