The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, and many moves made. Most will focus on Cleveland’s makeover, sending out six of their current players and getting four new ones, but something peculiar has slipped through the cracks. The Sacramento Kings had three draft picks in the first round of the 2016 draft. After the trade deadline, only one of the players drafted with those picks remains. What happened?
“Who the heck is that guy” was the general reaction from NBA fans when the Kings made their first selection in the 2016 draft. With pick 13, the Kings stunned everyone and took Georgios Papagiannis, a center from Greece. No one projected Papagiannis to go anywhere near that high; I could not find a single mock draft where Papagiannis went in the first round. In Sports Illustrated’s final rankings of prospects for the 2016 draft, Papagiannis was 52. After the draft, Kings general manager Vlade Divac said that Papagiannis “has the potential to be the next Marc Gasol.” Following the 2018 trade deadline, just a year and a half into his rookie contract, the Kings waived Papagiannis.
The Kings’ next draft pick didn’t turn as many heads, but it was a bit of a surprise. With pick 22, they selected Malachi Richardson out of Syracuse. Richardson saw his stock rise in a major way after a good performance in the NCAA tournament, and most projected him as a late first round pick. Many people thought the Kings reached for Richardson, but it was nothing shocking like the Papagiannis pick. Richardson was traded to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Bruno Caboclo before the trade deadline, just a year and a half into his rookie deal.
Skal Labissiere was the Kings’ final pick in the first round of 2016, selecting him with pick 28. The Labissiere pick was praised as he was projected to go much higher in the draft. He is the last of the three first round picks remaining on the Kings.
So what happened? How did a franchise, one that hasn’t made the NBA playoffs since the 2005-2006 season, decide to punt on two young players they drafted less than two years ago? The Kings have been bad for a long time
The Papagiannis mistake is inexcusable. The Kings drafted him way too high, guaranteed the next year on his contract, and then waived him less than two years after he was drafted. Papagiannis is only 20 years old. Teams don’t do that. Good teams especially don’t do that. The Kings also guaranteed Richardson’s contract for next year, and traded him for a guy they aren’t going to sign this offseason. That 2016 draft for the Kings was an absolute embarrassment, and their transactions around the trade deadline solidify that.
So while everyone else is going to focus on the new look Cavaliers, or Isaiah Thomas on the Lakers, don’t let Divac and the Kings off the hook. The Kings are the most inept franchise in the NBA, and major changes need to happen for them to turn the franchise around.