The Kings’ missteps in recent NBA drafts have been numerous. And their latest decision with the first of three first-round picks acquired on draft day was puzzling, to say the least.
In one of two trades Thursday, the Kings moved down to select Georgios Papagiannis, a center from Greece, at 13th overall.
“We started our day with one (first-round) pick and we turned that pick into a lot of talent that’s going to join us,” said general manager Vlade Divac. “We followed the Greek for a long time, and we felt good to turn that pick into three different picks, basically, and get him at No. 13.”
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In Papagiannis, the Kings added another big man to the crowded mix at center including All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, last year’s first-round pick Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos, who they signed as a free agent last summer.
But the rookie isn’t worried about the glut of big men.
“Actually it’s going to be a great experience for me,” Papagiannis said. “Being in the same environment as these guys.”
The Kings ignored their holes in the backcourt, passing on the best point guard available at that spot, Wade Baldwin, and other perimeter players to select Papagiannis, 18, a player who might not come to the NBA immediately and could stay overseas to improve.
“I want to play in the NBA as soon as possible,” Papagiannis said. “That’s about the team.”
On the Kings’ need for guards, Divac said: “We’ve got free agency, we have summer league. Obviously we try to try to be active in free agency, and we are set with the big guys, so we’re going to go with the small guys.”
In a busy day of moves, the Kings first dealt guard Marco Belinelli to Charlotte for the 22nd pick. Later, the Kings traded their eighth overall pick, former Pleasant Grove High School star Marquese Chriss, to Phoenix for the 13th and 28th picks. They also received the draft rights to guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, the 27th overall pick in the 2014 draft who Divac called “one of the best European players,” and a 2020 second-round pick that Phoenix owned from Detroit.
Papagiannis (7-foot-2, 240 pounds) averaged 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 11.4 minutes for Panathinaikos in Greece’s top league.
Papagiannis knows many fans in the United States might not be familiar with his game, which he says includes abilities beyond playing around the rim.
“I’m going to be a center that shoots three-point shots if coach lets me do it,” Papagiannis said.
The Kings used the pick from Charlotte to select guard Malachi Richardson from Syracuse.
Richardson (6-6, 205) was an Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman selection. He started all 37 games he played in and averaged 13.4 points and 4.3 rebounds. He made 79 three pointers, third most by a freshman in school history. He shot 36.9 percent from the field.
The Kings used the 28th pick, also acquired from Phoenix, to select Kentucky forward-center Skal Labissiere. Divac said the Kings were surprised Labissiere was available at that spot, saying he’s “talent you couldn’t pass.”
Labissiere (6-11, 225), was a prep phenom, rated the No. 1 center in 2015 by Rivals.com and Scout.com. But he failed to live up to superstar expectations in college.
As a freshman last season, Labissiere averaged 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 15.8 minutes for the Wildcats.
Despite the modest production, Labissiere was expected to go higher, so the selection could be seen as one with a lot of upside for Sacramento.
“I was just being patient,” Labissiere said. “Patient and trusting that I was going to fall into the right place.”
Labissiere said he is ready to “go to work” against NBA competition.
That’s common for Kentucky players, who often take a lesser role in college to fit in with the Wildcats, who normally have multiple future first-round picks on the team.
“I’m very skilled,” Labissiere said. “I can score many different ways offensively. I can pass the ball, and on defense I can guard smaller guys on the perimeter, and I can run the floor really well.”
The Kings used their final pick, 59th overall, on Oklahoma senior guard Isaiah Cousins. Cousins (6-4, 200) averaged 12.6 points and 4.5 assists last season. He shot 41.1 percent on three-pointers.