Back-to-back Euroleague champion (2012-2013) and Greek international Kostas Papanikolaou has signed a two-year deal with the Houston Rockets that will guarantee him at least $4.8 million his first season (the highest ever given to a second-round pick), and his second season will be a team option for $4.6 million. After being drafted in 2012 by the New York Knicks with the 48th pick, and after having his draft rights traded twice, Papanikolaou is finally set to begin his journey in the NBA with Houston.
The 24-year old small-forward has already built quite the resume having won the Euroleague championship with Olympiakos in 2012 and 2013, and the Greek championship in 2012. The talented forward was also voted the Euroleague Rising Star in 2013, an honor that lead to Barcelona investing $2 million to buy him off his Olympiakos contract. He went on to win the Spanish League and eventually convinced an NBA team that he was ready to make the next step.
The Trikala native will be the fourth Greek international to play on an NBA team this upcoming season along with Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Kostas Koufos (Memphis Grizzlies), and Nick Calathes (Memphis Grizzlies). In addition, at Houston, he will be playing alongside his former teammates at Olympiakos, Patrick Beverley and Joey Dorsey. However, the Greek star will have to continuously prove his worth in an effort to climb his way up the depth chart. Nonetheless, a former teammate of his at Olympiakos, Von Wafer, who also played for the Houston Rockets for the 2008-2009 season, expressed his confidence in the Greek youngster with a tweet saying, “If ur a rockets fan remember this name kosta papanikolaou he’s goin be solid kid not only has talent but works hard”. The Houston Rockets start their preseason on October 7 against the Dallas Mavericks and it remains to be seen whether Papanikolaou will be able to make an impact.