Domantas Sabonis appears to be the real deal

By TYLER SMITH (@TylerSmith_ISL)
ISL Editor

Domantas Sabonis is off to a great start in his Pacers career. (Photo by Pacers Sports and Entertainment)

Domantas Sabonis is off to a great start in his Pacers career.
(Photo by Pacers Sports and Entertainment)

INDIANAPOLIS —  Domantas Sabonis was often referred to as the “throw-in” from this summer’s trade involving Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder.  After just seven games of the season, he doesn’t look like a throw-in.  He looks like the real deal.

After putting up 22 points and 12 rebounds against the Spurs on Sunday, Sabonis followed that up with another monster night against the Kings on Tuesday night.  He posted his fourth double-double of the season, and it only took him 10 minutes of playing time to get there.  For the night, he finished with 12 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists.  He set a career-high in rebounds and tied his career-high in assists.

In addition to winning, Sabonis has a mission every night: “Coming out there and proving to people I can play,” he said after the win. “We have a chance to show people what we can do.”

“He makes guys better,” Pacers Coach Nate McMillan said. “We want to give him the ball and allow him to make decisions with the ball.  He’s done a real solid job and is making good decisions.”

Fans love dreaming about lottery picks when it comes to trade talk.  So when the Pacers didn’t receive any picks in the Paul George trade, Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard took a lot of criticism from fans and media alike.  What they got instead, however, was two former lottery picks with experience and room for growth.

In the four Pacers wins this season, Sabonis has gone 28-for-29 from the field (97%).  I would say those are video game numbers, but that would be pretty difficult to do even on a video game.

What’s the best part of the Oladipo/Sabonis tandem?  Take your pick.

-They’re both young.
-They both want to be here.
-They’re both under contract for a long time.
-They’re both good teammates.

And as we’ve seen early on this season, they both have much higher ceilings than what most people thought.

Sabonis is just 21 years old and won’t be a free agent until 2020.  Even then, the Pacers will be able to match any offer he receives from other teams.  Combine him with 21-year-old Myles Turner, and 25-year-old Victor Oladipo, and you have a very strong start to the new era of Pacers basketball.

Sabonis had a 23.26 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) going into Tuesday’s game.  That’s good enough for a top-30 spot in the NBA.  Not bad for a “throw-in.”

Overreacting to small sample sizes is never a good thing in basketball.  But these guys aren’t just scoring because of volume shooting or because of the lack of depth on their team.  They’re playing smart, unselfish basketball, and have won four of their first seven games despite missing Myles Turner.

A lot of people laughed at Kevin Pritchard’s trade.  I don’t think many are laughing anymore.


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