The Boston Celtics don’t have many bright spots this season. They are currently 13-21, and in the midst of a four-game losing streak which very well may be extended to eight-straight losses by the time they wrap up their current road trip. However, peaking through the black clouds of despair is a light: the struggles of forward Jared Sullinger.
Hold on … what? How could Sullinger — who is supposed to be a building block for the Celtics — missing 50 field goals over his last six games be a positive for the C’s? The answer is quite simple: his struggles stem from an injury to his left hand, and the correlation between Sully’s problems and the problems of the C’s as a team prove both the offensive involvement and the worth of Sullinger; he is the Celtics’ MVP this season.
Aside from his last six showings (in which he has played five of them with a thickly-taped glove on his hand), Sully is having a very solid season thus far. He has made significant strides in his second year, boasting averages of 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while playing less than 27 minutes each night. More importantly, especially with Rajon Rondo sidelined, Sullinger has become a focal point of the Celtics’ offense. He is able to create his own shot in the post despite being undersized at the PF/C position, and does a great job of cleaning up the offensive glass. Sully has great hands for a big man and uses his wide frame to effectively shield him from the block attempts of his defenders.
Over his last six games, that hasn’t been the case. While he is still rebounding at a high level, Sullinger’s injury has seemingly caused him to lose the soft touch that made him such a versatile offensive player for the first two months of the season. He hasn’t been able to get anything to drop over the past few weeks, and that has taken a noticeable toll on the Celtics’ offense. Without Sully playing at a high level, the Celtics lose an inside presence and as a team, become overly-reliant on mid-range jump shots. While they have hovered around their average for points scored (90.5 over that span vs. 94.6 for the season) in each of their games, they have seen a significant drop-off in their efficiency. The Celtics have only shot over 45 percent from the field one time (against the Cleveland Cavaliers) in the six games they have played since Sullinger’s injury, and they have lost five of those six. It’s no coincidence that Sully’s struggles have gone hand-in-hand with those of the team.
The good news is that injuries like this don’t last forever. Sullinger’s hand should be healed within the next few weeks, and while his ailment may have potentially cost Boston a handful of victories, his value to the team has now been established, and it’s off the charts. When he is healthy again, the wins will start to become more frequent. The Celtics’ management better do whatever it takes to keep Sully in town; he’s got a bright NBA future.