Ever since joining the Indiana Pacers, second year big-man Domantas Sabonis has been the ultimate teammate.
The Indiana Pacers seemed to get the shorter end of the stick when they traded their all-star forward Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
To most, trading a multi-time all-star such as George for a shooting guard who had averaged 15.9 points per game in his first four seasons and a young big man did not make much sense. However, through the first 28 games of the 2017-18 campaign, the Pacers are sitting at fifth place in the Eastern Conference with an impressive 16-12 record.
Oladipo has been at the forefront of the Pacers renaissance, posting a career high 24.3 points per game on 47.8 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from beyond the arc. Sabonis, on the other hand, has also stepped up his game in a big way this season.
In limited minutes during his rookie season with the Thunder, Sabonis was primarily used as a spot up shooter. In this role, the 21-year-old averaged 5.9 points per night and shot just under 40 percent from the field.
As opposed to his one-dimensional play style we saw from Sabonis in Oklahoma City, he is the epitome of a swiss army knife with the Pacers. He is a very rough screen setter with good hands and great court vision, who can finish at the rim with ease. He also does not force things, making the right pass more oftentimes than not.
Sabonis’ passing is what has allowed him to stand out the most this season. According to Caitlin Cooper from Indy Cornrows, Sabonis has assisted on 30 three-pointers this season, which is good enough for third on the team behind Darren Collision (51) and Victor Oladipo (34).
He has also improved his scoring and rebounding numbers this season too, which are up to 12 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, respectively. These are both steps in the right direction compared to his rookie campaign.
So far this season, multiple teammates have had high praise for the second year center. The likes of Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young, and head coach Nate McMillan have all made their voices heard about Sabonis.
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Young noticed Sabonis’ basketball IQ early in the season. “He just knows how to play basketball,” Young said of Sabonis, per Mark Montieth of NBA.com. “He’s always in the right spot, making the right plays. He’s going to be a big part of what we do.”
Sabonis also built chemistry with Stephenson from the minute they starting playing together. According to Sabonis, the two “just know how to read off each other,” per Montieth.
Head coach Nate McMillan has pointed out his ability to stay calm throughout the game and make his teammates better. “I really like him,” McMillan said, according to Montieth “He just brings a calmness to the game when he’s out on the floor. He just makes players better because he understands the game.”
For a second year player playing in a new regime, getting such praise from veteran players and the coaching staff is not common. This all highlights Sabonis’ selfless play, and ability to put the team first.
Sabonis is at home with the Pacers
The Pacers really struck gold when they traded for Sabonis. Although the trade was questionable to many at first, it has become clear the Pacers will be well off with Oladipo and Sabonis moving forward.
If Sabonis can keep improving as the season progresses, he has the ability to be a staple of the Indiana Pacers organization for a very long time.
Not only has he stepped his game up immensely from last season statistically, but he also has the ability to make the players around him better.