There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Domantas Sabonis is a high-level player. He is arguably the best player on the Sacramento Kings roster and the closest thing to an All-Star the city has seen for quite some time.
Before coming to the Kings via the Tyrese Haliburton trade, Sabonis was the franchise player of the Indiana Pacers. After being traded there in his sophomore season, he blossomed into a player with star potential and one of the Eastern Conference’s most skilled big men. In four and a half seasons with the Pacers, Sabonis averaged 16.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists while also being named an Eastern Conference All-Star twice in both 2020 and 2021.
And even without any practice or chemistry, his numbers stayed consistent after coming to the Kings. His numbers in Indiana last season are nearly identical to his numbers in his 15 games with the Kings. Here are a few of his best stat lines over the course of those 15 games:
- Feb. 16 - 22 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals
- Feb. 24 - 33 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, 2-3 3PT
- Mar. 14 - 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 10-10 FT
- Mar. 18 - 30 points, 20 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, 1 steal
Sabonis is one of the most well-rounded players in the league. He’s a tenacious rebounder, has great footwork, an insane basketball IQ and the ability to both pass and score seemingly at will. But one of his most valuable traits is his dependability. Not only is he consistent on the court, but in the era of load management, Sabonis is always readily available.
DOMANTAS SABONIS WITH AUTHORITY pic.twitter.com/hMBRj2NVlb— Kings Film Room (@SacFilmRoom) October 10, 2022
As a member of any team, the best ability is availability. This is an issue Sacramento has dealt with in its front court for quite some years now, as recently as last season with Richaun Holmes. Having Sabonis on the court as much as possible is something the Kings will desperately need if they are to make a playoff push this year.
What is the best-case scenario for Sabonis?
Now with a full offseason and training camp to gel with his teammates, Sabonis is going to need to lead this team alongside De’Aaron Fox. The NBA has a long history of guard/big duos. Penny and Shaq, Kobe and Shaq, Magic and Kareem, Stockton and Malone. The list goes on and on. As for the Kings new dynamic duo, it didn’t even take 10 games for them to earn the nickname “the fox and the ox”. This season they will be looking to prove the world wrong and establish themselves as one of the league’s elite duos.
McNair is a huge fan of the Fox and Ox duo— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) March 23, 2022
The latest "Kings Central" with @KyleDraperTV and GM Monte McNair debuts tonight following Kings Postgame Live: https://t.co/c21KyOWKu0 pic.twitter.com/aeYcrKwgAJ
When Sabonis joined the Kings, something changed inside of Fox. He moved differently both on and off the court as there was a swagger about him that hadn’t been seen in some time. This level of confidence and braggadocio is something this revamped Kings team needs to play with, unlike the lethargic and ever dispossessed teams we’ve seen for the last 16 years.
Best-case scenario, Sabonis quietly earns his third All-Star nod. Though Fox is the franchise player and the guy the Kings will live and die with, Sabonis will be just as important to the team's success, but in a different way. While Fox has the explosive energizing games that everyone notices, Sabonis will need to continue doing what he always does and have his quiet but mighty double double. He is the anchor of the Kings. While everyone else will have their bad nights and look to Fox to make a play, Sabonis will be right there to do all the little things and keep the team afloat.
Every person has heard the phrase “as strong as an ox”. Sabonis will need to be stronger than ever this season as he will be pulling Sacramento out of basketball hell the way an ox pulls a plow through the fields. There’s a reason the Kings traded for him last season. Now it’s time for Sabonis to show us that he was worth it.