Domantas Sabonis is not “That Guy” for the Indiana Pacers

Domantas Sabonis (Photo by Leon Halip/Leon Halip)
Domantas Sabonis (Photo by Leon Halip/Leon Halip) /

So my last article was fairly optimistic in setting individual expectations for the Indiana Pacers starters. That was fun and all and we all felt really good setting positive goals for the team. Right? Great.

Now allow me to say something that no one in the Indiana Pacers organization or fanbase wants to hear: Domantas Sabonis is not “That Guy.”

The Pacers fanbase seemingly have wrapped their arms around a good, not great player, and crowned him as king of the franchise.

Do not get me wrong, Domantas Sabonis is a very good player. Domas has the superpower of consistency. Night in and night out you will get 15+ points and 10+ rebounds. And to his credit, his career will always have two All-Star appearances. He makes the right passes and he sets great screens. Domas is relentless below the rim and on the boards plus he is good at running the floor in transition.

Do you know who else was really good at all that? Jeff Foster.

Ok, to be fair that might be too extreme, and probably unnecessary to make the point. Domas is a much better player right now than Jeff Foster ever was. But a fair comparison could be found within the Pacers’ division: Nikola Vučević.

Go check the stats for yourself. Statistically, there is no one who would take Sabonis over Vučević. And if you examine the Orlando Magic over the past several seasons before they broke up their roster, Vučević was “the guy.” How did that fare you ask? Three years in a row, the Magic suffered first-round exits in the playoffs.

They blew it up and sent their All-Star center to the Bulls. Now considering the way the Bulls have constructed their roster, Vučević is not the guy they are building around. They are building around Zach LaVine and have added Lonzo Ball and Demar DeRozan. Depending on the night he can be option 2A, 2B, and even option 3.

But time and time again, I see Pacers fans and writers alike, mistakingly, crowning Sabonis as the savior of the franchise (read why Luke disagrees with me). I honestly believe it is solely because he is the only current or former “All-Star” on the roster.

But Disney+ and their series “What If” has me wondering. In alternate universes where a single event sends shockwaves and changes outcomes, would Domas get the All-Star bid if Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid weren’t injured in 2020? No. Remember he was selected by the commissioner because those two players were hurt.

What if Victor Oladipo wasn’t hurt in the 2019 season? Domas likely wouldn’t have even gotten the All-Star nod from Pacers fans. Let’s not even mention the increased usage last year because T.J. Warren was hurt inflated his numbers.

But then again, we don’t live in the multiverse. No one can ever take away Sabonis’ two All-Star appearances, and I’m not trying to do that, but we can not create expectations for Sabonis to be a player he can never truly be. That only sets him up for failure and sets us fans up for heartbreak.

As Pacers fans, we grab hold of any optimism we can, and while Domas is a very good player, he absolutely should not be our number one option. I’d be hesitant to say we could honestly contend if he’s our concrete second option.

The Pacers need to take a page from the Chicago Bulls and build a roster that their European center can be option 2B on most nights. Only then will the Pacers be ready to compete in the Eastern Conference. Until that time, repeat after me, “Sabonis is not That Guy.”

Next. Three ways the Pacers can hush their critics. dark