Re-grade: Indiana Pacers were spot on with Domantas Sabonis extension

Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Domantas Sabonis was well worth the money for the Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers, domantas sabonis
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Indiana Pacers and Domantas Sabonis agreed to a four-year, $77 million contract on October 21, prior to the 2019-20 season kicking off.

This agreement on a lengthened stint with the team came down to the wire on the day of the extension deadline, as did several other extensions around the league. The deal was reported at around 4 PM, with the deadline hitting at 6 PM.

Player extensions like this can come with some certain anxiety for the team, which is why they are seldom offered. Sometimes, players lose motivation to continue progressing and adding to their game once they’ve secured a certain guarantee that they’ll have cash coming in for the next several years.

Prior to this extension, the Pacers had reportedly engaged in trade talks with several teams centered on Sabonis, but it’s unclear just how serious those trade talks had gotten. It could have been an opportunity to offload a player they didn’t want to shell out money to, gaining assets while they still could.

Of course, with the Pacers knowing Sabonis’s growth and potential firsthand, an extension was in order. It feels unlikely that the rumored trade talks were anything more than due diligence.

Since this extension went through, things have changed tremendously. By the trade deadline, it would be Myles Turner most frequently mentioned in trade rumors as he struggled to keep his stats afloat with the new frontcourt arrangement.

Sabonis, on the other hand, showed out this season. He upped his per-game averages from 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game last season to 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game this season.

Sabonis has posted a VORP of 2.9 and a box plus/minus of 3.2 this year. He was selected to the first All-Star game of his career and is on track to make an All-NBA team this year.

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This extension was undoubtedly a net-positive for the Pacers. They secured a key piece of their future for four years on a contract that inflates ever so slightly over time.

Though it’s a substantial deal, it is below $20 million per year which allows for maximum cap space to build around as the salary cap presumably increases year-to-year (with the likely exception of this season due to a dip in revenue thanks for COVID-19).

To nail down the true grade on this deal so far, we must compare to other rookie-scale extensions that occurred prior to this season.

Here are the players who got rookie-scale extensions, courtesy of HoopsRumors, not including bonus incentives:

  • Ben Simmons ($33.64 million projected per year, max)
  • Jamal Murray ($33.64 million projected per year, max)
  • Pascal Siakam ($32.48 million projected per year, max)
  • Jaylen Brown ($25.75 million per year)
  • Buddy Hield ($21.5 million per year)
  • Domantas Sabonis ($18.73 million per year)
  • Caris LeVert ($17.5 million per year)
  • Dejounte Murray ($16 million per year)
  • Taurean Prince ($1.27 million per year)

Here is how Sabonis ranks among these players in PER (a per-minute production stat that is standardized so “average” is 15) this season:

  1. Ben Simmons, 20.8
  2. Domantas Sabonis, 20.7
  3. Pascal Siakam, 18.7
  4. Jamal Murray, 17.5
  5. Jaylen Brown, 17.1
  6. Dejounte Murray, 17.1
  7. Buddy Hield, 16.3
  8. Caris LeVert: 15.1
  9. Taurean Prince: 9.2

Did the Indiana Pacers make the right choice when extending Domantas Sabonis’ contract?

The Pacers secured Sabonis on the fourth-cheapest rookie-scale extension prior to this season, and he’s putting up the second-best PER of that group.

This extension is one that we’ll need to monitor and revisit over time.

It could look even better once we come up on the final year of the deal, or it could look worse. It seems as though Sabonis is a long way away from hitting his ceiling, so the deal (which has yet to even kick in officially, it starts for next season) may only appreciate over time.

So far, though, this extension was a slam dunk for Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers.

A. The Indiana Pacers and Domantas Sabonis agreed to a four-year extension prior to the 2019-20 season that has worked out swimmingly for the Pacers. Compared to the market around the other rookie extensions signed this offseason, it may have been the best per-dollar contract extension signed.. . . DOMANTAS SABONIS EXTENSION

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