All-Star voting opened up a couple of days ago, and even though the yearly showcase doesn’t take place until mid-February, there’s already chatter about who deserves to be in the game and who might get snubbed.
One such player is Domantas Sabonis, who has been quietly leading the Sacramento Kings into a winning record. The Lithuanian-American center has already been in the All-Star game twice as a member of the Indiana Pacers, but he is again having a fantastic season and is making a real impact on the win-loss column.
Sabonis is averaging 18 points, 12.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists for the season. He’s upped those averages in December to 21.1 points, 14.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists. Sacramento’s offense runs through him and De’Aaron Fox, who is having a great season in his own right, but Sabonis has been more consistent. He’s built a great relationship both on and off the court with Fox and they’re both inspiring their teammates every day.
Sabonis has been a rebounding machine and has had 20 or more rebounds in three of his last four games. The latest of these performances came in a 134-120 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, where he finished with a triple-double of 13 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists. He was the only Kings starter to not hit the 20-point mark, but there’s no arguing that he was the most impactful player on the floor. Take a look at his highlights from the Lakers game below to see the type of attention he draws from opposing teams, which opens up the game for the rest of his teammates.
He also takes the biggest beating out of any of the Kings squad and it feels like he takes hard hits to the head in almost every game.
The ‘Ox’, as he’s affectionately known by teammates and fans, poses the Kings’ best chance to field an All-Star since DeMarcus Cousins in 2017. Part of the reason is that the choices at frontcourt aren’t as loaded compared to the backcourt. Opposing coaches have shown plenty of appreciation for Sabonis’ efforts on both ends of the floor and they’re the ones that pick the All-Star reserves.
This is all early speculation, of course, but since the coaches vote for two back court, three front court, and two players from any position for the reserves, Sabonis has the slightly easier path. He’s got to maintain his output, of course, but it looks like things are starting to click in Sacramento – where they’re trying to end a 16-year playoff drought.
If the Kings keep themselves in the top six in the Western Conference until February, Sabonis’ case becomes even stronger. Assuming that Zion Williamson, Nikola Jokic and LeBron James are named starters, Sabonis has to contend with Anthony Davis (who might still be hurt), Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Brandon Ingram, Lauri Markkanen, Karl-Anthony Towns and DeAndre Ayton. By the time February rolls around, Sabonis could have a legitimate case above Towns, Markkanen and Ayton to make the reserve team.
It’s a little bit tougher for his co-star Fox to make the team because of how guard-heavy the Western Conference is. He’s got to battle against the likes of Luka Doncic, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Devin Booker, Ja Morant, Chris Paul, and Anthony Edwards. All of those guys are extremely popular and have had good seasons.