The Boston Celtics had measured expectations on the night of the 2013 NBA Draft when their team ended up with the big man out of Gonzaga, Kelly Olynyk. After all, the selection was made in the late lottery of a shallow draft, which basically means that the guy that you’re getting is a developmental project.
However, after Olynyk’s play in the Orlando Summer League when he was one of the most impressive players in the entire tournament, the expectations for Olynyk skyrocketed. People were talking about how this guy could be the answer for their frontcourt for the future. Even after a bit of an underwhelming preseason, that kind of talk still existed.
Now that Olynyk has logged 10 games in his NBA career, though, it’s clear that the initial assessment of him being a developmental project is much more accurate than any other expectations that arose. If you thought how he performed in the preseason was underwhelming, it was just the beginning.
Coming into the Celtics’ game on Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, Olynyk was averaging just 8.7 points, six rebounds and 1.9 assists in 23.8 minutes per game while shooting a meager 41 percent from the floor. His two points, two rebounds and one assist on 1-2 shooting in 16 minutes on Friday didn’t do anything to make that line any better.
In the months leading up to the draft, the negatives regarding Olynyk were about his physical limitations. He has a short wingspan and isn’t a great athlete. The savvy is there and he has nice offensive skill, but he struggles offensively against bigger, longer guys that are also quicker than him. Then you get to his defense which is just, more or less, an atrocity.
There’s no reason to believe that Olynyk can’t develop into a serviceable big man in this league. His offensive skill-level and IQ is certainly of NBA-caliber, but he just has to find ways to get more comfortable and work around his physical limitations. In essence, when there was Rookie of the Year talk about Olynyk after Summer League, there should have been talk about whether or not he could improve enough to not be a liability when he’s on the floor as the season goes on.