Domantas Sabonis Trade Rumors: Fringe NBA Playoff and Lottery Teams Eye Pacers Star

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 23, 2021

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 15: Domantas Sabonis #11 of the Indiana Pacers takes a shot during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on December 15, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis is reportedly drawing trade interest from fringe playoff contenders and the NBA teams already looking toward the future.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported the update Tuesday on The Mismatch podcast (via HoopsHype).

"I've had a handful of executives around the league tell me when it comes to Sabonis deals…they're like, 'Look for some teams that aren’t thinking about contending,'" O'Connor said. "Look for some teams that are maybe on the fringes or teams that are even just in the lottery."

Sabonis is one of the top players who could be moved before the Feb. 10 trade deadline. He's averaging 18.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 58.3 percent from the field in 32 appearances this season. He ranks 11th among all NBA players in FiveThirtyEight's WAR metric. 

His contract situation makes him far more than a high-profile rental addition at the deadline, though.

The 25-year-old Gonzaga product is in the second season of a four-year, $74.9 million contract that runs through 2023-24. The deal includes a modest $19.8 million cap hit that actually drops slightly over the next two years.

In turn, it's no surprise Sabonis is drawing interest from a wide range of potential suitors.

His age, contract and production make him a potential building block for the future, regardless of a team's current place in the standings, but it also raises questions about whether the Pacers are actually going to move him despite the widespread interest.

Indiana could demand a king's ransom of young players and draft picks, but even then the ultimate goal is acquiring and developing a player who could maybe reach the same top-10 level along with other pieces. Anything less wouldn't move the team in a positive direction.

For his part, Sabonis said in early December he wanted to stay with the Pacers alongside center Myles Turner, who's also become the focus of trade speculation.

"We want to be here," the two-time All-Star told reporters. "And as long as we represent the team and have that jersey on our backs we're gonna come out and compete."

A lot could depend on how the Pacers perform between now and the deadline.

Indiana sits 13th in the Eastern Conference with a lackluster 13-19 record. A solid 10-7 record at home has been offset by a dreadful 3-12 mark away from Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

It's only 2.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors (14-15) for the final berth in the play-in tournament, so it wouldn't take a miraculous run to climb the standings. If Sabonis, Turner and Co. can play a little over .500 basketball the rest of the way, they'd be right in the mix.

The quest to improve their playoff outlook and potentially eliminate any plans for a deadline fire sale continues Thursday when the Pacers host the Houston Rockets (10-22).