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What if the Sacramento Kings Hadn’t Drafted Georgios Papagiannis?

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It was not a memorable stint for Papa, but it could be memorable for others involved.

Kimani Okearah

With Georgios Papagiannis no longer being a Sacramento King, to his agent Marios Olympios being salty that Papagiannis just wasn’t good, let’s take a look at the big what if question regarding Papa: What if we hadn’t drafted him?

Quick reminder on how we first acquired Papagiannis: The Kings traded their eighth overall pick back in 2016 (used on Marquese Chriss) to the Phoenix Suns for the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic (bless for that) and the 13th and 28th overall picks and a second-round pick in 2020. With that 13th pick, they selected Papagiannis while the 28th pick was utilized to bring in Skal Labissiere.

We all know someone didn’t seem too happy about that 13th pick...

I know you guys remember this tweet:

So let’s begin with Papagiannis. He was never supposed to be a 13th overall pick. He was highly considered to be a mid-to-late second round pick with a possibility that he would be selected late in the first, according to many draft “experts”.

Here is a look at Papa’s stats in Europe prior to the draft, courtesy of Basketball Reference:

Basketball Reference

The season I want to highlight here is 2015-16, where he played nine minutes a game, averaging 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds. I don’t like judging a player merely on his points and rebounds, but this is an exception. How does a player get drafted 13th overall with these numbers? (rhetorical question) Whether they were planning on Papa taking over DeMarcus Cousins’ spot or not, this selection will go down as one of the absolute worst in Kings history. Papagiannis wasn’t some phenom toiling about in the Greek minor leagues just waiting for his chance like Giannis Antetokounmpo was; He was a raw prospect whose game didn’t fit the modern NBA.

The 2016 NBA Draft in retrospect was a pretty weak one. Even despite taking Papagiannis at 13, there weren’t a whole lot of amazing options that the Kings missed out on. The 14th selection was used to select Denzel Valentine, who is still with the Chicago Bulls. Valentine didn’t have a good rookie year, but he has improved this season as he averages ten more minutes per game and is at least looking like an NBA rotation player. At 15, the Nuggets took Juan Hernangomez, and while he had his moments as a rookie, he’s spent most of his career to date in the G-League and has seen a decreased role in his sophomore year. At 16, the Boston Celtics took Guerschon Yabusele. He sat out a year before being signed this past summer, and has only played 110 minutes for the Celtics so far.

We are all familiar with Wade Baldwin, the 17th pick of that draft, as this was the player most of us had believed to be Sacramento’s pick. But Baldwin was cut by the Grizzlies just shortly before his second season, and is now on a two-way contract with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Just looking at the entirety of the rest of the names in the first round, Papagiannis doesn’t look as much of a stretch anymore. Guys like Henry Ellenson, Malik Beasley, DeAndre Bembry, Ante Zizic, Brice Johnson, Furkan Korkmaz, and Damian Jones haven’t made much impact either. Even someone like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (a player on many Kings fans radar) has only averaged 6.3 points on 38.8% from the field. The rookie of the year from this class was the 36th pick, Malcolm Brogdon, a four-year college player who was ready to play from the get-go, but even so, he won Rookie of the Year while only averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 assists a game. This was a weak, weak class.

But despite the pick of Papagiannis, the trade itself has proven to be worth it for the Sacramento Kings. Bogdan Bogdanovic was the main catch and he’s proving to be a really good player, potentially the fix for Sacramento’s shooting guard woes for a long time.

The Kings also got Skal Labissiere, who really broke out after the Cousins trade and most notably had a 32 point, 11 rebound performance against the Phoenix Suns and a 25 point game against the Houston Rockets. It’s been pretty tough to measure Skal’s growth this season because of Zach Randolph being a starter for most games, inconsistent minutes and most recently, a shoulder injury. In the games since returning from his injury, he has looked good, but the rest of the season is a huge opportunity for Skal to take his game to the next level. Whether or not Skal reaches his potential or not, there are almost certainly multiple teams who wish they had taken a chance on him in that draft rather than whoever they picked.

Skal and Bogdan have already proven to be building blocks for this team’s future. The Kings are better off having them than they would be with just Marquese Chriss (who has proven to be very disappointing in his first two years), and there’s a 2020 second round pick still coming to boot.

So yes, taking Papagiannis at 13 was a mistake, but odds are the Kings probably would have selected someone else that simply wouldn’t have panned out given who was around in the draft at the time. But the Kings still put themselves in a better position with that trade, Papagiannis or not. Coming away from one of the worst drafts in recent memory with not one but potentially two building blocks ain’t half bad.