In what is expected to be an active NBA trade deadline, Domantas Sabonis is one of the biggest names on the market. The Indiana Pacers big man is a two-time All-Star averaging 19.0 points and 11.9 rebounds. But his strong season is wasted on a 16-29 Pacers team ready to hit the reset button.
Sabonis, 25, is a high-quality player many teams would love to add by the trade deadline. Though not everyone can assemble a package to satisfy Indiana’s deservingly-lofty asking price. Fortunately, there are at least four teams with a need for Sabonis and an ability to make a deal happen.
Note: Sabonis sprained his ankle during Wednesday’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. While no further update has been announced, head coach Rick Carlisle told The Indianapolis Star the sprain was “probably going to be significant.”
4. Boston Celtics
At 23-23, the Boston Celtics could use a shake-up.
The Celtics are built around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The former first-round picks are each averaging over 24.0 points a game and have contracts keeping them in town for more years to come. Add Sabonis to the mix, and suddenly Boston has three dynamic players to build around for at least two more seasons.
In order to strike a deal for Sabonis, Boston has to offer both young players with upside along with higher-priced veterans in order to offset Sabonis’ $19.8 million cap hit. One potential option could see Boston sending journeyman Josh Richardson to Indiana along with second-year players Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard for Sabonis.
The deal would certainly work for a Celtics team that already plays Nesmith and Pritchard very little. The question is, does Indiana believe either has a high enough ceiling to warrant a trade of Sabonis? If it does, then Boston makes a lot of sense as a potential destination for the All-Star big man.
3. Sacramento Kings
Much like the Pacers, the Sacramento Kings don’t appear to be going anywhere this season. But despite an 18-29 record, the Kings are heavily involved in discussions surrounding disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons as well as Sabonis.
The 6-foot-11 Sabonis would make an excellent addition to a Sacramento team itching to snap a streak of 15 straight losing seasons. The Pacers star offers scoring, rebounding, and playmaking that makes him a viable upgrade over Marvin Bagley III. Though who would the Kings offer in exchange for the 25-year-old?
Earlier this week, reports emerged on the Kings’ willingness to discuss point guard De’Aaron Fox in a deal for Sabonis. The 24-year-old has become a very good NBA player, averaging 21.0 points this year after scoring a career-high 25.2 in 2020-21. That being said, Fox is also in the first year of a massive five-year extension. While Sabonis’ deal is up in two years, the former Kentucky Wildcat still has four years and $135 million remaining.
A one-for-one deal with Fox and Sabonis could technically work. Although it’s more likely the Kings add additional pieces like draft picks, since they’d be trading a player who’s technically not an All-Star but costs far more money.
2. Charlotte Hornets
Following a convincing victory over the Celtics, the Charlotte Hornets are now 25-20. While they look like a solid bet to make the postseason, they’re likely a piece or two away from really making noise in the East. Enter Domantas Sabonis.
A Sabonis-to-Charlotte deal would make one of the league’s top offenses even better. The 6-11 big man with LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Miles Bridges is a matchup nightmare for most teams. He would also serve as a major upgrade over Mason Plumlee, Charlotte’s starting center.
If the Hornets want to make a serious run at Sabonis, a sample deal could include Plumlee along with talented youngsters P.J. Washington and James Bouknight. Washington is just 23 years old and could slide into Sabonis’ starting spot in Indiana, while the 21-year-old rookie Bouknight is an athletic guard with plenty of room to grow and develop.
Like the trade with Boston, does Indiana believe either Washington or Bouknight can become a star? Regardless, Charlotte has multiple young players to dangle in any prospective deal, making them an interesting fit for Sabonis.
1. Golden State Warriors
A few years ago, the Golden State Warriors dominated the NBA with an All-Star superteam. They now have a chance to form another one by acquiring Sabonis.
The 32-12 Warriors have all the makings of a championship contender as is. But Sabonis could push them ahead of teams like the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz for good. With Sabonis joining Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green, Golden State’s starting five would be nothing short of spectacular.
Best of all, the Warriors can acquire Sabonis without sacrificing important depth players like Jordan Poole or Damion Lee. In the last two years, Golden State has used its lottery picks to draft James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody. For a rebuilding team like Indiana, acquiring all three would be a proposal that’s hard to refuse.
With this deal, Domantas Sabonis and the Warriors would immediately become title favorites, while the Pacers would have a 20-year-old Wiseman and two 19-year-old rookies to build with for the future. This is a win-win deal both teams should explore over the next several days.