One of the nice surprises of the Euroleague Regular season is the contribution of the 1990 born Greek prospect Kostas Papanikolaou. Together with the statistical database of in-the-game.org, I put together a analysis of his game based on numbers and skills as well as a short scouting report.
Kostas Papanikolaou started the first 7 games in the Euroleague for Olympiacos which could have been considered a major surprise before the season. When looking at his regular numbers alone (4.9ppg, 3.2rpg in 14 minutes on the court), they are not really eye-popping but when you dig deeper, the statistics for this 20-year old player get really impressive on such a talented and successful team as Olympiacos. It is very rare to find a player of that age, except probably Ricky Rubio, who has such an impact on a 7-3 record team.
In terms of +/-, the 2m03 tall forward has certainly not the best numbers for the Greek team. In pure Plus/Minus, Papanikolaou came up with a combined –31 in the 9 games he played. This gives him a –3.4 per game while he has a –2.4 as adjusted Plus/Minus to 70 possessions. With this –2.4, there are still 4 Olympiacos players behind him: Jamon Lucas, Rasho Nesterovic, Yotam Halperim and Loukas Mavrokefalidis.
One of the most interesting points of Papanikolaou is his shot selection. His regular numbers are already very interesting with 66.7% from 2pt range, 46.2% from three-point range and 85.7% from the Free-throw line. This gets even more impressive when checking out the advanced statistics. He has an effective Field Goal percentage of 67.86% and a True Shooting percentage of 70.79% which is the 11th best value in the whole Euroleague. As he is taking nearly half of all his shot from behind the 3pt arc (46.43%), this number is even more impressive as he is the 5th best Guard/Wing in this category of the Euroleague (1st is Yotam Halperim who only played 5 games, then comes Guy Pnini, Sergey Bykov who played only 5 games and Fernando San Emeterio).
If you analyze his shooting a bit more in detail, you see that 90% of his close range baskets are assisted while 66.7% of his baskets from behind the three point arc are coming after a pass of a team mate. This underlines that right now, he is not using one-on-one plays a lot. Another interesting point in his shot selection is that he has nearly no mid-range attempts at all as only 3.6% of all his shot attempts are from that area.
A second part of his game that is really impressive is his presence in rebounding. 3.2rpg in 14 minutes on the court is already an impressive number for a Small Forward. With 7.81% of all offensive rebounds taken by the team while he is on the court, he is the best 1-2-3 player of Olympiacos in the regular season of the Euroleague. On the defensive end, the result is even more stunning with 18.80% of all defensive rebounds which makes him the third best defensive rebounder of the team behind Ioannis Bourousis and Loukas Mavrokefalidis. A Total Rebound Percentage of 13.55% makes him the 4th best rebounder of the team and overall best rebounding Guard/Wing of the team. With these numbers, he is among the top 3 rebounding Small Forwards of the Euroleague 2010/2011.
After having spoken about the shot selection before, it is also interesting to see that Kostas Papanikolaou is having an overall good decision making. He has a TO% of only 13.78% on 100 possessions, which is the second best value for Olympiacos, just behind Milos Teodosic. When you add that he has the third best Steal percentage of the team and knowing that he is used only on 13.25% of all plays while he is on the court; which means he is the second least used player on offense; you can only imagine his upside potential just by reading these stats. Knowing all this, it is not a surprise that he has quite a good PER of 18.1 according to Draftexpress which ranks him 5th best in the team.
All this statistical analysis underlines the scouting report that I did on him during the games of the Euroleague regular season. Papanikolaou is often used as a weak side wing player being ready for the catch-and-shoot three point shot or by reading the defense well to cut from the opposite to the basket. He is doing an excellent job moving without the ball on offense which creates good scoring opportunities for himself but also spreads the defense to open the lane for his team mates.
The left-handed forward can also put the ball on the floor to attack the basket and he does it with either hand. If he can not go until the hoop, he stops in mid-range territory to pass the ball back out without forcing the shot. When he does not have the ball, he is always ready to shot and can do this rather quick. The video below shows very well his different qualities on offense.
Defensively, he is often used to stop the opposing scorer on the wing. He struggles a bit to follow players like Casey Jacobsen who like to run through screens and who are in constant movement. He comes often a bit too late and gets beat on curls around the screen. His excellent size helps him though in one-on-one situations as most of the European forwards do not shoot over him as he is rather long and has a good jump to block the shot, even if he is not rejecting many attempts.
After a slight injury in December, Papanikolaou is now back on the team. It will be interesting to see how he finds his way back in the rotation and how he develops in the next weeks. Several NBA teams have already scouted him this season and it would not be a major surprise if he enters his name into the NBA Draft pool in 2011 to test the waters.