The Knicks and their fans patiently waited through four-plus hours to pick their hopeful diamond in the rough, and with that fortitude they unearthed Kostas Papanikolaou with the No. 48 selection.
A star forward from Greece, the 6-foot-8 Papanikolaou won’t even be available to play in the league until at least two years when he has a buyout option from his club team, Olympiakos.
Glen Grunwald, who holds dual titles of team president and general manager, had his choice of numerous able-bodied rookies in a draft that was surprisingly deep with talent and somehow came up with Papanikolaou. Naturally, such a relative unknown was lustily booed by the partisan crowd, but Knicks brass will counter that the fans roundly jeered former Knick Danilo Gallinari and he turned out to be a good pick for the franchise.
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Grunwald said because of the team’s history of picking unknown talents that later blossom, he thought long and hard about the pick. While it wasn’t a star-studded draft, Grunwald said it was deep with versatile talent and is happy that Papanikolaou was available at their selection.
“We think he’s a good player and will get better. He’s an investment for our future,” said Grunwald. “He’s gotten better over the course of the season and was the MVP of the Euro League Final Four. … We ranked him pretty high [because] he plays hard and is a highly-skilled athlete. But he needs to improve his shooting. He’ll definitely be a guy that’ll work hard and has the toughness to succeed in the NBA.”
Grunwald further defended the pick by saying that the 21-year-old Papanikolaou was the “highest rated” player remaining on their board and even if he wasn’t, “It was unlikely we’d draft anyone at No. 48 who’d immediately contribute.”
The Knicks’ reasoning was that Papanikolaou, who will most likely play for the Greek national team in the Olympics, can get some seasoning in Greece and then come in NBA-ready to help a Knicks team that is also cash-strapped. And a team that could be even further in the hole financially should the league win their appeal of the Bird Rights ruling.
Papanikolaou will not be able to play in the summer league, noted Grunwald but the team will definitely keep tabs on their investment.
“We feel he’ll grow while overseas and then we’ll re-evaluate him after next year [and] decide when to bring him over because we feel he’s an excellent player,” Grunwald said. “We’ll certainly be in contact with him.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.