Georgios Papagiannis’ no-good, very-bad Sacramento Kings debut

Georgios Papagiannis quietly reflects on where fate has taken him. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)
Georgios Papagiannis quietly reflects on where fate has taken him. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports) /

I want to start by acknowledging that none of this is Georgios Papagiannis’ fault. If he approached a tarot reader before this year’s draft, the psychic would have broken down into tears. Papagiannis could have, say, been caught lovingly by a franchise who cares about player development — a franchise who would have nurtured him along slowly until he re-surfaced as a basketball-internet phenomenon in 2018 or 2019. Instead he got drafted by the Sacramento Kings, who you’ll remember already have three centers under contract: DeMarcus Cousins, Kosta Koufos, and Willie Cauley-Stein.

You’ll also remember that they are the Kings and apparently unable, pretty much on a genetic level, to stop producing bloopers.

I believe it takes probably like two years before we can really fairly grade a draft class. But after witnessing the first six minutes of Papagiannis’ career, I am afraid he is doomed. Again: not his fault. Still: probably doomed.

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Papagiannis did not play in Sacramento’s first six games because, again, all those other centers. Dave Joerger called on his No. 13 only in the final, quiet minutes of getting creamed wire-to-wire by the Milwaukee Bucks. The final stat line was: six minutes, two points on one field goal attempt, one defensive rebound, one turnover, and three fouls. That’s a PER of 1.8. Excuse me: negative 1.8. In reality, it was worse than that.

Papagiannis’ problems started before he even strode onto the court. As it is said: “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good.” Papagiannis’ extensive struggle with his warm-up pants was, in retrospect, a pretty clear sign that there would be no good play this night:

Less than 15 seconds into his career, Papagiannis gives up one of the most lackadaisical and-one’s you’ll see. A slow-motion spin move from John Henson bamboozles Papagiannis, who makes a bad situation worse by desperately slapping Henson’s non-shooting side:

The really concerning part of Papagiannis’ game was the pretty visible lack of effort. Which is even more bizarre considering that this was his NBA debut. Shouldn’t there be too many butterflies? Shouldn’t the mistakes be made because you’re zooming around too fast, a bundle of jangling nerves? Instead, he calmly watches as the Bucks just kind of grab a rebound from him:

After his second foul — an unnecessary off-ball shove of Henson — Papagiannis commits his third foul within two minutes. Now matched onto Thon Maker, the Bucks’ own rookie project actually positions himself to get the rebound, and just generally stays a step ahead of Papagiannis the whole way:

On the next possession, our lone highlight! Maker gets over-eager on the pick-and-roll defense, leaving a path for Papagiannis open to the basket. Something to work with!

The Kings’ next offensive possession goes down in flames. First, Papagiannis telegraphs a pass so slowly that noted defensive maestro Michael Beasley is able to step right in an intercept it. But that’s not all:

After Beasley throws up an errant brick — thanks to good defense by fellow debuting player Skal Labissiere — Papagiannis does not get the rebound but instead slaps the rim, gifting Beasley two points on basket interference. His look of confusion is a little bit unsettling because what is there to be confused about?

The game kind of fizzled out from there, mercifully. Unfortunately for Papagiannis, it could be a few more weeks until he is tossed more table-scraps of minutes. Which leads one to believe that the Kings really actually don’t have an answer to the question we all asked on draft night: Really? What are you going to do with another center?