Domantas Sabonis, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s rookie, is a malleable piece for the team and the Thunder are molding him into a fine player.
The much talked about trade between the Orlando Magic and the Thunder involved an undervalued component. The Thunder received the 11th pick from the Magic and Sabonis made his way to OKC. The rookie player wasn’t expected to produce much, but in his unforeseen role he isn’t shying away from the challenge.
At 20 years old, Sabonis didn’t come in wide-eyed and bushy tailed. Playing professionally for Lithuania in this past year’s Olympic Games, and of course being the son of Hall Of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, the game doesn’t seem to be too big to handle for the young forward out of Gonzaga. Not to mention, getting the starting nod from head coach Billy Donovan seems like an underrated part of his development.
Only averaging a little over 20 minutes a game, this a win-win situation for the team going forward and for Sabonis’s maturity. He’s rarely ever on the floor without Westbrook or another starter – he’s logged more than 500 minutes of his time on the floor with Westbrook, upwards of 85% of his floor time. That much time on the court with the starters helps in his improvement of good habits and poise.
He is only averaging about one turnover a game, another by-product of Donovan’s sublime deployment of Sabonis.
When he is on the court he’s effective. Sabonis is averaging ten points, two assists, and six rebounds per 36 minutes — shooting 44% from the field and 42% on three-point shots. In two years at Gonzaga, Sabonis attempted all of 14 threes. He’s had 13 attempts already in December in only six games. This further shows how the Thunder are using Sabonis’ potential to mold him into the much coveted factotum power forward.
Sabonis’ confidence in his shot and his role is steadily growing. His six shots per game usually come in the flow of what the Thunder are doing on offense. His relatively low usage percentage indicates that as such.
Interestingly, every three point shot made by Sabonis has been assisted by another player.
Sabonis, however is going to have to begin to take more shots in the post. His predecessor at the starting four spot, Serge Ibaka, never was really able to gain a reliable post game that the Thunder could go to when the offense was stale. Sabonis is taking less than one post shot a game. With 65% of his shots coming from 10-16 feet, adding an arrow into his offensive quiver would be wise.
The lefty Sabonis would also be wise to develop the ability to use either hand to some degree. It seems as if he has an obvious affinity for his left side. That can lead to a pretty simple scouting report.
The Thunder have an important piece going forward in Sabonis. With his skill set and level of potential, Domantas has the rare chance of being a special player. It’s up to the front office, coaches, and teammates to make sure that his development doesn’t hit any snags and progresses smoothly. The onus is also on Sabonis to take advantage of his potential and his opportunity to add his name to Sabonis folklore.