How Huerter compares Kings All-Star Sabonis to Giannis


Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is special. 

After being a victim of the full Giannis experience in Monday’s loss to the Bucks at Golden 1 Center, Kings shooting guard Kevin Huerter had high praise for the “unstoppable” Greek Freak. 

And while Huerter acknowledged Antetokounmpo certainly is one of a kind, there’s someone close to him whose skill set reminds him of the two-time MVP. 

“Maybe [Domantas Sabonis] in terms of the physicality and that you bring it every single night,” Huerter said on the latest episode of “The Ryen Russillo” podcast. “Every night, it seems like Giannis is available, if he’s not available, he’s hurt and then he comes back and he looks like himself. And he’s super ultra-aggressive.” 

That sounds familiar. 

Antetokounmpo has played in 55 of Milwaukee’s 70 games so far this 2022-23 NBA season. Sabonis has played in 67 of Sacramento’s 69 contests and has been solid as a rock for a Kings team on the verge of rewriting history. 

The way the Bucks’ offense runs through Antetokounmpo, the Kings’ -- and maybe even more -- runs through Sabonis. He has been the engine that’s helped the train stay on the right track toward snapping their NBA-record 16-year playoff drought. 

He has the tendencies of an old-school center with a sprinkle of modern NBA at the five position. It’s unique and so much fun to watch for anyone who loves the game of basketball, Kings fan or not. 

While it could be hard to really explain Sabonis’ play, Huerter found the perfect one-word analysis to describe his teammate’s abilities. 

“He’s a unicorn,” Huerter said. “The best thing about Domas is that he empowers everybody around him. That’s both with his style of play and his leadership style. He’s somebody, over the course of the game, he’s pushing our pace. How often do you see 5-men in the NBA bringing the ball up the court? We get rebounds and we give it to him and everybody’s running. He gets mad at guys if you’re not cutting, you’re not moving. 

“He’s not somebody who goes into games worrying about how many points he needs to score. Truly believe that. He goes into games thinking, ‘How can I lead this offense, how can we be super efficient, how can I get other guys involved and then when it’s my time, yeah I can go get a bucket.’” 

Sabonis is averaging 19.0 points on an efficient 60.9 percent shooting, 12.6 rebounds and 17.1 assists. He leads the league in double-doubles, with 56. He’s also recorded 11 triple-doubles this season, which is second-best in the NBA. 

The three-time All-Star has 841 rebounds this season, passing Otis Thorpe for the most rebounds in a single season during the Sacramento era. 

The accolades and record-breaking go on and on, but basketball isn’t an individual sport, and Sabonis and everyone around him know and thrive off of that. 

“He’s just so empowering,” Huerter said. “He gets so many guys on our team shots consistently over the course of the game just with his movement, his aggressiveness, his screen setting, he’s unlike any other big in the NBA.”

“Domas with our style of play he’s a big driver of that, playing in transition, cutting, moving, shooting a lot of threes, he’s unbelievable. He’s really helped me obviously.”  

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Huerter spent four seasons with the Atlanta Hawks where he averaged 11.4 points on 43.1 percent shooting from the field and 37.9 percent from deep. Since being on the same team as Sabonis after being traded to the Kings in the offseason, Huerter’s numbers are drastically up in just about every category. 

That is the Domantas Sabonis effect. 

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