When Adam Silver announced that Georgios Papagiannis was drafted by the Phoenix Suns at #13 in the 2016 NBA Draft, Sacramento was stunned. Actually, a more accurate representation of this is that after Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted it five minutes earlier, Sacramento was stunned, but you get the point.
To recap, Vlade Divac traded the #8 pick, Marquese Chriss, for #13 (Papagiannis), #28 (Skal Labissiere), the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic, and a second round pick in 2020. It’s just a tad too early to call that a massive win for Sacramento, but it’s trending in that direction. Chriss had an OK rookie year, but both Bogdanovic and Labissiere are equally as promising without even mentioning Papagiannis or whoever they draft in 2020. It’s probably Vlade Divac’s best move as GM of the Sacramento Kings, but I digress.
Georgios Papagiannis has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from just about every direction. The national media, local media, NBA fans, Kings fans - you name it, Papagiannis has been criticized by it.
On one hand, he just turned 20 in July. He’s playing way above his talent level, and I think everyone sort of knows that. He’s young, he’s gigantic, and his raw attributes are worth investing development time in. I get what the Kings are doing.
On the other hand, the Kings used a lottery pick on him. When you’re drafting that high, you’d like something a little less raw. Players get drafted on potential all the time, and this is some subjective analysis on my part, but I can’t immediately think of another player that was drafted as high as Papagiannis was, and was as far away from an NBA player as he was at the time of said drafting. He needed everything. He needed to fix his body, and learn nearly every NBA skill. It’s a lot to ask. Doable, but tough.
To Papagiannis’ credit, he’s nearly fixed the body part. He looked noticeably slimmer in summer league without losing any of his strength. He doesn’t look like a lumbering out of place monster out there. He looks like a professional athlete.
The bad news is, roughly none of the skill stuff has ever looked great, and this isn’t even the end of the world so long as Papagiannis is OK with that.
My answer for ‘What Does Georgios Papagiannis Have To Do This Season To Make You A Believer?’ is pretty simple. I want him to stop trying to prove himself. Stop posting up. Stop trying to make plays. Be the tough enforcer. Focus on rebounding, defense, put-backs and dump-offs. His best moments in summer league were exactly that.
That highlight reel looks replicable. The NBA is going smaller, and Papagiannis can use that to his advantage if he plays to his strengths. Be the garbage man for now. If his skill level ever catches up to his head, fine, do more of that, but for now, focus on the little things. That is my plea.
I don’t know if he’s willing to be that guy, but his toughness alone is something the Kings probably need now, and going forward. They aren’t getting this from any of their other younger, leaner, nicer prospects.