When the Celtics drafted Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Celtic brass and fans alike knew they had just got an absolute steal at the back-end of the first round. After a decorated high school, AAU, and collegiate career, which included being a two time AP All-American, Sullinger had been rated a top 5 pick during his final sophomore season at Ohio State. As a lingering back problem worried scouts and NBA GMs, Sullinger watched his draft stock plummet to the bottom half of round one. While Sullinger’s rookie season ended with that back injury requiring surgery, he has emerged in year two as a potential star, ready to take the NBA by storm.
When you watch Jared Sullinger play, his game transcends the normal evaluation of a player: Statistics. Sullinger knows how to move on the floor, how to create proper spacing and how to position himself for rebounds on both ends of the floor. While he won’t block shots on the defensive end frequently, he is excellent at sliding his feet to alter the path of would be shot takers. Watching Sullinger play is a welcome sight in today’s NBA when most players rely on pure athleticism rather than incredible fundamentals and basketball IQ.
Now, Evaluating Sullinger statistically still shows his enormous skill level and potential. For the season, in Boston’s crowded power forward and center rotation, Sullinger has put up 13.3 points and 7.4 rebounds a game on 49% shooting while playing just 25 minutes. This translates to 19.1 and 10.6 in the popular per 36 minute statistical evaluation. As Sullinger becomes a greater part of the offense and he commands the ball, these numbers are sure to only increase. Sullinger struggled his rookie season shooting the three and has raised that to a mediocre 32%, but over the past 5 games, he has shown a greater aptitude from downtown, burying 42% in that stretch. With his beautiful shooting stroke, I believe a 38-40% average from downtown is very attainable. Another impressive early season statistic from Sully is that his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 19.17 is greater than that of established stars Zach Randolph, Greg Monroe, Tim Duncan, David Lee and Carlos Boozer among many others.
What is Sully’s ceiling is a question I have been asked numerous times already this season. My response has always been that he could easily be Zach Randolph with more range, or if he can get in better shape next off season, even Kevin Love. He’s a budding star with incredible potential, and a fixture for the next decade in Boston.
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