Fathers and sons playing in the NBA are not an uncommon sight. The Bryants (Joe “Jellybean” and Kobe Bryant), the Barrys (Rick, Jon, Brent, and Drew Barry), the Currys (Dell, Steph, and Seth Curry), and Thompsons (Mychal and Klay Thompson) are just some of the popular examples who have left a legacy on the game across generations.
While his father Arvydas Sabonis was a star in Europe and came over later on to the NBA, Domantas Sabonis has continued his father’s legacy thanks to the bevy of skills he inherited from his dad.
The current generation of NBA fans and players never got to see Arvydas in his prime as he entered the NBA before turning 31 in the late 90s. He averaged 12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and 0.8 steals through seven seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, but he was not the same big man the Blazers selected with the 24th pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. Political tensions kept the elder Sabonis in Europe and it was only nearly a decade after he was drafted that he got to make his NBA debut.
Everyone knows Denver Nuggets center Jokic as a walking triple-double with uncanny passing ability, but Arvydas was Jokic even before Jokic was born. He could find passing lanes in odd angles and in areas defenders may not have noticed, while he also could score on all three levels. In fact, Sabonis was a career .328 3-point shooter in seven seasons with the Blazers.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as Domantas is emerging into a maestro on the post like his father. His current averages of 20.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.2 steals through 55 games were the result of his surgical passing and savvy offensive game. From a fantasy perspective, the two-time all-star is the perfect 1-A or second option on your team, with inconsistent defensive stats and turnovers being the only things preventing him from joining the likes of Jokic as elite fantasy options.
Domas’ repertoire of skills were on full display against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which coincidentally was his former team. His first half triple-double of 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists was (per ESPN Stats & Info) the first 20-point triple-double in the last 25 seasons. Sabonis eventually finished the game with 26-19-14 and only three missed shots through three quarters since the Indiana Pacers were already ahead by 56 points heading into the final quarter.
He also had quite a display in today’s tough 154-141 loss against the Washington Wizards, putting up a stellar line of 32 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.
To some extent, Sabonis’ increased production may have come from the fact that the Pacers have been afflicted by a spate of injuries as of late. The past few weeks have been particularly tough as Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner Goga Bitadze, Jeremy Lamb, and JaKarr Sampson have all been out. Sabonis himself recently recovered from a back injury that forced him to sit out six games.
The timing of the injuries has been particularly hard on the team as they remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. At 30-34, they are a game behind the Charlotte Hornets and 0.5 games ahead of the Washington Wizards in what is shaping up to be a race for a more favorable position heading into the play-in tournament. With nine games left on their schedule, there remains an opportunity to climb even higher in the standings.
In his relatively short career, Arvydas was a regular contributor who made the postseason every year, with his longest playoff run happening in 2000. It was then he matched up against Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. While he did give up athleticism to the more dominant O’Neal, Sabonis relied on smarts and timing to get the best of O’Neal when he could.
Domantas has only missed the playoffs once, but unlike his dad he encountered struggles in the postseason. The former Gonzaga Bulldog only played in two games with OKC during their playoff run in 2017, while he has been unable to replicate regular season success in his two postseason appearances with Indiana. Things will likely be different this year as he has locked down the starting power forward spot and is the engine of the Indiana offense that has needed consistency amidst the injuries.
With his role on the team, it’s safe to say that Sabonis has found a home with the Pacers, where he signed a four-year $77 million dollar extension back in 2019. For the foreseeable future, he will form a young yet solid frontcourt with Myles Turner and will have Malcolm Brogdon and Caris Leverton on the wings to give him excellent options to feed from the post and keep the defense guessing.
There are some parallels to Domas’ career to that of his dad’s, but he has the opportunity to surpass his father’s NBA achievements and perhaps even compete for a championship. He entered the league at an earlier age and does not face any political pressures that restrict him. The landscape of basketball may have changed since Arvydas last played in the league, but the imprint of his game is not lost on this generation, especially in his son Domantas.