No NBA front office is without its share of regrettable draft picks. In that way, the Kings are no different than any other team.
That doesn’t make what happened with Georgios Papagiannis any more comforting.
The Kings used a lottery pick to acquire an 18-year-old center from Greece at No. 13 overall in 2016. General manager Vlade Divac said he could be an All-Star. Less than two years later, Papagiannis is out of a job, waived by the Kings on Thursday.
Papagiannis was cut the same day Malachi Richardson, the 22nd overall pick in the same draft, was traded.
The Kings have been praised by some for cutting their losses with Papagiannis, a player who was years away from being a contributor. Papagiannis couldn’t crack the Kings rotation and belonged in the G League, a place he preferred to avoid.
Still, having to cut a lottery pick before his second season is complete should not be celebrated.
It means a big mistake was made where teams like the Kings can ill afford to make them: in the lottery.
For this latest rebuilding effort to work, draft picks must pan out. Of course, not all of them will. But the lottery picks hurt more when they aren’t developed into foundation pieces.
The cash considerations received in Thursday’s trades lessen the financial hit from having to cut Papagiannis before the end of his second season. But it’s a small consolation.
The Kings will have a lottery pick this June – but not in 2019 because of a trade they made with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015.
So there cannot be another Papagiannis this year. Past lottery failures have postponed rebuilding efforts long enough. Since 2011, the only lottery picks still on the team are center Willie Cauley-Stein (2015) and point guard De’Aaron Fox (2017).
Papagiannis joins Jimmer Fredette, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas as lottery picks that flamed out in Sacramento. Since 2009, only two of the lottery picks (Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins) proved they could be impact players.
The Papagiannis experiment was doomed from the start, when the Kings traded down from the eighth pick to take a center. They already had Cousins, and a year earlier they drafted Cauley-Stein and signed veteran Kosta Koufos.
If there’s a silver lining from draft day 2016, it’s Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Kings acquired his rights from Phoenix in a trade for the picks that became Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere. Bogdanovic will represent the Kings at his first All-Star weekend in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge with teammate Buddy Hield.
Papagiannis, meanwhile, may decide to return to Greece. Or maybe another team will give him a shot, for a much lower price than the Kings paid.
Financial flexibility for the future was gained at the trade deadline by dealing George Hill. This allows more ability to acquire veterans in trades, should they go that route for help as they begin to figure out which young players are not in their plans.
The Kings also have more room to possibly absorb a bad contract if they can extract a draft pick for 2019 from another team.
That was the biggest win for the Kings from the trade deadline.
In case you needed a reminder, Portland star Damian Lillard was the latest example of how the Kings cannot stop the 3-point shot.
He made eight in his 50-point outburst Friday. Portland made 15 for the game.
The Kings allow 12.2 made 3-pointers per game, the most in the NBA.
Fox’s education in playing point guard will be accelerated Wednesday when he faces Houston superstar Chris Paul for the first time in his career.
Paul is crafty and one of the best at playing mind games.
It should be fun to watch.