With the lottery order now set in stone, all that is left to do is evaluate the prospects. One of the most impressive and complete prospects in this year's Draft is Domantas Sabonis out of Gonzaga. Given how talented his father, Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, was the bar was set pretty high. However, Domantas has only surpassed expectations up to this point. After putting up 17.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game during his sophomore year, he's now ready to transition to the NBA. His excellent mobility and footwork, dominating presence as a rebounder, seemingly endless motor, and touch as a passer has distinguished himself as the one of the most NBA ready frontcourt prospects in this year's draft.
There are not a lot of young players that have better footwork than Sabonis. Given his pedigree and time spent playing on a professional level since he was 16 in Europe, it should be a surprise to no one that he has excelled in this area. Although he never signed a professional contract, so he could remain eligible to play in the NCAA, Sabonis played on both the junior and senior teams of Unicaja Málaga and also represented his home country of Lithuania in both the European Youth Olympic Festival and the EuroBasket tournament.
Playing against an elevated level of competition, in comparison to the AAU circuit that most American players are groomed in, Sabonis went to Gonzaga with an advanced understanding of how to position himself to not only get buckets in the low post but also grab a lot of rebounds. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Sabonis went off for 21 points and 16 rebounds against Seton Hall. Taking a look at the highlights it is clear to see how he does it, with superior post play. His positioning and footwork make it so he can get to any area he wants on the floor and dominate his opponents.
Footwork and fundamentals aside, Sabonis is the best rebounder in the class by a long shot. He was tied for sixth overall in rebounds-per-game with Ben Simmons and was tied for first amongst major college basketball players, averaging 11.8 per-game. His large 6'10'' 240 pound frame allows him to simply overpower players who contest his rebounds. Alongside that strength and size, he also has outstanding awareness and feel for rebounds. This will be the most translatable part of his game to the NBA level and something he will excel in from the start. Teams always value guys that can come in and impact the game in ways outside of scoring. With Sabonis, teams will get a tenacious, Mason Plumlee or Kevin Love type rebounder.
The most impressive aspect of his game is how great Sabonis is in the pick and roll. His most polished offensive attribute is also his most valuable given the potential it creates for a lot of teams. He sets incredible screens, has amazing hands, a quick first step towards the basket, an almost unstoppable spin move, and is a more than a capable passer if the roll isn't there, He is also developing a face-up game that would make him a threat to finish at the rim, hit a jumper with space, or find the open man out of the pick and roll. Pair all of that with his outstanding motor and rebounding ability and you have a near complete, top five type prospect. There are a lot of aspects that make Sabonis one of the most attractive prospects in the draft there are some concerns about his game.
His 6'10.5'' wingspan and below the rim game are not going to bode well with certain teams. In an era that values players that play multiple positions and puts athleticism in high esteem, Sabonis will look like a throwback. While he has a high motor, plays hard, and is mobile compared to most bigs coming out of college, he is not athletic enough to be considered an energy big by a lot of NBA scouts. He has a narrow frame and small wingspan for a player of his psotion, leaving a lot to be desired on the defensive side of the ball.
Sabonis is not known for keeping opposing bigs out of the paint. He does not protect the rim, averaging well under one block-per-game during his Gonzaga career. His short arms prevent him from contesting shots from taller, more physical post players. They are usually able to push him around and get to their desired spot on the low block. Sabonis was consistently scored on by lesser competition, often playing down to their level as opposed to staying at his.
Given his extreme focus on rebounding, he is often in poor position defensively if he misses out on the board. He almost has tunnel vision after the shot hits the rim, focusing on the board and nothing else. Another flaw in his game as that he's prone to committing fouls, as Sabonis averaged 3.2 PFs per game. He is considered to be a tweener, in the sense that he is offensively a forward or center but defensively he is a better perimeter defender than interior defender, something that might not translate well in the NBA.
Concerns about his defense are legitimate but there are some scouts that are also concerned about how his offensive game will translate to the next level. Sabonis uses his body and strength to bully his opponents on the low block but he is used to inferior, West Coast Conference (WCC) competition. He will face better opponents in the post while in the Summer League than he did in the average WCC game. He struggles against players that are more physical and taller than he is and at only 6'10'', most forwards and centers in the NBA will be larger than he is. Sabonis is also very dependent on his dominant hand. If an opposing player forces him to play off his non-dominant right hand or over his left shoulder he becomes turnover prone and ineffective.
Domantas Sabonis is currently projected to go anywhere from 8th (Sacramento) to 18th (Detroit). Sacramento has a huge hole at power forward, as they moved long-time small forward Rudy Gay to that spot last year. Sabonis is the classic example of an NBA power forward due to his offensive versatility and knack as an offensive rebounder. Those traits could allow him to be a solid fit next to DeMarcus Cousins as Sabonis could take some of the opposition's attention off of the All-Star big. Same can be said about Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons, as they have limited depth at the power forward position Wherever he goes, he will play hard and has the chance to develop into a solid NBA player.