At 23 years of age, Sabonis actually already has a wealth of experience under his belt. In fact, the Lithuanian-American big man has been competing professionally since he was 16, when he played for Unicaja Málaga in Spain. He went on to play his collegiate ball at Gonzaga, where he earned First-Team All-WCC honors in 2016.
Scouts were watching Sabonis’ progression, and it quickly became evident that he had NBA-level talent. He declared for the draft after his sophomore season at Gonzaga and was later selected with the 11th overall pick by the Orlando Magic. However, he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on draft night.
Sabonis played 81 games with the Thunder in his rookie season. His numbers from that campaign aren’t anything to brag about (5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds), but his progression in the following years has been nothing short of impressive.
After just one season in Oklahoma City, Sabonis was traded to the Pacers. Now in his third season with Indiana, his numbers are continuing to rise after he was a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year in 2018-19. He’s a full-blown starter now, averaging 20.0 points on 52.5 percent shooting from the field (27.3 percent from beyond the arc), 13.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 35.6 minutes per outing. As proof of his work ethic on the low block, Sabonis’ 13 rebounds per game are currently ranked sixth in the NBA.
The Pacers got off to a shaky start to this season, losing three straight games. They’ve since recovered, however, and they’re riding the wave of a three-game winning streak. Sabonis, who agreed to a four-year, $74.9 million deal one day before the start of this campaign, led Indiana in Sunday’s 109-102 victory over the Orlando Magic, posting his sixth double-double of the season with 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting, 16 rebounds and seven assists in 38 minutes of action:
The @NBA has a Domas problem 😤😤😤
21 𝘱𝘵𝘴 | 16 𝘳𝘦𝘣 | 7 𝘢𝘴𝘵 pic.twitter.com/Ojbf6AJNwr
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) November 11, 2019
The Pacers are currently dealing with a few injuries in their frontcourt rotation, which means Sabonis will likely see an uptick in his usage rate after he returned from his own injury. Both Myles Turner (ankle) and Goga Bitadze (concussion) have been ruled out for Tuesday night’s matchup against the Thunder. So far, Sabonis has made the most of this increased workload:
Domantas Sabonis is having a best start to the season among all Lithuanians who have played in the NBA. Pacers center is averaging 20 PTS, 13 REB & 4.1 AST through his first 8 games. Only Sarunas Marciulionis had a higher average in any of these 3 categories with 5 AST in 1991-92
— Marius Milašius (@mamilasius) November 12, 2019
Hopefully, Sabonis will be able to maintain this level of production. If he can, the Pacers will likely be in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs.