• Bryce Fields

Myles Turner vs Domantas Sabonis: Who is the Pacer’s Better Big Man?


When the Pacers took Texas freshman Myles Turner with the 11th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, people had mixed reviews on the pick initially. Most analyzed Turner as a raw prospect with an abundance of potential, but with other talents from top-tier programs in Trey Lyles and Devin Booker from Kentucky and Kelly Oubre Jr. from Kansas still on the board, some thought Indiana missed the mark with this pick.

Fast-forward four years to 2019, and most Pacers fans agree Turner was a smart selection. Turner was named to the All-NBA Rookie first-team and has posted strong numbers from day-one in the league. Before the season, Indiana gave him a 4-year, $72 million extension with the team, and after averaging 13.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.7 blocks per game this year, Turner has proven he is worth the money.

Usually, solid play like this would make a player of Turner’s stature a fan-favorite, but another blooming big-man in Indiana has given Turner a run for his money – Domantas Sabonis.

Sabonis was drafted in the same spot as Turner in the 2016 draft by the Orlando Magic and traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder that night, but did not find success quite as quickly as his counterpart. He only averaged 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds his rookie year in OKC before being the “other” player in the Paul George-Victor Oladipo trade.

However, his arrival and beginning with the Pacers jump started his career. Sabonis averaged 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in his first year in Indiana and has upped his game to 14.3 points (on an incredible 61% from the field) and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game.

They have both been great in their time in Indy, but it does pose the question – who is the better young big-man for the Pacers: Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis?

The case for Myles Turner: Defensive prowess and three-point shooting capability

When you watch Myles Turner, there are two things he does well that stand out the most: his defensive and shot-blocking abilities, and Turner’s shooting ability from distance.

As previously mentioned, Turner is leading the league in blocks per game but his all-around defensive game is something that has helped the Pacers have a top-five defense in the NBA. Turner is 7th in the NBA in defensive win shares with 3.4 and 3rd in the league in defensive box plus/minus at 4.9. His defensive rating is also 101.6 points while on the floor, almost three points better than the Pacers average.

Another place Turner helps the Pacers is in his ability to stretch the defense and play a more modern big-man role. He is shooting 40.5% from behind the arc this season on four attempts per game, which stretches opponents centers out of the lane to help facilitate the offense.

The case for Domantas Sabonis: Dominate rebounding and efficient scoring

As opposed to Turner, Sabonis has a different skillset that includes specializations in different areas, which include an incredible rebounding effort and efficient scoring.

Sabonis’ 9.3 rebounds per game come in only 24.9 minutes of action per game and is done at a dominating rate: his total rebounds percentage is at 20.8 and defensive rebound percentage come in just under 30.

Along with his great rebound is Sabonis’ is efficient scoring, where he scores his 14.3 points on 61.1% from the field. He finishes near the basket extremely well (shooting 66.2% from within 10 feet) and is also a solid shooter from midrange (shoots 41.9% on catch and shoot opportunities).

Turner and Sabonis each have their own set of talents and flaws, so when deciding who is better, it’s a tough call. Luckily for Pacers fans, they don’t have to make that decision yet and can enjoy both of them on their team for now.

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