Indiana Pacers Profile: The underrated dominance of Domantas Sabonis

Domantas Sabonis (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Domantas Sabonis (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Domantas Sabonis – Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Domantas Sabonis – Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

Domantas Sabonis truly is a star, now it’s just time for the world to take notice.

Welcome to Pacer Profile, the series where myself and 8.9 Seconds contributor Aaron Braaksma take turns breaking down and analyzing the players who will be suiting up in that notorious navy and gold for the Indiana Pacers during the 2020-2021 NBA Season.

Today we are breaking down the skill set, strengths, weaknesses, and projected utilization and production of the Pacers’ star big man Domantas Sabonis.


Scoring: Interior Dominance

From a scoring perspective, Sabonis is making it hard to warrant putting a single defender on him if stopping an easy two points is the opposing team’s objective. In 2019-20, Sabonis was extremely effective inside the arc because of his borderline unarguable post-game, filled with powerful drop steps, soft-touched post hooks, and some nasty post spins that would make his father Arvydas proud.

Each of these look as if they’ve been done hundreds of times, as his footwork might be some of the purest and fundamentally sound in the league.

In the aforementioned 2019-20 season, he took 92% of his field goals from inside the arc and converted on about 56% of these attempts. This speaks volumes about his ability to convert inside, and he gets lots of these buckets after coming out of a pick and roll, where he is a great diving big man out of this pick and roll situation.

To put the icing on the scoring cake, he appears to have some real upside as a shooter, as his standstill mid-range shooting is already a viable option.

Passing: 6-foot-11 offensive hub

Simply put, Domantas Sabonis is in the same tier as a player like Nikola Jokic when it comes to big men who pass like elite floor generals. It’s difficult to find plays where the Pacers’ point forward doesn’t hit the right man in an offensive set, and he routinely manipulates defenses with his needle threading passes to cutters or open three-point bombers like T.J. Warren, Malcolm Brogdon, Doug McDermott, and Justin Holiday.

He seems to know exactly where everyone is on the floor at any given time and he even makes passes based on assumption, not actually seeing a teammate yet, a skill only possessed by elite passers. He is a bit dependent on his left hand when making these plays, but his decision making is quick enough to mitigate this deficiency.

To throw some stats at you, in the 2019-20 season Sabonis made 67 passes a game, which was in the top three of players in the entire league, ahead of star passers like Luka Doncic and Lebron James. Although he only averaged five assists a game, he dished out 8.2 “potential assists” a game, which shows his ability to hit teammates in scoring position.

Rebounding: A real glass-gobbler

Sabonis is becoming one of the better rebounders in the league, and that is largely due to his instinctual “nose for the ball” and more importantly how he utilizes his superior strength and box out skills. Domantas has developed the ability to box out out of necessity because he can’t just out-length everyone like some bigs. Although he is 6-foot-11, his wingspan matches that, which doesn’t allow a lot of error when playing against players with over 7-foot wingspans.

Domantas actually seems to use this as a biological advantage, because it seems that this “average” wingspan for his size has actually allowed him to throw on much more muscle than his tall peers, which in turn can boost his post scoring and the aforementioned rebounding.

In 2019-20, he averaged 12.4 rebounds, which put him in the top five, while being top twelve in offensive rebounding with around three a game. They say whoever controls the glass will win the game, and there are nights when it seems like he is doing that all by himself.

With all of the previously listed strengths being enough to put him among the best big men in the league, there are still serious chinks in his armor that are holding the 24 year old back from superstardom.