At 21-years old and a Euroleague title winner, Kostas Papanikolaou is one of the best young talents going on overseas today and now becomes a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.
The old "draft and stash" philosophy for the Portland Trail Blazers lives on in Greece.
Except this time around, "draft and stash" has been replaced by "trade and stash".
Following a week where the Blazers finally came to terms for next season with Joel Freeland and Victor Claver after a six year and three year development process in Spain (Freeland with Malaga, Claver in Valencia), new Portland general manager Neil Olshey fed the pipeline perfectly by acquiring both Georgios Printezis and Kostas Papanikolaou from the New York Knicks in exchange for the disgruntled Ray Felton and veteran pro Kurt Thomas.
Jason Quick of The Oregonian was the first to report the deal on Sunday, with the swap becoming finalized on Monday.
In the exchange, the Blazers also receive Jared Jeffries, Dan Gadzuric (who is expected to be waived) and a protected future second-round pick.
And while Olshey can now switch his focus on matching the free agent offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Nicolas Batum, consider the acquisition a major factor in Portland building for the future and essentially fleecing the Knicks for two second round prospects that bring different on-court aspects to the mix.
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.
But how did it get to his point where the 27-year old Printezis became a Blazer?
He was drafted 58th overall by San Antonio in the 2007 NBA Draft and had his rights traded to the Toronto Raptors, before having his rights swapped again to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. When the New York Knicks acquired Tyson Chandler last December, Printezis was thrown in on the deal.
It was reported that the Knicks tried to negotiate a one-year deal with Printezis, but he turned it down to sign with Olympiacos, which in the end proved to be a successful move for the scrappy forward.
The scouting report: gets after it defensively, isn't afraid to sacrifice himself for the ball, can drive and kick on offense and has a consistent stroke from outside. He's what some in the basketball world might call a "glue guy". This past season for Olympiacos, he was the teams' second leading scorer at 10.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 60% from the field and 31% from 3-point in Euroleague compition. Those numbers jumped in the Greek League as the leading scorer -- 12.6 points and 3.9 rebounds, and he shot 69.5% from the field to go along with 38% from beyond the arc in 34 games.
Printezis' also possesses Greek National team experience (2009 Eurobasket bronze medal), and also played with Joel Freeland in Malaga for two seasons before suffering a shoulder injury and making the move to Olympiacos and claiming the Greek League most improved player award this season.
So when can Blazers fans expect to see him in Portland?
That's a tough call at this point. Printezis reached a new deal through the end of the 2014-15 season with Olympiacos earlier this month, so it's another case of wait and see in the "stash" process.
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 star on the rise.
Papanikolaou's young hoops resume is filled with multiple MVP honors, national team and championship experience, showing he has a talent for both the inside and outside game and a high basketball IQ. Although he's never been the most athletic player on the floor, Papanikolaou plays the right way. And much like Printezis, he exudes toughness and a fire that is a must when it comes to adjusting to the physical NBA game.
The numbers aren't going to jump off the page at you: 6.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.5 turnovers per game and shot 60% from the field and 33% from 3-point in the Euroleague (7.8 ppg, 4.6rpg, 60% from the field, 35% from 3-point in the Greek League).
Overall development is key and no doubt will be the focus moving forward.
In the end, Portland obtained one of the best young players overseas -- if not the best young player. Couple that with Printezis and this extends beyond a win for the Blazers. Getting them to the NBA is a story for a different time, but this is a trade that gives Rip City a concrete plan for the future.
If fans in Portland were worried they would get nothing in return, they can forget that.
Finally, a reason for Portland to stand up and applaud Ray Felton.