Boston Celtics Fans Should Stay Patient With Kelly Olynyk

By Jon Shames
Kelly Olynyk
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations were high for Boston Celtics‘ rookie Kelly Olynyk heading into the 2013-14 season. After his stellar performance in the Orlando Summer League, where he demonstrated a multifaceted offensive arsenal that included everything from three-pointers to running hook shots, many believed he would be in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year Award this season. Unfortunately, while Olynyk hasn’t been struggling at the level of some of the other top prospects from this past draft class, he has been far from excellent in his time with Boston.

First, his defense, a big concern prior to draft night, has been just about as bad as advertised. Since he can’t stay in front of the athletic forwards that have recently started to dominate the league, Olynyk is often tasked with guarding opposing centers, where he is consistently out-muscled. He isn’t a huge liability, but he’s far from a reliable stopper. Nobody is asking the Gonzaga product to be the anchor of Boston’s top 10 defense, but at the very least he has to be able to carry his own weight.

He has been fouling excessively as well. Olynyk averages 3.2 fouls a game in just 18.5 minutes. Especially frequent are his offensive fouls; he often uses his elbows to clear space when he is isolated on the post. These “rookie fouls” should become less recurrent as he continues his NBA career, but this season it continues to be an area of concern.

But then again, “The Klynyk” wasn’t drafted for defensive purposes. He was brought in to help bolster an offense that was (rightfully) predicted to be in the bottom third of the league. Olynyk has shown flashes of being a reliable offensive threat, but he has been far too inconsistent with his shooting to conclude anything concrete. He is posting a 6.9 points per game average in 33 appearances.

His subpar efficiency has been disappointing to say the least. Olynyk was one of the NCAA‘s most efficient players in his senior season with the Bulldogs, shooting almost 63 percent from the field while averaging 10.7 field goal attempts per game. That simply has not translated into the NBA. Olynyk is shooting just 42.6 percent from the field this season, and is especially struggling from midrange; he is converting just 28.6 percent of his shots from 16-24 ft.

His inefficiency has led to very inconsistent scoring outputs from night to night. He cracked double figures in the scoring column three times in November, one time in December and one time in January, but often followed up his strong games with single-digit scoring, poor shooting duds.

Much of this can be attributed to his shot selection. His midrange jumper hasn’t been a reliable scoring tool for him, but in the paint, he has demonstrated an impressive creativity to finish layups. According to, Olynyk is shooting an impressive 71.4 percent at the rim and until he can further develop his jumper, that’s where his majority of looks should come from.

As far as rebounding goes, Olynyk has been better than expected. Especially on the offensive glass, he has shown a knack for keeping the ball alive. While he doesn’t have the strong hands of say, Jared Sullinger, Olynyk’s hustle and energy is undeniable. In his first professional season, he is grabbing 1.8 offensive boards per game, with an offensive rebound percentage of 10.6 percent.

He has also had some spectacular offensive outbursts, including a 25-point, seven-assist, five-rebound performance against the Los Angeles Lakers in Rajon Rondo‘s debut. His basketball IQ is exceptional; he knows exactly where to be on offense to set himself up for scoring opportunities. With two pass-first point guards in Rondo and Phil Pressey at the head of the Celtics’ attack, its only a matter of time before Olynyk starts getting looks and becomes a focal point on offense.

Although Olynyk has some glaring shortcomings, fans shouldn’t be concerned. As noted before, he has shown a knack for creative finishes at the rim, and his jump shot has come a long way since November. After redshirting his junior season at Gonzaga, he demonstrated a fantastic work ethic and a willingness to sacrifice in order to improve on the court.

While the Celtics passed up on some players that may end up being future All-Stars (specifically Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dennis Schroeder and Tim Hardaway Jr.), Olynyk wasn’t a bad selection by any means. Expect good–not great– things from the 22-year-old. They won’t come this season, but every player needs some time to find his groove.

You May Also Like