Kostas Papanikolaou

And-Ones: LaMelo, Scouting, Pitino, Schedule Changes

LaMelo Ball is the top prospect for the 2020 draft, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. American fans haven’t seen much of the youngest Ball brother because he’s playing in Australia’s National Basketball League, but he’s making a strong impression on NBA scouts.

According to Givony, Ball’s assets include unusual size for a point guard at 6’7″, along with “impressive creativity, flair, poise and instincts operating off a live dribble.” He can pass with either hand and is especially skilled on the pick-and-roll. To improve his game, Givony believes Ball needs to become a more efficient scorer and show a stronger commitment to defense, but he still has the potential to become a franchise-altering player.

The rest of the top five includes Memphis center James Wiseman, Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, North Carolina guard Cole Anthony and combo guard R.J. Hampton, who is also playing in the ABL.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • This week normally marks the unofficial beginning of scouting season, but that’s changing because of the concept of “flight risk,” writes former league executive John Hollinger of The Athletic. Team officials who may be planning a trip to Australia to see Ball or Hampton in late December or January are taking the risk that they could shut down their seasons early to avoid injury if they believe their status as a high lottery pick is secure.
  • Some of the top players in Greece are refusing to play for the national team as long as Rick Pitino is the head coach of Panathinaikos, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Former NBA player Kostas Papanikolaou joined with Georgios Printezis and Antonis Koniaris to write a letter to the Greek federation, protesting Pitino’s recent return to their arch-rival and calling the situation “toxic.” Greece hasn’t earned a spot in the Olympics and will be part of a qualifying tournament in June.
  • Instead of making radical changes to the schedule and the playoffs, the NBA needs to do a better job of promoting its current product, contends Michael Lee of The Athletic. He observes that the league has large number of  “skilled, likable and marketable stars,” along with many international players to attract an overseas audience. Lee opposes a shortened schedule and an in-season tournament, and points out that reason behind declining ratings is that it’s easier than ever for fans to enjoy the league through highlights on social media without dedicating the time to watch a full game.

Canada, Greece, Turkey Set World Cup Rosters

While USA Basketball had its share of withdrawals this summer leading up to the 2019 World Cup, there’s a strong case for Team Canada being the national team hit hardest by a lack of participation from NBA players.

Team Canada formally announced its 12-man World Cup roster today. As expected, the group features just two NBA players: Kings point guard Cory Joseph and Magic center Khem Birch. As we outlined earlier this month, the list of Canadians not participating in the World Cup includes Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tristan Thompson, Trey Lyles, Dillon Brooks, Dwight Powell, RJ Barrett, and several other NBA players.

The national teams for Greece and Turkey also announced their final 12-man rosters for the World Cup, and both squads feature multiple current NBA players.

Bucks teammates – and brothers – Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thanasis Antetokounmpo headline the Greek squad, with former NBA players like Kostas Papanikolaou, Nick Calathes, and Georgios Papagiannis helping to fill out the roster.

On the Turkish national team, Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman, and Sixers guard Furkan Korkmaz are the headliners. Former Celtics and Cavaliers center Semih Erden is also part of Turkey’s 12-man roster.

The World Cup will officially get underway in China on Saturday with an eight-game schedule, though Canada, Greece, and Turkey won’t take the court until Sunday.

Free Agent Notes: Bucks, Parker, Anderson, Bjelica

When they agreed to sign Ersan Ilyasova to a three-year, $21MM contract early in free agency, the Bucks committed to hard-capping themselves for the 2018/19 league year. Teams that acquire a player via sign-and-trade or use more than $5.337MM of the mid-level exception will have a hard cap of $129.817MM this year, and Milwaukee will have to take one of those paths to add Ilyasova.

In hard-capping themselves, the Bucks essentially drew a line in their negotiations with Jabari Parker, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes during an appearance on Adrian Wojnarowski’s Woj Pod. As Marks explains, with that hard cap in place, the Bucks likely won’t be able to offer Parker more than about $15-17MM, which essentially caps the negotiations between the two sides at that point.

Marks observes that the situation is similar to what the Pistons did last year with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Detroit also had a hard cap after using most of its MLE, and could only go up to a certain point for Caldwell-Pope, who reportedly turned down an offer worth a total of $80MM-ish and ended up settling for a one-year, $18MM deal with the Lakers. If Parker can’t find a lucrative offer sheet with another team, he’ll have to be wary of ending up in a similar spot, so it will be interesting to see whether he can work out a multiyear deal with the Bucks or if he’ll consider signing his one-year qualifying offer.

Here are a few more free agent notes and rumors:

  • The Spurs want to retain restricted free agent Kyle Anderson and intend to work on a deal for him, Wojnarowski said in his podcast.
  • Nemanja Bjelica had six total offers that were all somewhat comparable to the one he agreed to with the Sixers, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. According to Wolfson, head coach Brett Brown and the opportunity to make a deep playoff run were factors in Bjelica’s choice.
  • While there were rumblings that Greek forward Kostas Papanikolaou was mulling an NBA return, he’ll remain with Olympiacos. The team officially announced a new deal for Papanikolaou today (hat tip to Sportando).

Free Agent Notes: Clippers, Harrell, Papanikolaou

We heard earlier today that the Clippers, who already have veteran centers Marcin Gortat and Boban Marjanovic under contract, are exploring the idea of adding Kyle O’Quinn, having met with him on Tuesday. In addition to their pursuit of O’Quinn, the Clips also maintain interest in re-signing Montrezl Harrell, reports Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Harrell is currently a restricted free agent.

As they weight their options at center, the Clippers will also have to be wary of their roster limits. The team entered the offseason with 12 players under contract, not counting rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson. L.A. also reached deals with Mike Scott and Avery Bradley, increase the team’s tentative roster count to 16. Adding O’Quinn or re-signing Harrell would bump that total to 17, meaning two players would have to be waived or traded at some point.

Milos Teodosic, who has a partially guaranteed contract, and C.J. Williams, who is on a non-guaranteed contract, may be at risk of losing their roster spots with the Clippers, though that’s just my speculation.

Here are a few more free agent notes from around the league:

  • Dwight Howard is on track to sign with the Wizards when he officially becomes a free agent, but before he reached a deal with Washington, the veteran was said to have interest in the Warriors. In an appearance on Zach Lowe’s ESPN podcast (hat tip to RealGM), Tim Kawkami of The Athletic suggested the idea of adding Howard was internally discussed in Golden State, but he “was a ‘no’ in a lot of precincts of the Warriors.” We previously heard that the Dubs’ interest in Howard was tepid at best.
  • Former NBA forward Kostas Papanikolaou, who appeared in 69 total games for Houston and Denver between 2014 and 2016, is considering the possibility of an NBA return, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.com. Papanikolaou played for Olympiacos in Greece last season.
  • One former NBA contributor who won’t be returning from Europe anytime soon is veteran guard Rudy Fernandez. The ex-Blazer signed a new two-year deal with Real Madrid in Spain, and said in a statement that he hopes to spend the rest of his career with the club.
  • In an informative piece for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a team-by-team look at every club’s free agency situation, examining cap exceptions available, outstanding contract decisions, and much more.

Kostas Papanikolaou Signs To Play In Greece

Former Nuggets and Rockets combo forward Kostas Papanikolaou has officially signed with Olympiacos of his native Greece, the team announced via Facebook (translation via Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi). Barcelona of Spain had the right to match European offers for him, but declined to do so, according to Jose Ignacio Huguet of Mundo Deportivo (on Twitter; translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Sport24 first reported the sides had a deal that runs through June 2019. The 25-year-old was reportedly deciding between a shorter offer from the team and a deal through June 2018 from fellow Greek club Panathinaikos, so perhaps the lengthening of the Olympiacos offer was what convinced Papanikolaou to sign. In any case, it’s unclear what, if any, NBA outs the contract includes.

The Nuggets waived Papanikolaou twice this season, once at the start of training camp while he was on a non-guaranteed contract and again earlier this month, when Denver let go of the $350K partially guaranteed deal he signed in early November. He averaged 2.6 points in 11.3 minutes over 26 games with the Nuggets, including six starts, modest stats that nonetheless exceeded the 1.8 points per game he produced for the Greek national team at this summer’s Eurobasket tournament.

Denver originally acquired him from the Rockets this past summer in the Ty Lawson trade. Houston signed him in 2014 to two-year deal that gave him a sizable salary of nearly $4.798MM last season. Papanikolaou had a chance to play fairly significant minutes for the Rockets early in the 2014/15 campaign, but he only notched 4.2 points in 18.5 minutes per game that season and never lived up to the contract. He came to the NBA as a draft-and-stash prospect, having been the 48th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Do you think we’ll see Papanikolaou in the NBA again? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

And Ones: Papanikolaou, Clark, Inglis, RFAs

Kostas Papanikolaou, whom the Nuggets waived last week, will return to Olympiacos in Greece, according to Sport24 (translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Papanikolaou, who won two Euroleague titles during his last stint with Olympiacos, will sign a contract that runs through June 2019. He was released twice this season by Denver, most recently on January 8th, just before the remainder of his veteran’s minimum salary of $845,059 would have been guaranteed for the season. Papanikolaou also played for the Rockets during his season and a half in the NBA, averaging 3.6 points in 69 games with the two franchises. The 6’8″ forward was sent to Denver in the July 20th trade that brought Ty Lawson to Houston.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Former lottery pick Earl Clark, who is playing in the D-League while hoping to earn a 10-day contract, was part of a trade Saturday, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Clark was sent from the Suns‘ Bakersfield affiliate to the Sixers‘ Delaware affiliate in exchange for a second-round D-League draft pick. The 27-year-old, who played 10 games with the Nets last season, hopes the move will give him a fresh start in his quest to return to the NBA. “It’s a grind,” Clark said of the D-League. “It’s definitely different from any other league. I just felt like [the NBA] was within my reach if I came down here and played well. I believe in my talent. I told myself I’m going to give myself another year to make this NBA thing work.”
  • The Bucks have sent Damien Inglis to the D-League, the team announced Saturday. Because Milwaukee doesn’t have a direct affiliate, Inglis will be assigned to the Westchester Knicks. He played for the Canton Charge during an earlier trip to the D-League.
  • Chasing restricted free agents is a risky way to pursue talent, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. The danger is that while teams wait for other organizations to decide whether to match an offer, top talent could be signing elsewhere. Prominent RFAs this summer will include Andre Drummond, Harrison BarnesBradley BealFestus Ezeli, Allen Crabbe and Evan Fournier.

Western Rumors: Durant, Cauley-Stein, Gasol

Kevin Durant is irritated by the notion that the Thunder aren’t serious title contenders, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com. The media generally considers three teams — the Warriors, Spurs and Cavaliers — as the only ones that can win the championship this season, Young adds, and Durant feels his team is being overlooked. “Man, the [media and experts are] always trying to nitpick us,” Durant told Young. “I mean, they don’t like us. They don’t like how Russell [Westbrook] talks to the media, they don’t like how I talk to the media. So obviously, yeah, they’re not going to give us the benefit of the doubt. … They don’t mean nothing, the critics. Their opinions, everybody has one, but we don’t really care about them. Every day we’re just going to keep grinding this thing out. We feel like we can compete with anybody.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Willie Cauley-Stein is meshing well with DeMarcus Cousins and that’s why the Kings rookie center has returned to the starting lineup, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. Cauley-Stein’s defensive presence allows Cousins to play power forward and moves Rudy Gay to his natural small forward spot, giving the Kings an imposing frontcourt, Jones adds. Cauley-Stein missed two games with a finger injury. “It takes a load off me,” Cousins told Jones. “I’ve got a huge load a lot of games, and having Willie makes it easier and helps me out so much. I think he’s very seasoned on the defensive end for a rookie. He has the potential to be a very good player in this league, and I’m glad to have him back.”
  • Combo forward Kostas Papanikolaou,  who was caught off-guard by the Nuggets waiving him earlier this month, has attracted the interest of two Euroleague powers from Greece, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, according to Sportando via Sport24. Panathinaikos has made an offer through June 2018 while the Olympiacos offer runs through June 2017, the story continues. FC Barcelona holds Papanikolaou’s European rights and would have a week to match if he agrees to either offer, the story adds.
  • Marc Gasol‘s offensive numbers are down this season and Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger believes his veteran center looks worn down, he told Peter Edmiston of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Memphis’ lack of frontcourt depth has made it difficult for Joerger to reduce Gasol’s minutes. “He’s exhausted,” Joerger told Edmiston. “His legs are tired. He carries a heavy load and he’s exhausted. He won’t say it, but someone who’s been around him as much as I have, it looks to be that he’s banged up and he’s played too many minutes. It’s just what we’ve had to do; I don’t have a lot of options.” Gasol is shooting a career-low 44.5% from the field.

And-Ones: Papanikolaou, Fredette, Kelly

Combo forward Kostas Papanikolaou was surprised by the Nuggets waiving him prior to Thursday’s leaguewide guarantee date, his agent George Sfairopoulos told Greek radio station Sport FM, according to Eurohoops.net. “Papanikolaou had many talks with people of the team, both from the front office and the coaching staff, and also I have spoken with assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas. We have been told that the team will pick up his option for the rest of the season. However, that’s life and we are ready to respond to every situation,” Sfairopoulos said.

The agent also noted that if Papanikolaou decides to return to Europe to play, Barcelona of Spain would have the first opportunity to sign him. “Barcelona has his rights for Europe and the first word. If Kostas gets an offer from an other team, Barcelona can match it and sign him,” said Sfairopoulos. “At this point Kostas wants to get minutes on the court. That’s his number one priority.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • While he would prefer to be on an NBA roster, combo guard Jimmer Fredette is enjoying the opportunity to play he is receiving in the D-League, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports writes. “It wasn’t necessarily a letdown because I knew I had to do some things to get onto a team where I can thrive,” Fredette told Spears about being in the D-League. “That wasn’t going to be the case at the beginning of the year if you get to that 15th roster spot and then you sit there and don’t play much. It was kind of a breath of fresh air to go out and know you’re going to get some playing time, be able to play, do what you do, gain some confidence and get some reps. That was the biggest thing for me when I talked to my agent and my family, was to get reps, get confidence back and be able to show people what I can do again.
  • Fredette also told Spears that he considered overseas options in Italy, Greece, Serbia and Australia before deciding to join the D-League, and returning to the NBA is his primary goal. “I am playing basketball for the love of the game, but I also want to do what’s best for my career and my family. So whatever that is, we will take that path. We will see what happens in the future,” Fredette said.
  • The Lakers have assigned Tarik Black and Ryan Kelly to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be the fourth stint with the D-Fenders on the season for both players.
  • The Thunder recalled Josh Huestis from their D-League affiliate, the team announced via press release.

Nuggets Waive Kostas Papanikolaou

FRIDAY, 7:46am: The team still hasn’t publicly announced the move, but Papanikolaou’s release did take place Thursday before his salary would have become fully guaranteed, according to the RealGM transactions log.

THURSDAY, 11:49am: The Nuggets are releasing Kostas Papanikolaou for the second time this season, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Denver will be on the hook for $350K to him pursuant to his partial guarantee, providing he clears waivers, though the team will avoid paying most of his prorated one-year veteran’s minimum salary of about $800K if it formally releases him by the close of business today, as expected. The Nuggets had him on a non-guaranteed deal over the summer after bringing him in via the Ty Lawson trade, but they waived him at the start of training camp, only to re-sign him November 5th when injuries had depleted their frontcourt.

The 6’8″ combo forward struggled in international play over the summer, averaging just 1.8 points per game for the Greek national team at the Eurobasket tournament, but he put up somewhat better numbers with Denver. He posted 2.6 points and 1.5 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per contest over 26 appearances for the Nuggets, including a string of six starts from December 22nd through 30th.

Denver has better health across its roster than it did when Papanikolaou signed, with fellow combo forward Wilson Chandler‘s season-ending hip injury and a sprained right ankle for Emmanuel Mudiay the only injuries currently listed. Offing Papanikolaou would leave Denver with 14 fully guaranteed contracts and an open roster spot. The team could circle back to hot D-League prospect Erick Green, whom the Nuggets waived to sign Papanikolaou in November, though that’s just my speculation.

Wilson Chandler To Miss Remainder Of Season

Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has been diagnosed with a labral tear and will undergo hip surgery early next week, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports and the team confirms via press release. He initially suffered the injury during the preseason and he has missed the team’s first seven games. Chandler will miss the remainder of the season as a result of the surgery, but he is expected to make a complete recovery after a six-month rehab, sources tell Wojnarowski.

“I’m incredibly disappointed at this point, I put in so much work over the summer to make myself a better player,” Chandler said in the team’s statement. “I was really looking forward to this year, being out there battling with my teammates, being a part of the change. I dedicated my whole summer to self-improvement and all I had on my mind this off-season and preseason was ‘this was my year, I was going to help this team win.’ So this is very frustrating and heart-breaking to say the least. I just want to say thank you to the whole organization for supporting me at a time like this.”

Chandler signed a four-year, $46.5MM extension with Denver during the offseason and he was expected to play a major role for the team. The 28-year-old had been the subject of frequent trade rumors over the past year and by virtue of being a veteran on a rebuilding team, those rumors were likely to continue, as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors noted in Denver’s Offseason in Review.

The Nuggets started the season with a record of 3-4 with quality wins over the Rockets and Blazers despite Chandler missing from the line-up. It’ll be hard for the team to keep up that win pace without the forward returning to reinforce the roster. The team was already thin in the frontcourt with injuries to Jusuf Nurkic, Joffrey Lauvergne and Nikola JokicThose injuries, coupled with the news of Chandler missing the season, could mean that Kostas Papanikolaou, whom the team signed last week, remains in Denver through the season, although that is just my speculation.

If the Nuggets go over the cap, which they’re almost $1.5MM under, they would become eligible to apply for a Disabled Player Exception worth $5,224,719, a figure equal to half of Chandler’s salary. However, the Nuggets already have a full 15-man roster, with Papanikolaou the only player without fully guaranteed salary. The team doesn’t currently have enough players with long-term injuries to apply for a 16th roster spot via hardship.