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Pacers Have True Centerpiece In Domantas Sabonis

Through the first half of the NBA season, Domantas Sabonis has been as reliable as they come for the Pacers. What’s the ceiling for the 21-year-old big guy?

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INDIANAPOLIS – In 14 NBA seasons, the names Kevin Love and Domantas Sabonis stand alone in Al Jefferson’s mind.

Those two, Jefferson says, are the smartest young players he’s ever played with.

It took Jefferson about a week into this past Training Camp before it started to click in trying to see why Sabonis was so skilled, and so intelligent.

Wait, that is Arvydas Sabonis’ kid?

“When I found out who is daddy was, that’s why he’s so advanced,” Jefferson recalls of finally hearing about the Sabonis’ lineage back in September.

“He’s got a great IQ for a young guy. I was very impressed with not just his post game, but his overall game and how smart he is. He’s able to do so much as a big man and when I found it who his pops was, it all made sense.”

While Domas (who stands 6-11 and 240 pounds) doesn’t have the menacing size of his father (who was 7-3 and nearly 300 pounds), the high-level of skill is apparent in even more ways.

The younger Sabonis has easily been one of the Pacers’ most consistent players in his first season in Indiana.

From averaging 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds off the bench, Sabonis is obliterating the rookie numbers he put up in starting 61 games last year for the Thunder.

Lately, Sabonis’ efficiency from the field has been scary good.

Since the New Year, Sabonis has made 27-of-37 shots from the floor, shooting a blistering 73 percent.

The Pacers have not been afraid to use Sabonis at the 4 or 5 position, providing Nate McMillan some versatility with his lineups.

“We felt like he had a lot of potential and we are starting to see that,” McMillan says of the second-year big man. “We are starting to try and use him and put him in position to do a lot of things for us. Defensively, when we are playing against smaller lineups, he’s guarding smaller players. When we have big lineups, we can put both he and Myles (Turner) in the game, sliding (Sabonis) to the 5 spot and allowing him to really initiate that offense and get the ball moving.

“A lot of potential there and I think we are just scratching the surface on him.”

The night Sabonis was drafted by the Orlando Magic in June of 2016, he was on the move to Oklahoma City.

One year later, Sabonis was dealt again, packaged with Victor Oladipo for a second straight summer.

Together, they’ve given the Pacers a new, promising look at the future of the blue and gold.

“I always joke with him,” Oladipo says of Sabonis, “saying you are glued to my hip now, bro. We got traded (in Orlando). We got traded the next year. You might as well just stay with me the rest of your career.”

Fans in Indiana would love that.

“I don’t think I would have a problem with that either,” a smiling Oladipo says.

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