One season after drafting a solid big man in Willie Cauley-Stein, the Sacramento Kings looked to compile young talent after finishing 33-49 in George Karl’s first full and last season coaching the team.
The Kings held the number eight overall pick and there was no clear choice for who Sacramento would grab. When Divac and company were put on the clock, they chose hometown talent, Marquese Chriss who went to Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove.
Excitement to have a hometown product quickly evaporated as Sacramento traded Chriss to the Suns for the 13th and 28th pick in that year’s draft, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and a 2020 second rounder.
When the Kings came on the clock again for the 13th pick, Divac made a mind boggling selection: Georgios Papagiannis. A center out of Greece, after only being a year removed from drafting a center in the first round while still having DeMarcus Cousins.
The Kings had yet another first round pick after trading Marco Belinelli to the Charlotte Hornets for the 22nd overall selection. With their choice, Sacramento picked Malachi Richardson, a guard out of Syracuse.
With their last first round selection that was acquired in the Marquese Chriss trade from earlier that night, the Kings selected yet another center in Skal Labissiere with the 28th overall pick.
With two center selections in the draft a year after getting Willie Cauley-Stein, DeMarcus Cousins voiced his displeasure for Divac’s decision.
Lord give me the strength
— DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) June 24, 2016
It’s incredible to think that Papa G is only 23 years old as this draft feels like it was ages ago. There was no reason Georgios should have been selected by the Kings nor that high in the draft, yet when Divac was the General Manager, crazy things frequently happened.
Papagiannis appeared in 38 games for the Kings in a year and a half of being in Sacramento. In those 38 games, he averaged 12.4 minutes per contest and to no surprise, accomplished very little while on the court.
After spending the majority of his time on the Reno Bighorns during his brief stint in Sacramento, Papagiannis was waived by the team on February 8, 2018, and signed a 10-day contract with Portland a month later.
After not appearing in a game for Portland during his 10-day contract, the Trailblazers offered him a two-year deal which Georgios was happy to sign. While appearing in one game for Portland for four minutes, Papagiannis was waived before the start of the 2018-19 season.
After being waived by Portland, Papagiannis headed back to Greece to play for Panathinaikos, the team he was on before being drafted by Sacramento.
Georgios remains with Panathinaikos today after signing a five-year contract with the team in 2018.
Like Papagiannis, Richardson’s stay in Sacramento lasted just a year and a half and was nothing special. He appeared in 47 games for Sacramento logging an average of 11 minutes per contest.
The same day the Kings waived Papagiannis, Richardson was traded to the Raptors for Bruno Caboclo. Richardson played in Toronto for two seasons, while seeing the court for a mere 23 games.
On February 6, 2019, Richardson was traded to the Sixers and waived the following day. This would be the end of his NBA career.
In August of the same year, he went to play ball in Israel while only staying there until December. Two days after leaving Israel, he joined an Italian club and after one month of playing, he fractured his hand on January 26, 2020. He was released by his club on February 11, and has yet to sign with a new team.
Comparing Skal’s career to Richardson’s and Papagiannis’, Labissiere was a superstar. But looking at Skal’s career in a broader point of view, his career, although still alive, will go down as another nobody.
Skal did show promise in his rookie season for Sacramento after DeMarcus Cousins was shipped to New Orleans, even posting a game where he scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while scoring 21 of those points in the fourth quarter.
When Kings fans see a performance like this from a youngster, we immediately get stars in our eyes. But that awe would quickly fade away come his sophomore year.
Skal could not live up to his late rookie season expectations and struggled in his second year in the league. After being thought of as a center of the future, his promise quickly vanished as he was seen as just another bump on the log for a struggling Kings team.
During his third season in Sacramento while primarily riding the bench, Skal was traded to Portland for Caleb Swanigan.
During the second half of the 2018-19 season in Portland, Labissiere was lucky enough to be part of good Trailblazers team that made the playoffs and eventually went on to the Conference Finals. While Labissiere played in just three games during the playoff run, he stayed in Portland for the start of the 2019-2020 season.
Before this year’s trade deadline, the Trailblazers shipped Labissiere off to Atlanta for a future protected second round pick.
With the NBA suspension and Skal rehabbing an injured knee, Labissiere has yet to play a game for the Hawks.
There you have it, three more first round picks that would go on to accomplish very little for Sacramento. Perhaps it’s the Kings’ selections or perhaps it’s their system, but it seems to me that when young talent arrives in Sacramento, rarely do they excel.