Player: Kostantinos "Kostas" Papanikolaou
Position: Small forward with some stretch four potential
Height: 6-8 (Occasionally listed at 6-9)
Acquired: via trade with Portland Trailblazers for Thomas Robinson. Originally drafted by the New York Knicks in 2012, 48th pick.
Contract situation: Signed two-year deal on Aug. 8 that guarantees him just under $4.8 million in year one and about $4.6 mil non-guaranteed the year after that.
Fun fact: Back in Europe the papers call him "The Pap."
In the beginning of the offseason Kostas had already decided to stay in Europe where he has had some success playing basketball. Actually, pretty much the first thing you notice when you Google this guy is how very successful he has been at playing basketball.
Since he made his pro debut at 19, Kostas has won FIBA gold medals for the Greek National team, he was voted Best Young Player for Aris of the Greek League , which is roughly equivalent to winning Rookie of the Year. Last year his team, FC Barcelona, won the Spanish Liga ACB championship. The year before that he played in the Euroleague for Olympiacos which had just won its second Euroleague championship in as many years.
His physical skill set will need refining to the grinds of the NBA, but you gotta admit that's an impressive resume. So no one will blame you if you feel little excited about his pedigree. Especially after the exodus of serviceable role players from last year's roster.
One of the recurring assessments you're likely to hear about the Rockets this season, and one that has already been echoed here, is that the roster is stacked at the top but has very little depth. Most season preview pieces out there will likely mention the departures of Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Whatshisface. Indeed, most of us here have spent some time considering what the Rockets will do to find replacements at those positions.
So as it stands Kostas Papanikolaou has as good a chance as anyone to play his way onto the floor. And looking at him in the preseason game against Dallas, The Pap looked good pulling down six rebounds and 12 points including three clutch free throws to ice the game.
His numbers from the Euroleague are respectable but I always find it difficult to glean anything from them since i don't believe a working conversion matrix exists that can turn Euroleague stats into quantifiable data that can help us predict success in the NBA. So we do what all armchair scouts do and go to the YouTube.
Most of what's out there doesn't show you much beside the fact that Kostas is a pretty good spot up shooter, and he's not so bad long range either. This is good news. The Rockets can always use a guy that can bomb threes from the corner considering how they occasionally turn NBA arenas into cathedrals dedicated to the three point arc.
Defensively, Kostas is not regarded to be very athletic. In fact, that's putting it nicely. Kostas has plenty to learn on defense but he has a lanky frame and the guy hustles. At least he says he does. He has such a labored gait that even when he runs he looks slow. We'll just have to keep an eye on his development on that front.
Reports out of camp are positive so far but its safe to say that absolutely no one expects Kostas to produce from day one. Very few international prospects are able to do such a thing. But it is worth noting that the Rockets have already committed almost twice as much in salary for one year of Kostas ($4,797,664) than they did for three years of that other dude ($2,664,750). What's his name again?