A brand-new column this week. For Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity, I will bring a short column that highlights something about this team that gives me hope. The season is long. The Pacers may not win many games (especially without Myles Turner). We need to focus on the positives. This week, it’s Domantas Sabonis.
To talk about the Paul George trade anymore just feels like a desperate Facebook search for an ex-girlfriend to see if she still likes mushrooms on her pizza. You know she does, and you know she is gross. Paul George is gone.
Nearly every major media outlet, blog, and Twitter account destroyed the Pacers for their haul of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. I was a little more positive about the deal than most.
We knew what we would get with Oladipo: a gritty guard with great athleticism and the ability to score, albeit with limited efficiency.
We did not really know what we would get with Sabonis, but I was cautiously optimistic based on a deeper dive into his shooting splits and expected growth of a young player getting out of the one-man show in OKC.
So far, that cautious optimism has been rewarded. Through three games, Sabonis is averaging 12 points and 9 rebounds, logging early season highs in minutes (30), points (18) and rebounds (12) against the Heat Saturday night in place of the injured Turner. What’s better, he is boasting a healthy 63% field goal percentage, lessening fears about his efficiency after shooting just 39.9% his rookie year as he was stuck on the perimeter.
He’s been a joy to watch on the receiving ends of pick and rolls with Lance Stephenson and the other Pacers players. His dunks are monstrous hammers slamming down like Thor over a boring Marvel villain. He fights for every rebound even when he gets raked across the face enough to draw blood.
He is proving that if given minutes, he will produce, and he is causing his doubters to pause to consider his rookie season in a new light. How much did OKC’s system impact his opportunities? How hard did he hit the rookie wall? Will he continue to look like a key rotation player and a long-term piece for the Pacers?
My quick answers would be: more than expected, HARD, and yes. Sabonis gives me hope, not only because he is scoring and looking strong doing so, but he is constantly hustling and creating extra opportunities that make him very easy to celebrate.
He has yet to make a 3-pointer, shooting from distance only twice, and that is an area of his game that I expected to improve this year, but there is time and it doesn’t seem like a huge focus of his offense this season. But, this is a column about hope, not concern. Sabonis has been a bonus.
Bonus Sabonis Highlights: