Is this town big enough for Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis?

Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images) /

It feels inevitable that the Indiana Pacers will have to choose between Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, and that could come sooner than anyone wants to acknowledge.

It’s hard to see a future for the Indiana Pacers with both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. It just doesn’t feel possible.

Turner is too good, and so is Sabonis. They do different things on the court, and for the most part, they do it well, but when it comes down to it, both play the same position. They are both centers.

Nearly any metric agrees with the notion the two can’t co-exist on the court together. The top three used lineups with the duo from last season all had negative net ratings, roughly giving up 10 points per 100 possessions more than they scored. That’s bad.

There’s a small glimmer of hope as a lineup of those two, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, and Victor Oladipo flipped those numbers around to a major positive, but they only played 19 minutes together.

Another positive counterpoint to this is how the Pacers dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 30 minutes shared the floor together in the playoffs. Indiana outscored them by nearly 30 points per 100 possessions. That’s great.

But the context of the situation makes one wonder how sustainable that is.  Against the Cavaliers, they had a Cavs team that didn’t seem on the same page, had an injured Kevin Love, and a number of matchups that favored Indiana. Indiana was the right foil to nearly drop LeBron and friends in the first round of the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean Sabonis and Turner can work together.

It isn’t a chemistry or ego issue, either. The two worked out together this summer and want the pairing to work according to a tidbit from ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

"Turner and Sabonis spent the summer getting leaner and faster. “We want to make it work,” Sabonis says. “We want the coaches to trust us.” Turner lost weight, went all-in on yoga, and worked to make his hips stronger. “I want us to be interchangeable on defense,” Turner says. Sabonis also focused on hips. Honestly, I have never heard two men talk more about their hips."

Hips don’t lie, but numbers don’t, either. After all, it didn’t work out well in the regular season.

Perhaps there is a way to make it work, but the sample sizes are small and league trends say that making it work isn’t as likely as it fails to work out.

The Pacers are making the right moves to make it work

If the Pacers are going to create a town big enough for Sabonis and Turner, the key is creating lineups that worked in the past. That shooter-heavy lineup of Collison, Oladipo, and Bogdanovic could offer a clue.

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

That lineup shoots no worse than 37 percent from deep and has two ballhandlers. This offseason they added a ball-handler that can shoot (Tyreke Evans), another shooter (Doug McDermott) to the fold.

Those additions give coach Nate McMillan more flexibility in finding another lineup that can have success with Sabonis and Turner together. Tyreke is a more physical player than Collison if Indiana needs that, while McDermott’s slashing and spot-up shooting stretch the floor similar to Bogdanovic.

It’s up to the two centers to stay out of each other’s way after that, and perhaps more importantly, find a way to work together.

‘Horns’ and similar sets are key to making it work. Two bigs move up in the key and at the 3-point line, shooters in the corners, and the ball-handler starting up top.

The players Indiana added this summer fit into that idea perfectly. There are ‘Horns’ sets the Pacers can run where the duo screen, pick and pop, and work together to create offensive opportunities, but they’ll need to cover the floor and track down rebounds defensively as well.

There is potential for this experiment to work, but it certainly feels like there is a thin margin of error with it.

But if it doesn’t work, it’s time for the Pacers to make a choice

Everyone wants it to work. Sabonis and Turner are popular and likable players, but that doesn’t win games. They must get results.

If they are hemorrhaging points, then there is little reason to keep both around, especially when neither will likely come cheap. Turner’s still young and talented enough to expect a Clint Capela-ish contact while Sabonis’ double-doubles certainly will lead to a payday as well.

Unless they can play together, it doesn’t make sense to pay both of them the money they likely will demand.

And if that happens, then the Pacers must make a choice between the two.

Next. Turner must commit mentally to playing the post. dark

The question is when they make a decision on keeping both or moving one of them. Sabonis’ extension was picked up recently, but Turner’s still waiting for his next deal. They can run this experiment through this season since Myles is likely a restricted free agent next summer, but the clock is ticking either way.