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Domantas Sabonis is connecting everything for the Kings

Sabonis’ passing, screening and overall playmaking have been infectious for Sacramento

Indiana Pacers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In Sunday’s 110-101 win over the Chicago Bulls, Domantas Sabonis controlled the game despite only attempting four shots. Sabonis’ performance in that game was a microcosm of how he’s connecting everything for the upstart Sacramento Kings this season.

Sabonis finished with 11 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, which was his first triple-double of the season. Without Sabonis, there is no early season turnaround, there is no elite offense and there are no realistic playoff aspirations.

Through 22 games, Sacramento is in the top five in offensive rating, assist to turnover ratio, effective field goal percentage and true shooting thanks in enormous part to Sabonis’ role as a connector. With his low post game and rebounding productive as advertised, where Sabonis is really unlocking things is with every thing else he does on the court, some of which ends up in traditional box scores, some which doesn't.

Sabonis’ dribble handoffs have become one of the main entrées in Sacramento’s offensive menu. In fact, Sacramento runs more dribble handoffs than any team in the league and scores more points per possession off of dribble handoffs (DHOs), almost all because of Sabonis.

Despite being new teammates, Sabonis and Kevin Huerter have already developed remarkable chemistry in the two-man game. Until some recent struggles, Huerter was playing the best basketball of his career, thanks in large part to his two-man game with Sabonis. Sabonis has perfected the timing and decision-making process of this play with Huerter.

Sabonis is also a smart enough decision maker to know when or when not to hand the ball off to Huerter and other Kings’ guards in this action. Occasionally, Sabonis will get called for a moving screen, but with the frequency the Kings are using this action, that’s to be expected.

It’s not just Huerter who is thriving off this action, Malik Monk, Terrence Davis and others are also enjoying success and getting comfortable playing off Sabonis in these situations.

Kings players know to continue to move when Sabonis has the ball because he is constantly looking to set them up. In addition to the healthy dose of DHOs, Sabonis is adept at finding teammates cutting backdoor.

When Sabonis has the ball at the top of the key, defensive players’ heads are scrambling trying to make sure no shooters can open off the DHO, which leads them to fall asleep, leaving an open backdoor to the rim.

Whether that be in transition, on handoffs or on back cuts, Sabonis almost always makes the right pass.

Speaking of transition, Sabonis is one of the rare big men you trust and want to grab and go after getting a rebound. It might seem like a minor thing, but not having to immediately hand the ball off to a guard gives the Kings’ an advantage.

Sabonis is also one of the best post scoers in the NBA, which means defenses often have to send an extra guy to help on him in the post, which often leads to wide open shots for Sacramento. If you are trying to guard him one-on-one in the post, then Sabonis is more than comfortable eating contact and trying to finish or at least get to the line.

Another area where Sabonis is starting to shine is his improving three-point shot. It’s clear defenses still don’t respect Sabonis from behind the line, but after some early season struggles in that area, Sabonis is now making the defense pay, having hit 9 of his last 15 three-pointers.

If Sabonis continues knocking down threes, then Sacramento’s offense becomes even more difficult to guard.

There are only a handful of players in the NBA that amplify their teammates as much as Sabonis does. The addition of Sabonis alone completely altered Sacramento’s play style the second he put on a Kings jersey in February. The days of your-turn, my-turn basketball in Sacramento were gone once Sabonis put on a purple jersey.

His play style is noticeably infectious with his teammates. When the Kings get into an offensive rhythm, it is often sparked Sabonis’ passing and screening. When you know you are going to be rewarded for good cuts and moving around, it makes you want to return the favor to teammates.

The Kings made a huge, franchise altering investment in Sabonis last trade deadline, and so far, it is paying off in a major way.