Domantas Sabonis is quickly becoming one of the best offensive big men in the game.
Domantas Sabonis has had quite the evolution during his four-year stint in the NBA. In the first year of his career, which was spent with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the former Gonzaga star looked like a bust, as his 39 percent shooting percentage was evidence he wasn’t ready for the vicious world of the NBA low post.
After moving to the Indiana Pacers in the deal that also forced Cheap Paul George Jersey and Cheap Victor Oladipo Jersey to swap places, Sabonis become one of the best reserves in the league, routinely bulldozing second-unit centers and helping the Pacers become part of the furniture in the Eastern Conference postseason.
Last year, Sabonis stepped on the accelerator, making his first All-Star team while averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, all of which are new career highs. He is also one of the best in the league when it comes to production that doesn’t show up in the box score, as only Rudy Gobert was more effective at setting screens last year than him. With an offensive-minded coach in Nate Bjorkgren taking over for the defensive mastermind that is Nate McMillan, expect those numbers to increase this season.
The son of EuroLeague legend, Portland Trail Blazers stud, and Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas might not have his dad’s trademark bulk on the interior, but he has made up for it by becoming a lean, rim-running machine with excellent passing and improving defense.
Though it’s a few months later than usual, coming in early-December instead of late-September, tantalizing-training-camp-video season is here just the same. With ball movement aplenty and nary a missed shot, the latest 56-second offering from Pacers Sports and Entertainment has it all, from the continued use of (mostly small) hybrid lineups to Domantas Sabonis knocking down a three while playing alongside another big that isn’t Myles Turner.
Cutting further through the noise and clutter, however, is an early glimpse at Nate Bjorkgren’s playbook. For the first 20 seconds, as the ball hops around the perimeter with all the crisp speed of a flat stone skipping across the surface of water, two evenly dispersed units are shown orchestrating the same set, which just so happens to be an old favorite of the double-big Pelicans and offensive guru Chris Finch, who — as you may recall — the Pacers interviewed for their coaching vacancy.
With Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins operating like rotating shields, the play is designed to use the four and five-men as double screeners (twice!) to generate open looks for multiple ball-handlers.
Let’s break it down.
Step 1: First, Davis and Cousins set a stagger for Jrue Holiday to come get the ball from Rajon Rondo at the top of the key.
Despite the funky camera angle, and the fact that the action is developing on the opposite side of the floor, that’s also what’s happening, here, when Cheap T.J. McConnell Jersey makes a brief cameo to fire the ball to Cheap Edmond Sumner Jersey on the move.
Step 2: From there, Davis and Cousins shift to the area of floor where middle pindowns are typically set to chase the first stagger with a second. This time, freeing Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore to receive a pass from Holiday.
Again, this exact same choreography is performed by the Pacers, as Cheap Doug McDermott Jersey and Myles Turner shift closer to the baseline to set a second set of consecutive picks, with Cheap Kelan Martin Jersey cutting to the wing in the role of Moore.
Step 3: After that, Bjorkgren puts a twist on a classic. For the Pelicans, Moore drives and kicks off the catch to Holiday, who then misfires on a pull-up, mid-range jump-shot. However, if Davis were more comfortable moving to a spot to spot-up, the option would be there for him to simply back-pedal out to the three-point line, as does McDermott.
Side-by-side, the plays are identical, with the exception of Bjorkgren’s emphasis on finding the deep corner in lieu of possibly flowing into side pick-and-roll.
It’s that departure that makes the clip most interesting. For one, given that Bjorkgren has said that he hasn’t designated starters yet, it seems notable that most of the footage coming out of practice typically involves balanced lineups; in this case, with Turner and Sabonis anchoring separate units alongside a mobile shooter at the four or occasionally Cheap Goga Bitadze Jersey. That alone shouldn’t be taken to mean that the Pacers will be starting with, or leaning mostly on, a smaller attack, but it does seem to reinforce the idea that the team is preparing for a wide-range of playing combinations, including plenty in which their two bigs, making roughly $18 million apiece, are staggered.
Additionally, look back at how Oklahoma City’s defense is scrambling to guard everyone on that possession. When Andre Roberson goes under on the second pick of the first stagger, Steven Adams stunts toward the ball and then jumps back to Cousins. On the second stagger, Adams fully switches to Moore with Paul George veering in front of Boogie. If any one thing goes awry in that sequence, Cousins could get an easy dunk diving in front of a smaller wing or pop out to three against a lumbering five.
That’s a lot of chaos to keep track of, not counting the fact that the Pacers ranked among the bottom third of the league in corner three frequency last season. To that point, for a team that has long struggled to create offense against switching defenses, there’s upwards of five swaps that have to be made to cover that action in addition to a potentially long contest. Remember: Over the last two postseasons, with Boston switching off-ball screens and Miami clamping down on driving lanes, McDermott has gone 2-of-17 from three with only three (total!) attempts coming from the corners.
Granted, this play provides no guarantee of made shots, but at least it offers a more multi-faceted means for generating attempts with other reads and counters already baked-in.
Plus, if nothing else, there’s an easter egg (staggered staggers!) to keep an eye out for during the preseason slate beginning on Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Can Cheap Domantas Sabonis Jersey continue to become a star while playing alongside Myles Turner?
“In this offense (Turner) can stretch the floor and is really tough to guard,” Bjorkgren said. “You’re going to see him being very active. And that’s for both bigs, whether they are on the floor together at times, or one at a time, they’ll be very active out there.”
The biggest questions that are hanging around Sabonis right now involve his defense and his fit alongside Cheap Myles Turner Jersey, as figuring out which big man to put on the floor is the definition of a double-edged sword. When Turner leaves and Sabonis is by himself in the post, the team allows 111 points per 100 possessions, far below what McMillan wanted. When the two are on the floor together, two 6-11 bigs sharing the floor often creates a logjam on the interior. No team shot fewer threes than Indiana last year, and Turner’s 34 percent clip from three-point range isn’t good enough to make him a true weapon there.
Sabonis’ effort on the defensive end is not in question, but he isn’t a great shot blocker and often struggles against some of the stronger centers in the East. Another year with McMillan could’ve helped make that leap and become an above-average player on that end, but Bjorkgren will likely spend most of his time trying to get Sabonis to expand his offensive creativity.
It’s not hyperbolic to declare that Sabonis is a younger, less-accomplished version of Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic given how similar their games are right now. The elder Sabonis was heralded for his slick passing ability, which remains uncommonly precise for a player of his size to this day. That trait appears to be genetic, as the younger Sabonis can control the offense from the elbow while finding shooters for open looks after passing out of the post.
If he can develop a better jumper to make himself more of an offensive threat away from the basket, that could be the missing ingredient that takes this offense to the next level. Most of Sabonis’ shots attempts came right at the rim, and he only showed the ability to extend his range out to the free-throw line.
Where Jokic excels is his ability to pull up from deep, making him a constant threat with the ball in his hands. Sabonis might have a feathery touch near the rim, but back-to-the-basket big men are going the way of the dinosaur in the NBA, and he needs to work on his three-point game in order to become a true offensive superstar.
What made Sabonis’ production even more impressive, in addition to his limited range, was the lack of dynamic scorers to take attention away from him and pace on offense, both of which adversely affected his scoring numbers. With Bjorkgren now in Indiana, Sabonis is a mortal lock to get at least 20 points per game next year.
Considering that a playoff team like Indiana not only dumped a very qualified head coach, but also decided to switch up their coaching style by hiring Bjorkgren, there are plenty of questions surrounding Sabonis, Oladipo, and the rest of the Pacers. However, if Bjorkgren is able to work with Sabonis and continue his evolution on both ends of the floor, he’ll be much higher on this list in 2021.