NBA Position: PF
General Information: 20-year-old sophomore, played at Gonzaga. From Portland, Oregon.
Measurables: 6'10.5", 238 lbs. 6'10.5" wingspan.
2015-16 Season Statistics: 17.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 2.9 TOPG (38 games played, 31.9 minutes per contest) - 61.1% FG, 76.9% FT, 35.7% 3P
Sabonis is a smart, multi-talented big man with the developing skill set to be a solid stretch-four. He'll have to learn to play against stronger, faster opponents on a nightly basis, but he offers an NBA team a tough competitor who made serious improvements over the past year.
Sabonis has a number of good post moves in the paint, including a killer lefty hooker and some nice up-and-unders. He's naturally a lefty and is too left-dominant, but he's developed a significant low-post game over the past two years in a Gonzaga program that demands consistency in the low-post. DraftExpress says Syngery ranked Sabonis third in the country in post efficiency and seventh in post scoring last season. He had good size and strength for a collegiate athlete, and should (needs to) continue to bulk up. His limitations are his lack of explosiveness; he plays completely below the rim, and will have to figure out more moves and rely less on outmuscling when he's already in the paint.
Over the past two seasons he's developed a well-rounded offensive game—almost 40% of his 17.5 points this season come from two-point jumpers, and made 47.7% of them. It's possible he could stretch that out to the three-point line, but that would be a bonus, not an expectation (he was 5 of 14 from three this season). With that said, Sabonis has shown more with a jumpshot than other stretch-four prospects in the draft such as Marquese Chriss and Henry Ellenson. He isn't going to be a threat to attack the basket off the fake—he'll keep up in an offense, but he's not likely to win many footraces with his matchup on a nightly basis.
Sabonis is also a good passer, with good vision and great hands. His 11.3% assist rate climbed towards the end of the year as he adapted to more and more attention thrown his way on offense. He played well within Gonzaga's system, sometimes a bit out of control but m making the right move most of the time. He's a smart, team-oriented player with a solid foundation of offensive skills and instincts.
While Sabonis always plays tough, his defense is limited by his less-than-great physical tools. He's got average height for a NBA big, less-than-ideal length, and minimal explosiveness. I'd be less worried about these tools if he's able to fill out, but he's not going to be a rim protector (0.6 blocks per game and a terrible 2.6% block rate), and will not be able to handle most NBA centers.
Sabonis is the second best in the draft class at both defensive rebounding rate (28.2%) and total rebounding rate (20.7%), behind 2nd round hopeful Joel Bolomboy from Weber State. He does a great job of outworking his rivals and reading the ball. While his lack of length will be more obvious at the pro-level, his ability on the glass is his most NBA-ready skill.
Sabonis is a smart player who sees the floor well on both ends. While his physical size won't be intimidating without much more muscle, he's a tough competitor who will learn how to get around some limitations. It pains me as a Saint Mary's alumni to complement our rivals, but the Gonzaga program is one of the best in the country, and Sabonis was the visual leader throughout their Elite Eight run. Gonzaga did a great job preparing Kelly Olynyk for the NBA, and he had some of the same weaknesses as Sabonis when he was drafted in 2013.
If you assume that his jumpshot continues to develop, I think Sabonis will a great role playing big, and one who is smart enough to develop into a starter in the right situation. I believe he has a higher floor than Marquese Chriss or Henry Ellenson (both lack his basketball IQ and low-post toughness), but he also has a lower ceiling and higher physical limitations.
In case you aren't aware, that last name is not a coincidence. Domantas is the son of Arvydas Sabonis, one of the most decorated foreign players in the sports' history. Domantas doesn't have his fathers' sheer glacial size, but it does lend evidence that he can add some bulk; many of his defensive issues could be solved if he can get big enough to stay with most power forwards.
Fit with Sacramento:
I think Sabonis is a better fit for the currently constructed Kings roster than Jakob Poeltl (8th ranked on my big board), and Sabonis did great against Poeltl I a Gonzaga romp in their NCAA tournament matchup. Sabonis had a fantastic final month of the season, averaging 19.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game on 69.8% shooting.
It's hard for me to see Sabonis as the BPA at pick number 8, but he's got a higher floor than some of the projects in the Kings draft area. A lot will come down to his defensive development—he'd need to get big enough to avoid constant post-ups, or DeMarcus Cousins/Willie Cauley-Stein will have to help too often.
I could envision Sabonis playing a mini-Vlade Davic role in an offense; while Sabonis' passing skills are nowhere near Vlade in his prime, he's got great hands and reads the defense well from the post. If his jumpshot continues to develop, I think Sabonis will offer a very versatile forward who can play multiple roles on both ends of the court.
As always, check out the DraftExpress breakdowns.