It’s been pretty quiet on the Domantas Sabonis front lately.
Back on Dec. 7, the Athletic’s Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz reported that the Pacers were “receptive in trade dialogue with rival teams regarding multiple veteran players” on their roster, including Sabonis. A few days later, Charania added that the two-time All-Star is “expected to generate strong interest” around the league and will be “among the attractive players who could be available in a trade.”
However, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on “The Hoop Collective” podcast in mid-December that he hadn’t heard Sabonis’ name much in the trade market. Not yet, anyway.
We’re still a month out from this season’s trade deadline. Even if there isn’t much chatter about Sabonis right now, he could be one of the best players available. (The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor and The Action Network’s Matt Moore also reported that they’ve heard he wants out of Indiana, which would add another layer to all of this, though Pacers reporter Scott Agness said that’s false.)
With that in mind, here’s what Sabonis brings to the table, plus a few potential trade destinations for him.
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What a team would be getting in Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis has undergone a pretty dramatic transformation since entering the league. Whereas Oklahoma City used him as a stretch four in his rookie season, he has since turned himself into a bruising center who eats double-doubles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Over the last two and a half seasons, Sabonis has been good for 19.4 points and 12.1 rebounds on a nightly basis. He’s recorded a total of 126 double-doubles during that stretch, putting him behind only three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert (129) and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (132) for most in the league.
Sabonis generates his offense in ways you’d expect a traditional center to. Not only is he a highly-skilled scorer with his back to the basket…
…but he’s one of the league’s best pick-and-roll bigs.
What he lacks in the athleticism department he makes up for with his footwork, touch and general know-how — when to set a hard screen, when to slip, where to position himself to open up passing lanes.
He also consistently ranks among the league leaders in scoring off of cuts and putbacks.
He’s not much of a shooter, but Sabonis offers some hope of spacing.
After eliminating 3s from his game in his first three seasons with the Pacers, he attempted 2.6 3-pointers per game last season while connecting on them at a 32.1 percent clip. Not much has changed so far this season — he’s taking 2.5 3-pointers per game and making them at an almost identical rate (32.3 percent).
Sabonis will shoot from midrange every so often as well, though the results have been quite up-and-down to this point of his career. In his first four seasons, he combined to shoot a respectable 194-for-485 (40.0 percent) from midrange. Since then, he’s 34-for-122 (27.6 percent) from that distance.
Sabonis isn’t just a scorer, of course. In addition to those 19.4 points and 12.1 rebounds, he’s averaged 5.5 assists per game over the last two and a half seasons, ranking him seventh among forwards and centers.
He’s a genuinely good passer, particularly out of the post and elbow.
The biggest concern with Sabonis comes on the other end of the court. Not that he’s a lost cause, but he’s never been much of a rim protector due to his physical limitations and he doesn’t profile as someone who would thrive in a switch heavy-scheme. Because of that, Sabonis would benefit greatly from playing alongside versatile defenders.
Potential trade destinations for Domantas Sabonis
Charlotte Hornets — Center is a position of need for the Hornets. There’s an argument to be made that they’d be better off with Myles Turner because he gives them more of what they’re lacking — a defensive anchor who can protect the rim at a high level — but Sabonis would give them even more firepower offensively.
Toronto Raptors — The Raptors have reportedly shown an interest in Sabonis in the past. The Raptors would be able to surround Sabonis with a number of versatile defenders and he would give them a low post presence they haven’t had since Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. Only 25, Sabonis is a decent fit in Toronto’s timeline.
Dallas Mavericks — The Mavericks would benefit from having another creator on their roster. While Sabonis isn’t a traditional playmaker, he’d be able to take some of the playmaking burden off of Luka Doncic’s shoulders. Sabonis and Kristaps Porzingis would form an interesting frontcourt duo — assuming, of course, that Dallas could get Sabonis without giving up Porzingis.
Golden State Warriors — Sabonis would be a fascinating addition to the Warriors, who have the means to make a big move if they want. Defensively, Draymond Green could cover for a lot of his weaknesses. Offensively, Sabonis would have a field day playing in Steve Kerr’s motion-based system as a passer and cutter next to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Sacramento Kings — The Kings are one of two teams The Athletic’s Shams Charania mentioned as having “shown interest” in Sabonis in recent years. A two-time All-Star, Sabonis would bring some star power to a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005-06.
What is Domantas Sabonis’ salary?
Sabonis is on the books for $18.5 million this season. He’ll make $18.5 million in 2022-23 and $19.4 million in 2023-24.
Sabonis will be an unrestricted free agent in the 2024 offseason.
It wouldn’t be difficult for teams to match Sabonis’ salary, but the Pacers are said to have an “extremely high value” on him. Safe to assume it will take quite a lot to get him.
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