DeMarcus Cousins is an all-star caliber center, arguably the best center in the league right now. Averaging a double-double – 26.9 PPG and 11.5 TRB – Cousins is a stand-alone center who dominates the paint and is an active rim-protector. And yet, on draft night, the Kings traded for another center, Georgios Papagiannis.
Vlade Divac, the Kings GM, traded athletic forward Marquese Chriss, who they selected with the 8th pick in the NBA Draft, to the Phoenix Suns for Papagiannis who was selected 13th by the Suns.
The 18 year old, 7’2” center hails from Greece, and he is a back-to-back Greek Cup Winner. The monstrous center thrives on sheer size, bullying his victims in the paint. The mantra for the team’s first round pick was “You can’t teach size.”
Papagiannis is a long-term project whose game will not mesh well with DeMarcus Cousins’s dominant game. Offenses run through Cousins, and Papagiannis does not provide any spacing options for the team.
Instead of choosing a guard, the Kings chose to saturate their frontcourt with another massive center. Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein already clog the lower blocks, and Papagiannis, who is a rebounding center, will congest the floor. Put Kosta Koufas in the mix, and the Kings have a real rotation problem. Although the Kings made a questionable move, they redeemed themselves by trading Marco Belinelli to the Charlotte Hornets for another first-round pick, Malachi Richardson, with the 22nd pick.
Richardson averaged 13.4 PTS, 4.3 TRB, and 1.1 STL. Not the greatest statistics for a first-round pick, but Richardson stepped up for Syracuse in the Final Four. He showed signs of an NBA scorer and can take it to the hole while absorbing contact. He will potentially boost the Kings solidified offense. This is a great plus, but Richardson also fits the profile for the Kings greatest vulnerability – defense. Although he impressed NBA scouts in the Final Four with his ability to make big shots, the 22nd pick has a meager PER rating of 14.6. PER ratings should always be taken with a grain of salt, but this projects low regular season productivity.
The Kings are investing and gambling too much into offense without considering defensive defects these draft picks have. They are further hindering a gaping, visible hole in their defense while fostering an established offense. But this might even become a problem for the Kings due to spacing issues.
Just like every confused American watching the draft, I YouTubed Georgios Papagiannis and pressed whatever click-bait video I could. His offensive game is impressive, but his feet are clumsy when it comes to defense. His reaction time is lagged, and his ability to keep up with offensive players is weak. Papagiannis might be the second coming of Jonas Valanciunas, and that is not meant to be a high-praising compliment. Valanciunas brings offensive heat, but cannot play defense to save his life. The comparison is low-hanging fruit, but the similarities are uncanny. Papagiannis, due to his colossal size, definitely has the potential to put up a near double-double stat line on a nightly basis. Sizable players, such as Alex Len, can prosper by the combination of pure mass and offensive competence. However, this is not a player the Kings should be gunning for.
The NBA cap space is projected to be nearly $90 million next year, an increase of nearly $20 million from last year. The Kings are not taking advantage. Instead of investing in wing players to accompany an irritated Rudy Gay and trading away a disgruntled employee, Ben McLemore, the Kings are butchering yet another draft. There is no incentive for a lot of free agents to come to the Kings. The team now has nearly $26 million to spend, but the Kings will try to cater to Rajon Rondo.
The Kings front office needs reconstructing. The team has not been relevant since the fairy-tale run the 2002 Kings had in the Western Conference. Rebuilding is a long-term project, but Cousins is not getting the team he needs. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the draft picks, and the franchise player should have a say in what he needs to be playoff contenders. It will be a long time until the Kings break the 8th seed into the Western Conference, and the blame, as always, will be directed towards the GM.Vlade Divac. And in this case, it should.
photo via llananba