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From Rooks to Royals: The Journeys of Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere

By Kyle Jones | June 21, 2017

By Sadë Mills

The 2016 NBA Draft was an eventful evening for the Sacramento Kings to say the least.

With a flurry of draft day trades, the Kings turned one selection into three and ended up with a slew of young players to build around for the foreseeable future.

From those selections, future Kings Georgios Papagiannis (the 13th overall pick) and Skal Labissiere (28th overall pick) have both come a long way since the start of their professional careers — careers that initially began with them donning the purple of another NBA franchise.

On the night of the draft, both players were originally selected by the Phoenix Suns. However, in the ensuing calamity that is sometimes the NBA Draft, both were traded to the Sacramento Kings (along with the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic (boag-DAHN boag-DAHN-O-vitch) and a future second-round selection from the Suns in exchange for the draft rights to 8th overall pick, Marquese Chriss).

Following the conclusion of the draft and NBA Summer League, both were assigned to their NBA G League (then NBA Development League) affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, for further development at the start of the 2016-17 season. Since then, both players have made their way to the NBA after successful stints in Reno where they honed their skills.

Born in Maroussi, Athens, Greece, Papagiannis played high school basketball in both America and Greece before he entered the draft in 2016.

“I wasn’t really nervous until two months before the draft when I broke my finger,” Papagiannis said about going into the draft with no collegiate experience. “But I was doing really well in my draft workouts and the nerves went away when I was selected.”

After being selected 13th overall, Papagiannis achieved the honor of being the highest drafted Greek player ever.

Opposite of Papagiannis’ basketball career, Labissiere did play at the collegiate level in the United States, where he played at the University of Kentucky for one season under head coach John Calipari. A native of Haiti, Labissiere played at two high schools before he moved to America to start his collegiate career.

Together, Papagiannis and Labissiere bring diversity and a new culture to the Sacramento Kings. With that diversity though, both players had to adjust to playing in a new country.

“American basketball is a lot faster and everybody here is trying to make it to the league,” Papagiannis said. “The G League helped me a lot to get my numbers up and I gained more confidence to play at that faster pace in Sacramento.”

As the 2017-18 season draws closer, the formerly known NBA Development League or “D League” will now be the NBA Gatorade League or “G League.” The G League will continue to be integral part of the NBA’s successes by helping to develop the future of the league.