Domantas Sabonis 2019 Season Review

Pacers center Domantas Sabonis reflects on the 2018-19 campaign, discusses how the team overcame adversity, and talks about how he plans to attack the offseason with an eye to playing more alongside Myles Turner.

Domantas Sabonis 2019 Player Review

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Domantas Sabonis 2019 Season Review

Pacers center Domantas Sabonis reflects on the 2018-19 campaign, discusses how the team overcame adversity, and talks about how he plans to attack the offseason with an eye to playing more alongside Myles Turner.
May 3, 2019  |  04:31

Domantas Sabonis 2018-19 Season Highlights

Check out some of the top plays from Pacers center Domantas Sabonis' 2018-19 season.
May 3, 2019  |  01:00

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Player Review 2019: Domantas Sabonis

by Mark Montieth Writer

Age: 23
Years Pro: 3
Status: Entering the fourth season of his rookie contract. Is eligible for an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline.
Key Stats: Averaged 14.1 points on 59 percent shooting (a franchise record) and a team-high 9.3 rebounds. Had 30 double-doubles; 27 of them were as a reserve, most in the league for non-starters.

Domantas Sabonis looms over the Pacers' puzzling roster as a crucial and versatile piece that can be used in multiple ways — but also poses a major challenge.

Should he start? Should he continue to come off the bench? Is he a forward? A center? Can you use him adequately without displacing the pieces around him? And, of course, the oft-asked and still-debatable question: Can he and Myles Turner co-exist for more than a few minutes at a time?

Those questions likely will be answered over the summer as Kevin Pritchard and his staff go about reconfiguring the roster. But given Sabonis' eagerness for an expanded role in the operation and his eligibility for a contract extension this fall, it appears likely he'll be more prominent next season.

PHOTO GALLERY: Domantas Sabonis' 2018-19 Season in Photos »

The case can be made that Sabonis is the Pacers' best player, all things considered beyond the most superficial stats. He was the team's leading rebounder (9.3) and set a franchise record for field goal accuracy (59 percent). He also led the team in double-doubles with 30 and led the NBA in double-doubles while playing off the bench with 27.

He ranked third in scoring (14.1) while ranking eighth in playing time, an obvious reflection of his efficiency. He was the Pacers' second-leading scorer (behind Oladipo) on a per-minute basis, and the grand champion of the advanced analytics. He dominated their Player Efficiency Rating, which measures all of the contributions a player can make and factors in playing time, at 21.9. Myles Turner was second at 18. He also led in per-minute Win Shares, which breaks down how many of a team's victories a player contributed, at .197. Darren Collison was second at .153.

All of those numbers don't summarize a reserve who ranks eighth in average playing time, and Pritchard sounds as if he's ready to address it with his summer moves. Pritchard talked in his season-ending press conference a year ago about finding 30 minutes a game for Sabonis, and has repeated it this year. Sabonis has never complained about his role, but indicated to Pritchard in his exit interview he wants a greater workload.

"I think we need to figure out how to get him a bigger role," Pritchard said. "He is a major force offensively. He can be a player who has a huge impact; not just as a sixth man but maybe as a starter."

Domantas Sabonis, Juancho Hernangomez

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Making Sabonis a starter brings into play the issue of pairing him with Turner. They played together sparingly two seasons ago without success, but had a positive impact when they played together more often this past season. The prospect of two 6-foot-11 players operating in sync is enticing, and could give the Pacers something other teams can't match up with, but will require both of them to expand their skill set. Turner will need to develop post-up skills, and Sabonis will need to become a more consistent perimeter scoring threat. The fact he hit 9-of-17 3-pointers this past season and hit 44 percent of them over his first 30 games as a rookie with Oklahoma City offers solid evidence that he can.

Those who think it can't happen and that the Pacers will have to trade one of them should check birth certificates. Turner turned 23 on March 24 and Sabonis turns 23 today (May 3). They haven't exactly peaked. They also love playing together and in fact are close friends. They could be resentful of one another because they take minutes from one another, but instead are each other's loudest cheerleader.

Pritchard and Nate McMillan both expressed optimism about the pairing in Wednesday's press conference, a not-insignificant element of the debate.

The Pacers have had a guy like Sabonis before. Detlef Schrempf was voted Sixth Man of the Year in 1991 and '92, and the advanced analytics were as kind to him as they were to Sabonis. He was measured as the team's second-best player behind Reggie Miller in the 1990-91 season and the best player, Miller included, the following season.

Schrempf was voted the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year both of those seasons — when he was 28 and 29 years old, by the way — but grew impatient with his role and became a starter for the following seven seasons before playing off the bench the final two.

Sabonis is at a similar crossroads now. It appears time for him to get on the main highway.

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Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.


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