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Someone please give Domantas Sabonis more minutes

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The 6’11” Lithuanian is having a career year, yet he only plays 24.6 minutes per game.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Charlotte Hornets
Indiana Pacers forward center Domantas Sabonis (11) drives to the basket during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Credit: Sam Sharpe
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

When talking about Domantas Sabonis it’s almost impossible not to mention Myles Turner. The two are essentially attached by the hip because of circumstances neither player could control.

Inevitably a conversation about one player leads to the bashing of the other. But I want to try to do something different. Let’s completely ignore the Turner-Sabonis debate to focus on one simple thing: Sabonis’ breakout season.

The first place to start with Sabonis is his impact when on the court for the Pacers -- that being the fact they’re better in almost every statistical category.

The only other play to have the same statistical impact as Sabonis is Cory Joseph, but the only reason for that is because Joseph is on the court for an average of 21.2 minutes of the 25 Sabonis plays.

Sabonis may not be a stretch five (although we could talk about his 83.3 percent three-point percentage), but his passing actually makes him more effective than just a traditional stretch center because you can put the ball in his hands.

Opposing teams often leave give Sabonis space when guarding him, hoping they can shrink the floor. Except that when you put the ball in Sabonis’ hands and leave him that space, he can turn that into an advantage and make a great pass.

On each of these passes Sabonis does a great job hitting McDermott in stride, making it easier for McDermott to finish the play and score.

Combine Sabonis’ passing with his 64.4 percent shooting percentage and he becomes impossible to stop when he’s got the ball in his hands. That shooting percentage is so high because he makes 81.6 percentage of his shots inside three feet.

I think a heat map of his shooting percentage by area shows just how good of scorer he is in the paint:

And this play against the Lakers is a nice indication of how he functions in the paint with the ball in his hands.

Then there’s the other side of the floor, where Sabonis’ defense has held up when the Pacers aren’t putting him in situations where he has to play in two center lineups.

In general Sabonis is holding opponents to lower field goal percentages than their averages. Opponents are shooting 5.7 points worse on three-point shots when guarded by Sabonis and 1.7 percent worse on two-point shots.

He also continues to have decent defensive instincts, like on this block against Troy Williams.

The last thing that needs to be said about Sabonis is his stat of 14.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists, which he’s doing in just 24.8 minutes of playing time per game.

It isn’t being talked about enough but Sabonis should be both a Sixth Man of the Year and Eastern Conference All-Star candidate.

Sabonis is having a breakout year and is one of the reasons Indiana has remained afloat during Victor Oladipo’s absence. It’s time we start noticing and hopefully he can get more playing time.