Kostas Papanikolaou’s first season with Barcelona wasn’t as productive as expected. The big Greek wing was brought in to be a star role player as a 3D specialist and was paid as such but was merely average.
He contributed the most on offense as a spot-up shooter. Like most left handed players, Papanikolaou doesn’t angle his body straight towards the basket but rather motions himself on a 45 degree angle. He has a natural stroke and an average trigger. Not noticeably better from the corner than above the break, he got good looks sharing most of his playing time with Marcelinho Huertas, Juan Carlos Navarro and Ante Tomic but hit only 34% of his 159 three-point attempts in 1,720 total minutes, while averaging only 1.3 makes per 40 minutes. That was particularly disappointing considering he hit 46.2% of 186 three-point attempts in his last season with Olympiacos.
Papanikolaou showed a good first step to attack closeouts, decent speed for his size on straight line drives and flashed good instincts passing out of dribble penetration – averaging 2.6 assists per 28 minutes in 655 Euroleague minutes – but he strongly favors driving left and was also sloppy with his handle, dribbling the ball higher than a player who stands at six-foot-eight should. His 18% turnover rate was sky high in the context of his 15% usage rate. An average contributor on the glass, Papanikolaou mostly got within close range in transition and via weak side cuts. He is a fluid runner in the open court, can finish strong (though wasn’t much of a target for lobs) and proved himself very smart diving to the basket when Tomic and Joey Dorsey shorted their rolls. 41% of his shots in the Euroleague were at the rim and he scored at a 71.2% clip.
But due to his below average three-point shooting, Barcelona scored significantly better without him on the floor; almost seven points per 100 possessions more with him on the bench in each league.
Papanikolaou contributed the most on defense by leveraging his athleticism as an asset in rim protection. He was an aggressive help defender and then showed good speed to closeout on shooters. Putting his leaping ability and eight-foot-eight standing reach to use, Papanikolaou ranked third in the Spanish league and sixth in the Euroleague in block rate among small forwards, aside from grabbing almost 15% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor. On the ball, he struggled navigating picks due to his large 230-pound frame and was only average playing the passing lanes to try manufacturing turnovers. Barcelona allowed five points per 100 possessions fewer without him on the court in the Spanish league.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.