Friday, March 24, 2023

Kings vs. Timberwolves: Domantas Sabonis shows why Sacramento traded for him in debut win

Two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis put on a show in his Sacramento Kings debut Wednesday night just one day after being traded from the Indiana Pacers. Sabonis finished the game with 22 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in the Kings’ 132-119 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, showing exactly why Sacramento traded for him in the first place. 

Yes, trading away young rising star Tyrese Haliburton is still a tough pill to swallow, and it’s easy to dunk on the Kings for making a trade that could age poorly, but Wednesday night’s debut for Sabonis was at least encouraging for a Sacramento franchise that’s desperate to get back to the playoffs.

The versatile forward picked up right where he left off in Indiana, getting his buckets at the rim, being a pick-and-pop threat and being active on the glass. He also showed off his passing ability, like this lob he delivered to Chimezie Metu from the 3-point line for the easy dunk. 

Sabonis’ court vision is an underrated aspect of his game, as he can act like a point-forward getting other teammates involved, or operate out of the post and kick it out to open guys on the wing. Though he missed the lone 3-pointer he took in his Kings debut, his ability to space the floor will also help give star point guard De’Aaron Fox more space to work with and get to the rim without a traditional center clogging up the paint. 

Speaking of Fox, the two-man game between him and Sabonis got off to a great start against the Timberwolves. The chemistry still clearly needs to be built because there were several occasions where Sabonis initially juggled the ball off a pass from Fox, but the connection is there early, and it resulted in plays like this:

And because Sabonis is a dangerous scorer inside the paint, he draws so much defensive attention, which opens up other guys like Harrison Barnes on this possession:

It’s just one game, but the Kings have to be happy with Sabonis’ debut against a surging Timberwolves team that ranks seventh in the Western Conference. There may still be moves to be made for Sacramento before the trade deadline that bolsters its roster even more, but adding Sabonis certainly helps them make a push for the play-in tournament. The Kings currently sit 2.5 games out of the No. 10 spot in the West, and adding a two-time All-Star with Fox and Barnes will surely make the race for the play-in entertaining for the remainder of the season. 

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