Domantas Sabonis does a lot of basketball things at an exceptional level. He’s an elite passer, elite rebounder, near-elite foul drawer, and a very good offensive finisher. And despite all the areas where he excels, volume scoring is the one thing really keeping him out of the conversation among the elite offensive big men in the game today.
Sure, it’d be great if Sabonis suddenly developed a consistent outside jumper, and growth as a shooter would certainly contribute to fixing my shot volume critique, but I think the easiest solution is this –– Sabonis should be taking more shots. The Kings will hopefully empower him to do so.
Sabonis has only averaged more than 20 PPG once in his career: 20.3 PPG in 2020-21 with the Indiana Pacers, his last All-Star season.
In fairness to Domas, he’s already proven himself as an All-Star level contributor without prolific scoring. He was an All-Star with the Pacers in 2019-20 averaging 18.5 points on just 13.7 shot attempts. The Pacers went 45-28 that year, finishing 4th in the Eastern Conference. Increasing shot volume is not something Sabonis has to do. I’m just wondering if it’s something he should do to take his game, and the Kings, to the next level.
The Kings only had Sabonis for 15 games last season, so the data isn’t great, but he finished 2nd on the team in shot attempts (13.5) post-trade. It would be really tough for Sabonis to overtake De’Aaron Fox in shot attempts, so 2nd on the team sounds right in the offensive hierarchy, but I’d still love to see that number increase.
I’ll use Nikola Jokic as the example here. Jokic was an All-Star for the Denver Nuggets in 2019-20 scoring 19.9 points per game on 14.7 shot attempts. Jokic displayed similar strengths to Sabonis in those early All-Star years –– great passing, great shot creation, great rebounding, and not-so-prolific scoring.
Jokic’s shot volume exploded from there (18 FGA in 2020-21, and 17.7 FGA in 2021-22) and he would go on to win back-to-back MVP awards. And it wasn’t his 3-point volume that did it –– Jokic and the Nuggets made a conscious effort to instill aggressiveness and get him the ball where he was most effective. His increased aggressiveness resulted in more shot attempts, more free throws, and more efficient scoring.
We can safely assume Sabonis isn’t going to be Nikola Jokic, but there is a middle ground reality where the Kings do feed him the ball more in positions to score, and Sabonis is more aggressive in looking for his own shot, and he does draw more fouls, and this helps the Kings win more games, and gets Sabonis into that elite offensive big man conversation.
The Kings don’t need Sabonis to make a scoring volume leap in order make the play-in game. If Domas plays like his regular very-good self and the rest of his teammates do their part, that should be enough. But I’m very intrigued by the notion that Sabonis has one more offensive leap in him, and how that could turn the Kings into a playoff team instead of a play-in contender.