Domantas Sabonis had a breakout second season in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers. With his third season coming up, what are the next steps in his improvement?
Domantas Sabonis was a key contributor for the Indiana Pacers this past season. He operated primarily as a bench player but appeared as a starter for 19 games due to injuries throughout the year. According to ESPN.com, Sabonis averaged 11 points, seven rebounds, and led the Pacers rotation in field goal percentage with 51.4%.
While his leap in points and rebounds from his rookie year (5.9 and 3.6 respectively, according to ESPN) helped fans forget PG-13, I would like to pose the question: What if Sabonis took ANOTHER step forward?
In short, it could mean a more dangerous team. A team that could match size with Philadelphia and defends well against Boston. It could be just what the Pacers need.
Going in-depth, Sabonis is a player with tremendous skill that some big men can only dream about. He has shown footwork in the paint that could make your head spin and touch with the ball that makes him dangerous when he gets close enough to the basket. He also has shown a willingness to step out behind the three-point line and score from distance.
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His post game will develop as he gets stronger during the summer, but becoming a consistent three-point threat will help him make the leap. His 35 percent three-point shooting last season was fine, but imagine how effective he could be if he was an inside-outside threat?
He has the ability to become a Kristaps Porzingis-esque power forward, big and strong enough to thrive in the paint as well as outside. Rolling up, not just down, on the pick-and-roll would create more space for Victor Oladpio, Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans, and company to drive into the paint as well as a kick-back option for the driving player. It’s a win-win for everyone, except the opposing defense.
Just imagine, Oladipo, coming off of a screen from Sabonis drives and has the option to pull up, finish at the rim, or dish to his teammates who can drill it from outside. That should put a dream-like smile on the face of Pacer fans. Oladipo could be the maestro of a lethal offense next season, especially if Sabonis takes a step forward as a perimeter player.
This development could also be the answer to the million dollar question: Can Sabonis and Myles Turner play successfully on the court together? Sabonis playing outside and not being anchored to the paint would give Turner more room to work in the paint and gives the Pacers a big lineup with five guys that can consistently nail the three-point shot.
The defensive end of the floor is an area where Sabonis could improve some as well. He is fine on that end of the court as is, but being able to defend more effectively outside the paint would make Domas more well rounded as a player. Additionally, this would make playing Sabonis and Turner together more palpable, something that is crucial to the future of the Pacers organization.
In many ways, Sabonis’ development could be the key to next season. Do the Pacers take advantage of the LeBron-less East and grow more dangerous as a team? Or, will they simply be good, but not great? A better Sabonis leading a stronger bench or starting beside Turner would help the Pacers get from good to great.
While I was unable to recognize – or pronounce – Sabonis’ name back in June of 2017, in July of 2018 he has begun to make a name for himself in Indiana as well as the NBA. If Sabonis can take that next step forward, his name will no longer be unrecognizable.