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Georgios Papagiannis taking baby steps as a rookie

Sacramento Kings rookie center Georgios Papagiannis is getting more playing time as the season winds down. He played a career-high 12 minutes Monday in a home win over Orlando.
Sacramento Kings rookie center Georgios Papagiannis is getting more playing time as the season winds down. He played a career-high 12 minutes Monday in a home win over Orlando. jvillegas@sacbee.com

The questions about Georgios Papagiannis’ game will be answered as he sees more playing time to finish the season.

Papagiannis played his first meaningful minutes of the season Monday’s win against the Orlando Magic and saw action early in Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Papagiannis logged 12 minutes against the Magic, the most he’d played eight appearances this season. He had two points, four rebounds and a block.

Papagiannis, 19, was the 13th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, a surprise to many draft experts, considering the Kings were not short on centers and had used the previous year’s selection on Willie Cauley-Stein.

As expected, most of Papagiannis’ playing time has been with the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League.

“Just a good opportunity for him,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “The game’s a little faster, the guys are a little bit longer. There’s not a lot of size in the D-League, certainly there’s more minutes.”

Papagiannis is averaging 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in 23 games with the Bighorns. He was averaging 1.3 points and 1.3 rebounds in eight games for Sacramento entering Wednesday.

Even after trading DeMarcus Cousins, there aren’t a lot of minutes for Papagiannis because the Kings still have Kosta Koufos and Cauley-Stein.

So a lot of Papagiannis’ growth will likely come in the D-League if Cauley-Stein and Koufos are back on the roster next season.

Award recognition – Former Pleasant Grove High School star Marquese Chriss could find himself in the running for some Rookie of the Year votes with frontrunner Joel Embiid limited to 31 games due to injuries and out for the season.

Phoenix coach Earl Watson said more double-doubles to finish the season would help keep Chriss in the conversation.

“There is not a rookie that is running away with that high-volume scoring, so it’s just consistently scoring,” Watson said.

Chriss entered Wednesday averaging 8.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks. The Suns acquired the draft rights to Chriss as part of the a trade with the Kings that sent the pick used on Papagiannis to Sacramento.

“We are excited about where he is going,” Watson said. “He is becoming a big-time shot blocker at the rim. He is shooting the 3 better. You can tell he is starting to get past that rookie wall and he’s bouncing back pretty strong.”

Chriss has a fan in Joerger.

“I think he’s going to be a good player to be honest with you,” Joerger said with a smile. “Hate it!”

Resting – Darren Collison and Anthony Tolliver were given the night off for planned rest. The Kings will rest players each game for the remainder of the season to give more playing time to younger or seldom-used players.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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