The Indiana Pacers acquired Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo in the trade that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was a trade that Kevin Pritchard was forced to make, but the media was down on the Pacers for the return that they got for George. Many thought that Indiana did not get a good enough package in return for their franchise player, but the Pacers’ organization couldn’t be happier with the pieces that they got for him.
Sabonis may not be a big name, but he showed a lot of promise in his first NBA season. Heading into his second year, Sabonis will be a major X-Factor for his new team.
Last season with the Thunder, Sabonis ended up averaging 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field overall, but did knock down 32.1 percent of his three-point attempts. Those numbers may not look impressive, but it was the way that he carried himself and his work ethic that speak to his potential for the upcoming season.
Nate McMillan and the Pacers seem to be planning to utilize Sabonis as one of their primary backup big men. He will be given a large role off the bench in a unit that will utilize stretch big men well.
Lance Stephenson has always been known as a top-notch playmaker in the pick-and-roll. Sabonis may have some work to do on his pick-and-roll game, but as a pick-and-pop threat he could make a major impact.
Oklahoma City enjoyed Sabonis’ ability to score the ball from the perimeter. After a full offseason of work, Sabonis is expected to take another step forward as a scorer.
Defensively, Sabonis has a lot of work to do. He is not the most athletically gifted big man, but he made up for that last season with a high basketball IQ. Indiana has a premier shot blocker in Myles Turner, but they will need their bench bigs to hold down the fort defending the paint.
T.J. Leaf is widely expected to pair with Sabonis in the front-court off the bench. Leaf is not known as a defensive threat either, which makes the need for Sabonis’ defensive improvement even bigger. He isn’t going to block multiple shots per game, but if he can react quick enough and at least alter shots, the Pacers’ defense should be just fine.
Needless to say, the Pacers are not expecting Sabonis to unlock his full potential this season. They acquired him to be a long-term piece of the rebuilding process that they are going through. Simply seeing improvement on both sides of the court is what Indiana is hoping for from Sabonis.
His aforementioned work ethic has been a good sign early on for the Pacers. He has been in Indiana working out for a good amount of the time since the trade to the Pacers went down. Sabonis has been focusing on building chemistry with his new teammates and has been open about his excitement to join the franchise.
Expect to see Sabonis show a lot of improvement out of the gate this season. Indiana has a lot of confidence in their young big man and he will have a consistent role this season. Sabonis will take full advantage of the opportunities he will be given and could very well take over the starting power forward job if the Pacers decide to trade Thaddeus Young around the trade deadline.
Sabonis may never develop into a star, but he has the potential to be an excellent role player for the Pacers for years to come.
Do you think Domantas Sabonis is a major X-Factor for the Indiana Pacers this season? What kind of season are you expecting from him? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!