griffins-getty.jpg
Getty Images

At some point in each of the last five games of the NBA Finals, Golden State deployed a lineup that featured four players whose fathers played in the NBA. While eventual NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry boasts a well-documented basketball lineage through his father, Dell, it's a trait Curry shares with Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II from the Warriors' championship roster.

Each of the four are second-generation pros and examples of a trend that will be on full display at the NBA's next big event after the Warriors' championship parade on Monday. When NBA commissioner Adam Silver takes the stage at Barclays Center in New York on Thursday to announce the first pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, it's a near guarantee that he'll be calling the name of a player with a family with a high-level basketball history. 

While there are no guarantees in basketball scouting – even prospects with great familial legacies suffer injuries or meet other struggles – pedigree has emerged in recent years as a key component in the evaluation of basketball talent. 

It's no coincidence that six of the top seven players on the CBS Sports NBA Draft Big Board have a parent who played in the NBA, WNBA or at the major college level.

  • Paolo Banchero (mother played in the WNBA; father played Division I college football)
  • Chet Holmgren (father played Division I basketball)
  • Jabari Smith (father played in the NBA)
  • Jaden Ivey (mother played in the WNBA; father played in the NFL)
  • Keegan Murray (father played Division I basketball)
  • AJ Griffin (father played in the NBA)

Prospects with an NBA mindset

"It doesn't just mean they're coming in with a more polished skill set or advanced athletic gifts – they're also coming in with a deeper understanding of what it takes to succeed in the NBA and the type of mindset it takes to achieve that success," said David Mincberg, the former director of scouting for the Memphis Grizzlies who most recently worked as an assistant general manager for the Detroit Pistons.

On seven occasions in the last 35 years, teams have used a top-five draft selection on a player whose father was also drafted into the NBA. Four of those seven players went on to become All-Stars. Of the four (Andrew Wiggins, Danny Manning, Al Horford and Kevin Love) three are still active players. Two of the other three (Mike Bibby and Mike Dunleavy Jr.) enjoyed tremendous careers. The third, Jabari Parker, enjoyed significant production early in his career before a bad run with injuries and the evolving expectations of NBA power forwards slowed his production.

It's a small sample size, but the 57.1% hit rate on top-five picks becoming All-Stars if they are the sons of former draft picks, compares favorably to the 39.1% All-Star rate for all other top-five picks from the 2006 through 2015 NBA Drafts. Anecdotally, though, the evidence for family connections as a positive in prospect evaluation is even stronger.

"If a guy's got a pedigree, it's like 'OK, he understands how hard you have to work and he understands the level he'll have to compete at on a nightly basis and why it's important to develop the right habits, be a good teammate and be coachable player,'" Mincberg said. "If he's the son of someone who has played at a high level and has been under that type of scrutiny, he's going to understand what the pressure of playing in the NBA looks like, the grind, the travel, all of it."

Griffin has athletic family connections

As it pertains to the 2022 NBA Draft, no one stands out for their athletic family more than AJ Griffin. His father, Adrian Griffin, played nine NBA seasons, has coached in the league since 2008 and is currently an assistant for the Raptors. AJ's brother Alan played at Syracuse, his sister Aubrey plays for UConn's storied program and his mother Audrey ran track at Seton Hall. 

While Banchero, Smith and Ivey are regarded as sure bets to be selected in the top half of the lottery, projections on Griffin vary more widely. The sharpshooting wing from Duke is the player with the deepest parental ties to NBA basketball, but he also grasps the limitations of his lineage in determining his future. 

"You've still got to put in the work," he said after working out for the Portland Trail Blazers this month. "You've still got to learn and do everything else that everyone does. You get an advantage of the wisdom and the knowledge, but you've still got to learn how to do it on your own, too."

If Griffin slips over injury concerns or questions about his defense, the front office executives who pass on him may wind up holding their breath, lest they meet the same nightmares experienced by the front office executives who passed on Curry when he slipped to No. 7 in the 2009 NBA Draft.

"Me, along with every single person who's ever worked in the NBA, when you miss on a player, you kick yourself over and over again," Mincberg said. "When you miss on a player and their dad was a great player, you feel even worse about it."

Family ties help in early evaluations

The NBA Draft isn't the lone realm in which an athletic family plays a significant factor in evaluating basketball prospects. In fact, 247Sports scouting director Adam Finkelstein believes it is particularly significant in the evaluation of early-stage high school prospects.

"It's really counterintuitive evaluating young kids, because the best long-term prospects more often than not are the ones for who it hasn't clicked physically yet," Finkelstein said. "I think knowing family pedigree is even more important for the younger prospects."

So while having athletic parents is poised to play a particularly significant role at the top of the upcoming draft, its significance won't be diminishing anytime soon in the collegiate or pro games. 

There is a reason Class of 2023 guard DJ Wagner has been ranked at or near the top of his class over the years. Yes, he is supremely talented and the son of former lottery pick Dajuan Wagner. But the lineage doesn't stop there.

DJ's grandfather, Milt Wagner, is a Louisville basketball legend and longtime pro, meaning DJ is on track to potentially become a third generation NBA draftee as early as 2024.

"Great athletes are unique and certainly rare," Mincberg said. "But when you get to the NBA, once you're at that threshold it's usually something mental or something with your mindset why you don't make it. The importance of having an NBA mindset, it can't be overemphasized. These guys are so impressive."

Happy Father's Day on draft night

Fathers and sons who have been selected in the NBA Draft since the common draft era began in 1966, according to the NBA.

YearDrafted sonDrafted father (year)
2020Cole AnthonyGreg Anthony (1991)
2020Nico MannionPace Mannion (1983)
2020KJ MartinKenyon Martin (2000)
2019Bol BolManute Bol (1985)
2019Nicolas ClaxtonCharles Claxton (1994)
2018Gary Trent Jr.Gary Trent (1995)
2016Domantas SabonisArvydas Sabonis (1986)
2015Jerian GrantHarvey Grant (1988)
2015Joe YoungMichael Young (1984)
2015Larry Nance Jr.Larry Nance (1981)
2015Justise WinslowRickie Winslow (1987)
2014Andrew WigginsMitchell Wiggins (1983)
2014Jabari ParkerSonny Parker (1976)
2014Jerami GrantHarvey Grant (1988)
2014Glenn Robinson IIIGlenn Robinson (1994)
2014Devyn MarbleRoy Marble (1989)
2013Tim Hardaway Jr.Tim Hardaway (1989)
2013Erik MurphyJay Murphy (1984)
2013Glen Rice Jr.Glen Rice (1989)
2012Austin RiversDoc Rivers (1983)
2012Jeffery TaylorJeff Taylor (1982)
2011Nolan SmithDerek Smith (1982)
2011Klay ThompsonMychal Thompson (1978)
2010Xavier HenryCarl Henry (1984)
2010Andy RautinsLeo Rautins (1983)
2009A.J. PriceTony Price (1979)
2009Stephen CurryDell Curry (1986)
2009Austin DayeDarren Daye (1983)
2009Gerald HendersonGerald Henderson (1978)
2008Patrick Ewing Jr.Patrick Ewing (1985)
2008Kevin LoveStan Love (1971)
2007Al HorfordTito Horford (1988)
2007Taurean GreenSidney Green (1983)
2006Ronnie BrewerRon Brewer (1978)
2005Sean MayScott May (1976)
2004Jackson VromanBrett Vroman (1978)
2003Luke WaltonBill Walton (1974)
2003Brian CookNorm Cook (1976)
2002Dajuan WagnerMilt Wagner (1986)
2002Mike Dunleavy Jr.Mike Dunleavy (1976)
1998Mike BibbyHenry Bibby (1972)
1996Kobe BryantJoe Bryant (1975)
1994Jalen RoseJimmy Walker (1967)
1992Byron HoustonCurtis Perry (1970)
1988Danny ManningEd Manning (1967)