Quick: Blazers To Import Kostas Papanikolaou From Greece For 2013-14 Season?

Christof Koepsel

The Portland Trail Blazers are reportedly considering bringing over Greek forward Kostas Papanikolaou to the NBA for the 2013-14 season.

Back in July, the Portland Trail Blazers agreed to a sign-and-trade agreement with the New York Knicks that sent out guard Raymond Felton and forward Kurt Thomas in exchange for forward Jared Jeffries, center Dan Gadzuric, cash and two prospects: Kostas Papanikolaou and Georgios Printezis.

Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports on Twitter on Friday that there is a "very good chance" that Papanikolaou "could be brought over" by the Blazers for the 2013-14 NBA season.

Papanikolaou, 22, was a second-round pick by the Knicks in the 2012 NBA Draft. Printezis, 27, was a second-round pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.

Papanikolaou is listed as a 6-foot-8, 230-pound small forward.

Here's a nice profile via NBA.com.

Strengths:
* Solid athleticism with good explosiveness and quickness
* Strong leaper and a solid rebounder
* Great hustle and aggressiveness
* Lefty, can score inside and outside
* Can play both the 2 and the 3
* Works very well off the ball

Weaknesses:
* Lateral quickness needs improvement
* Needs more consistency from long range
* Hasn't shown much ability to create shot off the dribble

NBA Projection:
If he wants to find a place for himself in the NBA will need to work on his outside shot (find consistency and some off dribble ability) and figure out the defensive concerns around him. Some athletic improvement is possible. With some strides and the proper development, we can see Papanikolaou in the rotation of a NBA franchise in the future.

Greece did not qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. During the 2011 EuroBasket in Lithuania, Papanikolaou averaged 3.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 18.7 minutes per game. Here's his EuroBasket profile.

Konstantinos Papanikolaou is one of the great hopes for Greek basketball in future years after leading his country to great success at youth level. A strong small forward, he has moved on from collecting medals to establish himself as a bona-fide part of the rotation for a leading Euroleague team at Olympiacos. Defensively, he can do a great job because of his size and because he is very smart and will clog up passing lanes and make things difficult for opposing players. Offensively he is yet to really develop one trademark feature since his outside shooting and ball handling could still improve while he is mediocre athletically. Yet despite some limitations he gets the job done because of his basketball IQ and ability to contribute in many areas. His leadership could be really important for Greece in future years.

Here are some thoughts written by Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress.com in May 2012.

An average athlete with an excellent feel for the game, good fundamentals, and terrific maturity, Papanikolaou's profile may not jump off the page on first glance, but his size, defensive prowess, experience and productivity at the highest levels of European basketball make him one of the most intriguing 1990-born international prospects automatically eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft.

Standing 6'8 with a solid frame, Papanikolaou has excellent size for a NBA small forward, though he sees time at both forward spots for the Euroleague champions Olympiacos. He runs the floor with purpose, and is able to play above the rim when he has a head of steam, but is otherwise an average athlete. He isn't explosive from a stand-still and his limited agility makes it difficult for him to create his own shot in one-on-one situations, but his non-stop motor and willingness to initiate contact allow him to make some plays by virtue of his physical tools in the European game.

On the offensive end, Papanikolaou spends most of his time out on the perimeter, even if quite a few of his possessions end at the rim as a result of his off-ball movement. Not a terribly assertive scorer, Papanikolaou functions as a complementary player, seldom forcing the issue and making smart reads playing off his teammates. He's turned the ball over just 30 times so far this year in nearly 1000 minutes, about once for every 40 Euroleague minutes he plays.

Here's Brother Wendell Maxey's breakdown of the two Blazers prospects from July.

Both Printezis and Papanikolaou are proven winners with Olympiacos in the Greek League and are coming off a season where they not only captured the Turkish Airlines Euroleague championship in an instant classic game against CSKA Moscow, but they turned around and won the Greek League too.

The 6-foot-9 Printezis isn't afraid to take a make big shots. Just ask Andrei Kirilenko who watched as the aggressive forward hit a game-winning floater over him with 0.7 seconds left to give Olympiacos an incredible 62-61 comeback win back in May.
...
Kostas Papanikolaou is in a similar situation, but at 21-years old Portland can test their patience a little more willingly. Back on draft night, Knicks fans heavily booed when it was announced New York took Papanikolaou with the 48th overall pick. But in the end those fans were only expressing their own lack of overseas basketball education. Because had they possessed even a small idea of Papanikolaou's upside, they would have salivated at the chance to watch the 6-foot-9 small forward mature within the organization -- even if it meant leaving him in Europe for the next couple of seasons. New York's loss truly is Portland's gain. We are talking about a Euroleague Final Four MVP, a star on the rise.

Blazers GM Neil Olshey brought over two international players this season: big man Joel Freeland from Great Britain and forward Victor Claver from Spain. Through 12 games, they have played a combined 72 minutes and have yet to make a major impact.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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