Indiana Pacers: 5 Positive Domantas Sabonis Takeaways from this season

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

Domantas Sabonis has had a career year with the Indiana Pacers

Not many people expected an All-Star season when Domantas Sabonis asked the Indiana Pacers front office to insert him into the starting lineup at the end of last season.

Steadily improving in his first four seasons, Sabonis has taken a huge leap this year and is starting to make his new four-year, nearly $75 million contract that starts next year look like a bargain.

The ceiling looks incredibly high for the gritty, tough power forward from Lithuania.

Let’s take a look at five positive takeaways from Domantas Sabonis’s breakout year.

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Domantas Sabonis has become a focal point of the Pacers offense

Victor Oladipo’s absence and the influx of new Pacers who would need time to learn how to play with one another created a void for someone to be the go-to guy on offense.

Although the Pacers hit the ground running with the new additions of T.J. Warren, Malcolm Brogdon, and Jeremy Lamb in the starting five, the offense has run through Sabonis.

As Josh Wilson examined, the Pacers utilized Sabonis’ great passing skills more this year and put the ball in his hands a lot more this year than any previous season.

Sabonis is sixth in the NBA in touches with an average touch time of fewer than two seconds per touch. His quick decision making with the ball has been a huge bonus for the Pacers, resulting in a career-high 5 assists per game.

Sabonis has become one of the leading scorers on the team, only slightly behind T.J. Warren.

Averaging a career-high 18.5 points per game, Sabonis has solidified himself as one of the premier power forwards in the league.

Sabonis continues to add to his low-post game and offensive repertoire with an improved mid-range game, hitting eight percent more of his attempts in that zone this season on a slightly increased percentage of attempts.

Sabonis’s team-leading 7.6 win shares a game shows the Pacers didn’t make the wrong decision having Sabonis as one of their main offensive options.

Improved rebounding from Domantas Sabonis

In his first two seasons with the Pacers, Sabonis led the team in rebounding with 8.5 rebounds per game. This season, Sabonis stepped up his rebounding production and averaged 12.4 rebounds, leading to a Pacers franchise record of 50 double-doubles in a season.

Sabonis’ improved strength has helped him on the boards this season.

During his first two seasons with the Pacers, Sabonis averaged 3.2 and 3.7 contested rebounds. However, this season, Sabonis is grabbing 4.7 contested rebounds per game, showing the “lunch-pail and hardhat” type player that Pacers President of Basketball Operations, Kevin Pritchard described him as.

Although the Pacers rank near the bottom of the league in team rebounding, the Pacers big man has been a consistently good rebounder all year.

Domantas Sabonis a great partnership with Malcolm Brogdon

Malcolm Brogdon, the marquee signing for the Pacers this summer, developed a flourishing  partnership with Domantas Sabonis this year. Despite his shooting percentages dipping slightly, Brogdon has teamed up with Sabonis and created an excellent screen and roll game.

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The duo is in the top three on the team in assist points created. With both players having a high basketball IQ, they have fed off each other and dominated defenses at times. Tony East has several great examples at The Fieldhouse of how the two players execute their two-man game.

As the players with the ball in their hands the most for the Pacers, both Brogdon and Sabonis can utilize their passing skills to great effect.

Sabonis’s strong screen game gives Brogdon several options and forces defensive players into tough positions. Brogdon’s great passing often results in layups for Sabonis, or he can use a Sabonis screen as a decoy and drive to the basket or shoot a pull-up 2-pointer, where he is shooting a career-high 50.3 percent.

Oladipo and Sabonis have their own chemistry, but Brogdon and Sabonis have proven to play seamlessly together, and we’re only seeing the beginning of this tandem.

Domantas Sabonis has become a proven closer

Victor Oladipo was the Pacers primary closer in close game situations before his injury. Although the Pacers have gone to multiple people in close-game situations during Oladipo’s absence, Sabonis has demonstrated he can be trusted when it matters most.

A recent matchup against the Spurs gives a great example of Sabonis helping close the game. Despite starting the game off rocky, Sabonis’ low-post game shone as he helped the Pacers come from behind for a crucial road win.

Even if the Pacers continue to utilize a closer by committee approach, Sabonis has shown that he can be counted on in tight games.

Domantas Sabonis proved he can play with Myles Turner

The insertion of Sabonis into the starting lineup at the beginning of the season raised questions about whether he could play with Myles Turner on the court.

Turner has transformed his game and seemed to find his groove before the season was suspended. Spacing the floor for Sabonis, Turner is shooting more 3-pointers than ever before, increasing his attempts from 2.6 last season to 4.2 attempts per game this season.

Sabonis is a willing passer to an open Myles Turner on the 3 -point line when defenses collapse, and Turner’s willingness to become a 3-point shooter allows Sabonis to work inside on often undersized defenders.

Turner and Sabonis have also paired well on defense, with Turner being Sabonis’s best defensive partner posting a defensive rating together of 103.6. As one of the best shot blockers in the NBA, Turner is a safety net at the rim for Sabonis and the other Pacers players.

Sabonis and Turner are still working out how to play with each other. Last season, they played less than 450 minutes together. With more time together, expect to see them build on the progress at the end of this season.

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